By Alyssa Coppelman
With Barack Obama’s re-election, the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, and, not least, [last] Friday’s premiere of Lincoln, it seems a fitting time to look at photographer Greta Pratt’s series Nineteen Lincolns, of which she's shared a selection with us. Pratt met her first Lincoln while working on her Using History project, and it was a natural next step for her to focus her lens on the many Lincolns who belong to the Association of Lincoln Presenters. All nineteen prints are on view through Dec. 22 at Candela Gallery, in Richmond, Va. The series celebrates one of the most iconic elements of the bedrock of American history and puts a quirky modern twist on it.
The Association of Lincoln Presenters' (there are several Mary Todd Lincolns as well) mission statement describes them as “ready, willing and Abe L.” Seen one at a time, most of the men immediately read “Lincoln.” Seen in a group, as in her group portrait of nine Lincolns (on the gallery’s homepage), it is possible to gain focus on one or another element of their differences. Out of the Lincolns who sat for Pratt at the convention, she selected nineteen to profile in the series.
In her project statement, Pratt writes, “While each one started for a different reason, sometimes on a whim, through reading and studying they all became completely immersed in the ideals of Abraham Lincoln. They revere Lincoln for his moral character; he embodies one of America’s most cherished tenets, that the common man, through sheer hard work and determination, can elevate his status in society.”
Pratt asked each Lincoln who sat for her to portray his own idea of Lincoln for her camera. Via email, Pratt says, “On first glance the men all look alike in their Lincoln-like coats and hats but on closer inspection you realize how different all their faces are. I decided to photograph them individually but hang them together because for me it becomes a metaphor for the country ... a group of individuals tied together by the understanding of their history.”
Correction: In an earlier version of this article, we stated it was the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. It is the 149th anniversary, in fact. We regret the error.