Peabody Essex Museum

Salem, MA



Capturing Poseidon: Photographic Encounters with the Sea


Imagine an angry sea, photographed from on board a ship's upper deck during a hurricane off the Florida coast in 1935. Picture an image of a 19th-century ship frozen in the Arctic Circle, surrounded by icebergs. These images and others come alive in a photography exhibition at the Peabody Essex Museum entitled Capturing Poseidon: Photographic Encounters with the Sea. On exhibit through April 15, 1999, Capturing Poseidon not only sparks the imagination, but brings alive the hardship and romance of the sea.

The exhibit features more than 100 19th and 20th-century images by famous photographers as well as anonymous and amateur artists.

"Capturing Poseidon appeals to maritime enthusiasts, amateur and professional photographers, and people who appreciate fine art," says Daniel Finamore, Russell W. Knight Curator of Maritime Arts and History. "What's particularly compelling about the show is the contrast between photographs taken by famous photographers and images by amateur photographers. You can see fine portraits of yachts in carefully composed harbor scenes, contrasted with photos taken by a passenger in the midst of a squall or a sailor suspended high in the ship's rigging."

Maritime photography is rooted in the tradition of marine painting. At the turn of the 20th century, there were professional photographers working in most major world ports. Many of their pictures were expansive seascapes and portraits of majestic merchant ships entering and leaving port. Other photos captured more mundane activities such as work in dark cargo holds, people engaged in daily work aboard ship, and waterfront activities. Capturing Poseidon and its accompanying color catalogue present works by many famous 19th and early 20th century photographers, including Mathew Brady, Felice Beato, Frank Meadow Sutcliffe, and Nathaniel Stebbins. Them photographs were generated by commerce, military campaigns, overseas tourism, and often to advertise travel or nautical industries. Much of the allure in these photos comes from their rich visual stories.

rev. 11/22/10

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