Smiling Man
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American, 1860
3 1/2 x 2 9/16 in.

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Capturing this man's spontaneous charm in this ambrotype was a remarkable achievement for early photography. He wears casual clothing; a union suit and an open-necked shirt with a lightweight jacket hang easily on his body. He strikes a pose like a boxer, fists upraised and clenched. His open grin, however, disarms the gesture, creating a lively portrait of an individual whose name and life-story have been lost to history.

More remarkable, perhaps, this free man of color was photographed three years before the Emancipation Proclamation granted African Americans their freedom.