Opening with a consideration of the role played by Richard Avedon's photograph of William Casby in Roland Barthes's Camera Lucida, this essay examines Sojourner Truth's precocious and knowing use of the technology of photography. Inscribed with the caption "I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance," Truth's inexpensive cartes-de-visite functioned as a form of paper currency during the years immediately following the Civil War. As a chemical process, photography transformed precious metals into paper images; as an optical registration of light and shadow, photographic negatives turned white into black and black into white, a reversal noted by Oliver Wendell Holmes in an essay that suggests that racial difference informed understandings of the new medium.
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Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby; Negative-Positive Truths. Representations 1 February 2011; 113 (1): 16–38. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/rep.2011.113.1.16
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