Caught Our Eyes: Playing with Shadows

Reference Librarian Ryan Brubacher added this photo by Toni Frissell to our “Caught Our Eyes” wall for sharing pictures from the collections with our colleagues, noting that it had caught her eyes again. She recalls encountering it first because it was one of the hundreds of photos featured in the landmark “Family of Man” exhibition that Edward Steichen organized for the Museum of Modern Art in 1955, which has been the subject of much subsequent scholarship. But changing circumstances allowed her to view the image with new eyes:

I’d seen this image before, but not since being a mother of a young boy. The exploration of shadow was very true to my own son’s explorations, but also I was moved by the way Frissell frames him on the infinite sand to highlight how small he seems even when he is trying to be so big. The shadow helping him pretend at bigness – limbs outstretched, also betrays him. At once he is big and little – like most young children.

"My Shadow" from A Child's Garden of Verses. Photo by Toni Frissell, 1944. //

“My Shadow” from A Child’s Garden of Verses. Photo by Toni Frissell, 1944. //

Frissell also published the photo in an edition of Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses that she illustrated with her photographs (New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1962, c1944; view catalog record for the 1962 edition).

Can you guess which poem this accompanied? (I definitely recall “My Shadow” from my childhood; it begins, “I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me…”)

Frissell dedicated her version of A Child’s Garden of Verses to her children, Varick and Sidney, and their friends, whose pictures appear on the pages; she added a salute to her childhood nurse who apparently also cared for Frissell’s children. The photos depict children in all seasons, but carefree activities at the beach and other encounters with nature came in for a good share of attention, as suggested by her photo of her daughter, below.

Toni Frissell's daughter Sidney as "The Wind" in A Child's Garden of Verses, Southhampton, Long Island. Photo by Toni Frissell, 1944. //

Toni Frissell’s daughter Sidney as “The Wind” in A Child’s Garden of Verses, Southhampton, Long Island. Photo by Toni Frissell, 1944. //

Learn More

New LibGuide – Postcards: Greetings from the Prints & Photographs Division

The following is a guest post by Hanna Soltys, Reference Librarian, Prints & Photographs Division. Summer vacation is often associated with postcards as we share our journeys and memories with friends and family via snail mail. However, postcards get their moment in the sun all year long here in the Prints & Photographs Division. This […]

A Look at Graduation Time

Every year, June brings change for thousands of students across the United States as they mark the end of a chapter in their educational life and, possibly, the start of a new one. The Prints & Photographs Division’s collections include a number of high school and college graduation photographs. Some aspects of these images seem […]

Donuts in the American Visual Landscape

The Prints & Photographs Division’s collections include a fair number of donut-related images that collectively demonstrate the sugary treat’s long-standing presence in American culture. These rich indulgences can be seen in such varied areas of American life as roadside architecture, military history, and even public affairs. A search of the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog […]

Summer Search: A Plum Assignment

A few years ago, I tried out a summer “looking” challenge in an attempt to parallel the clever ideas my local public library uses to encourage summer book club participants to pick out volumes they might not have otherwise sampled (“Summer Looking Challenge–Touring the Collections with Azure Allure“). It’s getting to be that time of […]

Art in Action: A Further Look at Socially-Engaged Contemporary Artist Prints

The following is a guest post by exhibition co-curator Katherine Blood, Curator of Fine Prints, Prints & Photographs Division. Writer James Baldwin observed that “An artist is a sort of emotional or spiritual historian.” The Library of Congress exhibition Art in Action: Herblock and Fellow Artists Respond to Their Times explores the role of artists […]

A Visual Salute to Nurses

The following is a guest post by Karen Chittenden, Cataloging Specialist in the Prints & Photographs Division. National Nurses Week recognizes the contributions of professional nurses, and this year we’d like to do the same by highlighting recently acquired photographs of wartime nurses who marshaled resources, medical skill, and courage to offer help in dire […]

Frances Benjamin Johnston Puts Her Stamp on Documenting Work at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing

Finding written documentation to provide context for images in the collections is not something we can always bank on, but when that information does exist it can be a real luxury. Happily, soon after Frances Benjamin Johnston took photographs of work in the Stamp Division at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, she wrote “Uncle […]

Documenting our American Places

In his November 1933 proposal to create the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS)  in partnership with the Library of Congress and the American Institute of Architects, the National Park Service’s Charles E. Peterson sounded this call to action: “Our architectural heritage of buildings from the last four centuries diminishes daily at an alarming rate. The […]