Written in light intro
Toward the end of the nineteenth century, photography became a popular hobby in the United States. Advances in technology, notably, the replacement of the cumbersome wet-plate process by dry glass plate negatives, and the ready availability of equipment, materials, and “how to” books and magazine articles made it easy for amateurs to become adept.
Displayed here are selections from the work of one of Milton’s most renowned photographers, Margaret Sutermeister (1875-1950). Between 1894 and 1909, Margaret produced 1,800 glass negatives, which are now stored in the Milton Historical Society’s collections. Margaret’s work covers a wide variety of subjects (still life, people, and landscapes) and styles, including staged and candid photographs. Both artist and documentarian, Margaret’s photographs record the social, cultural, and environmental history of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Although much of her work lacks descriptions explaining the who, what, when, where, and why of her subjects, Margaret’s photographs still possess immense historical, as well as artistic, value. Thanks to Margaret, moments that otherwise may have been lost to the past have been written in light and preserved for generations to come.
Photography was considered a suitable hobby for ladies in the late nineteenth century and middle- and upper-class women at this time embraced photography as an outlet for creativity. It was also an activity that allowed for more independence than women usually had at this time. Many women photographers took advantage of this freedom to explore new places and interact with a wide range of people in search of subjects. The photographs by Margaret Sutermeister in this exhibition are not simply recording every day events, but show a true artistic eye. She is also capturing subjects such as people from different levels of society engaged in work.