Posted on June 26th, 2013 by Rachel
Sometimes the curator feels as though every new exhibition requires a personal “passage through the fire.” The range of subjects exhibited at the JMM is always broad; the move from comic book superheroes to Civil War commemoration is dizzying.
But it’s fun. There are always fascinating new stories to learn. This week, we visited with Lance Bendann, descendant of Civil War era photographers David and Daniel Bendann, and current owner of the Baltimore gallery the brothers founded in 1859.
Soldiers of the Maryland Militia, 53rd Infantry Regiment, Company G, known as the Zouaves. Following the outbreak of the Civil War, the federal government placed Maryland under martial law and disbanded the state and local militias. Due to strong southern sympathies among Marylanders, an estimated 80% of the 53rd “crossed the Potomac” and joined the Confederacy, forming the nucleus of the 1st Maryland Confederate line. Image courtesy of Lance Bendann, Bendann Art Galleries, Baltimore.
David and Daniel were young men when they moved to Baltimore from Richmond in the turbulent years before the war began. Among the first to bring the carte de visite format to Baltimore, they took advantage of the “cardomania” (in which cardboard-mounted portrait photos were used as visiting cards and avidly traded among friends and collected into albums) sweeping Europe and America.
The brothers were artists, posing their subjects with an eye for pleasing composition, and creating elegant backgrounds for the sitters. These backgrounds were much admired by other photographers, so the Bendanns invented a process that allowed studios to purchase negatives for the “Bendann Brothers Backgrounds” to incorporate into their own photos. In 1872 the brothers were awarded a National Photographic Association Holmes Medal for this invention. A detailed explanation of the process can be found at http://photohist.classyarts.com/tag/bendann-backgrounds/.
As was not uncommon among Baltimore Jews, the Bendann men were Confederate sympathizers, having retained alliances dating to their years in Richmond. As a result, both brothers had a brush with the law. In 1862, David Bendann was arrested after an altercation with an unpleasant customer who was also a Union army captain. He was arrested, refused to take a loyalty oath, and served a three-month sentence, after which he signed a statement agreeing that he would “in no wise aid or encourage the Rebels.” Daniel Bendann was charged in April 1865 on a charge of disloyalty, described in the complaint as “a Jew” and a “notorious, violent, and dirty sneaking Rebel.”
Image courtesy of Lance Bendann, Bendann Art Galleries, Baltimore.
After the war, both Union and former Confederate leaders continued to seek out the Bendann Brothers studio for a portrait while visiting Baltimore. They photographed Jefferson Davis, John S. Mosby, Chief Justice Taney, General Sheridan, Illinois governor Richard Yates, and more.
The Bendann Brothers story is just one among many that will be told in the upcoming Passages Through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War, originated by the American Jewish Historical Society and Yeshiva University Museum and augmented at the JMM with narratives from Jewish Maryland. The exhibition will open at the JMM on October 13, 2013.
A blog post by Curator Karen Falk. You can read other posts by Karen and additional exhibition related posts by clicking here.
Posted on June 29th, 2012 by Rachel
Hey everyone! My name’s Matt Oliva and I’m one of the two Photo Archive interns at the Museum this summer. I’m a student at Maryland Institute College of Art where I’m majoring in Art History and Photography.
One of the major projects I have been working on this summer is cataloging and digitizing the Hendler’s Ice Cream Company photography collection. Hendler’s ice cream company was a successful business and household name in Baltimore for fifty years. Their large plant and headquarters is actually only about a block from the museum that acquired their photograph collection.
If there’s one thing I’ve noticed in the time I’ve spent working with the Hendler’s collection, it’s that the company liked to document their advertisements. You could even say that they were obsessive about it, given the hundreds of photographs exclusively of the billboards they put up around Baltimore City, as well as those of other local companies.
These images are really interesting if you’re like me and fascinated by vintage advertising art and slogans. While these aren’t quite the flashy, famous things that you’ll see in an episode of Mad Men, they’re great examples of how products were sold in the first few decades of the last century.
The billboards are amazing objects themselves; giant, hand-painted images of people and food done decades before ads of this size could be mass produced. The slogans are often rather humorous to modern eyes, particularly those like “not a dessert, a full meal,” “full of fruit, sugar and cream,” and “have a plate a day,” which seem to allude to the healthy nature of ice cream.
Another interesting facet of the Hendler’s advertising photographs is the way they rather accidentally documented the neighborhoods and shop windows of early twentieth century Baltimore. By hiring professional photographers to document their advertisements on the sides of buildings or displays in store windows, the Hendler’s company also created a record of the everyday side of the city. Most of the buildings, businesses and even blocks pictured in these images have changed so completely in the last eighty of so years as to be unrecognizable. These pharmacies and soda fountains were unremarkable, common features of the city one upon a time, and would have probably been lost to progress without Hendler’s.
Posted on November 16th, 2011 by Rachel
A blog post by Senior Collections Manager Jobi Zink
Monday morning I headed over to Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Hospital for a photo shoot for our upcoming exhibition Here’s to Life!,set to open on December 7, 2011. Our goal was to photograph some of the current residents participating in creative, spiritual, nurturing and learning environments and include these images in the central portion of the exhibition.
Helene King provided a “shot sheet”—the location, the model (a resident), any staff or volunteers, and the time allotted. This helped the team know what we were doing, what props we could use, and the background.
It was fascinating to watch photographer Joe Rubinointeract with the residents. He worked quickly, providing clear instructions: smile, lean in, act natural. The residents really responded to his cues and seemed to have fun posing. I had fun snapping pictures, too, but tried to stay out of Joe’s way.
Chuck and I looked at the pictures to see if they’d work for the exhibition. Did the photographs convey the warm, caring atmosphere of Levindale? We evaluated the composition, the expressions, the space and light. For example, we decided to move the scarlet geranium in the background because rather than providing a splash of color, it appeared that they were growing out of Rebecca’s head.
Designer Chuck Mack demonstrates that the lectern will be too high for our wheelchair-bound model.
Photographing the art class was my favorite! I enjoyed watching the residents work on their projects, and talking to them about their paintings.
Jeri smiled about her painting of flowers, recalling the pretty bouquet her granddaughter carried at her recent wedding.
Residents at Levindale are often engaged in physical activity. JMM volunteer Maxine Cohen is also a volunteer with the Levindale Auxiliary.
Solomon, who will turn 94 later this week, kicked my butt in a friendly game of air hockey.
Dogs are a big hit with staff and residents alike. Bella had the largest audience of residents watching her photo shoot—including some of our earlier models, Mary and Helen.
I can’t wait to see the photographs that Joe took! And be sure to see those we highlight in the exhibit!