Augustus Washington
Better Photography|January 2021
Tracing the history of African American photographers, Supriya Joshi chanced upon the works of Augustus Washington. She reveals his unforgettable story.
Supriya Joshi

Some of the most well-known photographers from the 19th century faced extreme adversities and came out of the ordeal with success. One of them was Augustus Washington, amongst the few African American daguerreotypists whose career has been documented. While researching the life and works of Washington, I came across many photographs shot by him, but I could not find a photograph of him. This struck me in a strange way that despite being a photographer, the world would not know his face.

The Need to Learn

Washington grew up in the Americas of the 1820s, a time when African Americans were denied even the most basic rights. Against all convention, all he wanted to do was study. He struggled to get admission into various educational institutions across America, when he finally got an entry into Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, in 1843. It was here that he learned how to make daguerreotypes and work in a darkroom during his freshman year.

Realising the Potential

Unfortunately, he was under severe debt, so he had to give up college and move to Hartford, Connecticut. Washington was an enterprising man, so he set up his own photo studio in 1846 for earning an income.

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