A New Bedford Whaler in Africa: Frederick Sowle’s photographs of Senegal and Cape Verde
The glass slides are camera originals from photographs taken by Frederick Sowle while on the schooner Clara L. Sparks in 1899. He was likely the old man who sold the slides to a young store photography department employee named David Baker — Sowle would have been in his 90s at the time. While some of the photographs are from Cape Verde, a frequent stop for whaling crews, many of the photographs are from Senegal on the African continent, a rarely documented or photographed excursion at this time. Unlike other photographs of colonial Africa from this era, Sowle’s images beautifully depict individuals engaging in daily life and interactions, with no hint of ethnocentrism or stereotyping. He photographed mothers, children, kings, the marketplace, laborers, and beggars—all captured with a sense of dignity and humanity and sometimes humor and light-heartedness.
Many of the slides were beautifully hand painted by S.H. McLoughlin a colorist in Boston. The images are truly representative of New Bedford residents who had the rare experience of global travel in the nineteenth century. Like those who would have originally viewed Sowle’s slides upon his return to New Bedford, you can explore the landscapes and people of Senegal and Cape Verde as Sowle saw them in 1899.
This exhibition opened at the Museum August 10, 2018. Learn More
A New Bedford Whaler in Africa: Frederick Sowle’s photographs of Senegal and Cape Verde is also viewable on Flickr.