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Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University
Updated: 2 hours 54 min ago

Rights!Camera!Action!: The Devil Came on Horseback

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 15:16

When: Thursday, March 20th, 7:00pm
Location: FHI Garage, Bay 4, Smith Warehouse
Free and open to the public.
The Devil Came on Horseback, 2007 (TRT: 87 minutes)
Directors: Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg; Full Frame/Working Films Award and the Seeds of War 2007

An up-close and uncompromising look at the crisis in Darfur, this film exposes the ongoing tragedy in Sudan as seen through the eyes of one American witness, former U.S. Marine Captain Brian Steidle, an official military observer. Armed with just a camera, paper and pen, but with access far beyond that of a journalist, Steidle’s photographs and testimony reveal a genocide that had by 2007 claimed over 400,000 lives. The film presents the historical and economic basis for the Sudanese government’s support and encouragement of the atrocities, alongside UN and US debates on the definition of “genocide,” as millions of people suffer. In Arabic and English with English subtitles. A panel discussion follows the screening.

Contact: Patrick Stawski, Duke University Libraries, 919-660-5823, patrick.stawski@duke.edu

The Curious Case of Frances Benjamin Johnston

Thu, 03/06/2014 - 14:05

The Library recently acquired a small album of photographs taken in Virginia’s Tidewater region. It contains six cyanotypes depicting work at the freight docks of Newport News and other subjects.  Of particular interest is a laid-in cyanotype which appears to be a portrait of Frances Benjamin Johnston, a pioneering female American photographer.

Johnston was a remarkable photographer.  She took portraits of American presidents and the high society of the turn of the nineteenth century from her Washington, D.C. studio, but also participated in ambitious documentary projects, such as her architectural photographs of Southern states.  For one of her best-known commissions, she traveled to Virginia to document the students of the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in 1899-1900.  Her photographs of this important education institution for African Americans and Native Americans are preserved in her collection at the Library of Congress.

Based on the probable identification of the woman in the photograph as Johnston and the photographs of the area around Hampton in the album, these photographs have been dated to the first decade of the 1900s.  However, no information about the photographer is yet known.  Were they a student or colleague of Johnston?  Is it possible that the photographs (or some of the photographs) are by Johnston herself?

African American women aboard a steamboat, from the Tidewater album, ca. 1900.

The album is also accompanied by handwritten directions for making “Pyro Developer” and a “fixing bath for platinum prints,” which may provide further evidence that the creator may have been a student or novice photographer.  (The large initial “B” on the “Pyro Developer” formula bears some resemblance to Johnston’s handwriting, but the handwriting of the rest of the formula does not appear to be similar to hers.)

If anyone has clues or guesses to contribute to the mystery of the photographer’s identity, please share them in the comments section below!

Post contributed by Will Hansen, Assistant Curator of Collections.

Rights!Camera!Action! presents “Enemies of the People”

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 18:21

Join R!C!A! for a screening of Enemies of the People, 2009 (TRT: 94 minutes)

When: Thursday, January 23, 7:00pm
Location: FHI Garage, Bay 4, Smith Warehouse
Free and open to the public.

Cambodian investigative reporter Thet Sambath exposes the reasons for the 1975-1979 Khmer Rouge genocide in which almost two million people were executed. Thet conducted interviews throughout the countryside with men who actually carried out the killings. Courageously, they tell the truth and show where the bodies are buried. But many still do not understand why they were ordered to kill. A crucial piece in Cambodia’s national process of reconciliation, these testimonies trace the transformation of abstract political principles into mass murder. In English and Cambodian, with English subtitles.

Directors: Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath

Awards: Anne Dellinger Grand Jury Award 2010 and Charles E. Guggenheim Emerging Filmmaker Award 2010

Directions & parking information.

Contact: Patrick Stawski, Duke University Libraries: 919-660-5823 or patrick.stawski [at] duke.edu