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The Elusiveness of 19th Century Images

One of the most exciting parts of researching films is when you find actual imagery of your subject matter! Discovering and collecting imagery for Hope of Escape has been a fascinating process. Just when I thought I had a good picture in my head of what I think a place, person, or thing looked like, I'm pleasantly surprised, and sometimes shocked when the authentic image surfaces. Since photography only started coming into its own mid 19th Century, illustrations made of the past have also been helpful and perhaps the only thing a researcher can cling onto. One challenge for the film has been the absence of photos featuring Diana Williams and Julia Williams Garnet. I have looked high and low, but no such luck -- yet.

That said, there have been some triumphs. After contacting several private collectors, and going through a labyrinth of request forms, I was finally able to see a portrait of John Harleston Read (1788-1859), Diana's slaveholder who is depicted in the film. The portrait remains in the private sphere, so I am not allowed show the image, only use it for research. Another "image safari" highlight was when searching for Julia's images, a very cool artist site popped up. It features work by Kiersten Marek from Cranston, Rhode Island who was inspired to paint Julia despite the lack of any visual reference. I was thrilled to find the painting and grateful that she and others appreciate Julia Williams' contribution to the abolitionist movement.

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Banner image: Waiter carriers sell their wares along the platform.  Courtesy of the Town of Gordonsville.

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