City on Display: A Newark Photographer and His Clients, 1890s-1940s

Pilgrim Baptist Church parishioners, Newark, 1947. This is one of a series of group portraits of the church’s leading parishioners taken by Cone. This occasion probably marked the first time Cone was hired by an African American Newark institution.

Open through 2006

PHOTOGRAPHER William F. Cone took photographs of Newark and the surrounding area from 1895-1966. With a body of work of over 9,000 images, Cone’s photographs are a chronicle of his time, but they also starkly reveal the subjectivity of the camera-eye. Shaped by the wishes of his clients – insurance agencies, the Leigh Valley Railroad, various industries, and social service agencies to name just a few – his work is defined equally by the subject matter that he included and omitted. This exhibition will explore what we can and cannot understand about the past through photographs. Large photomurals will offer the opportunity to examine each minute detail, while smaller images will present an intimate insight into some events. The familiar, the long gone, and the potential carriers of stories, these photographs offer an exciting and engaging opportunity to visit places and people of our recent past.

In this interactive exhibition, visitors will compare historic glass plates to today’s 35 mm film; manipulate a photo’s frame to change the story; track the history of a business through a city directory; view silent films; and create a “portrait” of a product.

Planning for this exhibition has been supported in part with funds from a Special Projects grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of Cultural Affairs in the Department of State; the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities; The MCJ Foundation; and Charles Emil Thenen Foundation.

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