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LSU Libraries Special Collections to Feature “Portraits of a River City: Natchez in Photographs” Exhibit Oct. 24-Feb. 18, 2012

10/20/2011 11:20 AM

BATON ROUGE – LSU Libraries Special Collections will offer a special exhibit titled “Portraits of a River City: Natchez in Photographs – Selections from the Thomas H. and Joan Gandy Photograph Collection,” beginning Oct. 24 and running through Feb. 18, 2012, at Hill Memorial Library.


A veritable feast for the eyes, the exhibition, “Portraits of a River City: Natchez in Photographs,” features a century’s worth of images from Natchez, Miss., offering a view of daily life through the eyes of three photographers. The members of a diverse population of the city, pictured in both formal studio settings and casual outdoor venues, are memorably captured in this aesthetically rich and historically relevant collection.


Exhibit materials are drawn from the Thomas H. and Joan Gandy Photograph Collection, housed in the Special Collections division of LSU Libraries. This extraordinary collection documents 100 years (1851-1951) of history in and around Natchez and contains approximately 20,000 images, including wet and dry collusion glass plate negatives, film negatives, ferrotypes and historic and modern prints. In addition, it contains an archive of nearly 100 pieces of 

photographic equipment that includes a Norman Studio portrait camera and 

an array of late 19th and early 20th century cameras.


Brothers Henry and M. J. Gurney established a daguerreotype studio in Natchez in 1851 and began recording the lives of their fellow citizens using the latest in photographic technology. The Civil War brought economic disaster and social upheaval to the region, but Natchez quickly recovered. In 1870, Henry Gurney hired a new employee, Henry Norman, and by 1876 Norman had opened his own studio, buying out Gurney's studio to do so. Henry Norman became the best-known photographer in the region. When Norman died in 1913, his son Earl inherited the studio. Earl, like his father, became widely known for his photographic skills and left images spanning nearly 40 years.


Nearly 10 years after Earl Norman’s death, Natchez physician Thomas H. Gandy discovered the cache of Norman studio negatives and prints held by Earl’s widow and rescued the collection from deterioration. Gandy exhibited the photographs in Great Britain, Canada and across the United States, and with his wife, Joan, edited and published six books using images from the collection.


These images engage the viewer on many levels. It is the combination of visual appeal and historical information in the photographs that makes preservation and exhibition of this collection so critical. The collection, acquired in part as a donation from Dr. and Mrs. Gandy and with support from the Coypu Foundation, will be preserved and made available to the public for years to come. A small portion of the collection is accessible via the Louisiana Digital Library.


"Portraits of a River City" is open to the public free of charge. Hours of availability are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Please note that the library is closed for LSU home football games.


For more information, call 225-578-6544 or visit LSU Libraries Special Collections’ website at

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