Thursday, January 7, 2010

Annapolis Gothic

Today's photograph has just taken a place on my ever growing list of favorite archival images. This photograph comes from the Samuel Newton Weare collection held by the Annapolis Heritage Society and was taken sometime around 1900. While the identity of the sitters is unknown there has been a suggestion that they may be members of the local Harris family. We are currently in the process of digitizing the Weare collection and creating a small photographic exhibit at the O'Dell House Museum.

When I saw this image I immediately thought of the famous painting American Gothic by Grant Wood. One of the main differences between these two images is that the photograph is depicting life as it was in Annapolis County rather than Wood's somewhat fanciful image of Americana. American Gothic was painted in the 1930s in an attempt to capture the exact feeling which is shown in this turn of the century photograph.

I find it interesting to think about the process that was needed to set this image up. Someone has obviously gone inside to collect a pair of kitchen chairs for the couple to sit on. These chairs add to the rigidity of the sitters. It is this rigidity which helps to make the image so appealing. Like the painting the front of a house is an important element of the image. They sit, looking almost uncomfortable, in front of a house in which they have worked and almost certainly raised a family. This is not an image of domestic bliss but of strength and perseverance. The photograph is lightened by two little girls who are sitting on the front step. The one on the left, who was obviously not able to sit still during the exposure of the photograph appears as a blur. These girls add some humour to what could otherwise be a rather stark image.

All for now,


  1. What house is this?

  2. I wish that I knew what house this was. It would make identifying the sitters much easier. The distinguishing features are the elongated fanlight over the door and the window with the peaked trim. The window also seems to be a standard six over six with an odd sidelight which would help with identification if they have not been changed to vinyl. I would take any suggestions as to the location.

  3. We now believe that the couple sitting in this photograph are John Millidge Harris and Isabel Harris. They lived in Moschelle and their house still stands.