The Western Americana Collection recently acquired an album of ninety-one photographs of scenes in Northern and Central Mexico in the 1880s. The images present city views, street scenes, cathedrals, and various merchants and workers. Sixty-one of the photographs are attributed to William Henry Jackson (1842-1943), while nine are attributed to French photographer Abel Briquet. Notable among the remaining unattributed photographs are nine candid street scenes in Villa Lerdo, Durango.
William Henry Jackson, known for his iconic Indian portraits and landscape photographs of the American West, traveled to Mexico in 1883 under commission of the Mexican Central Railroad Company to document the inaugural passage between Ciudad Juárez and Mexico City (Debroise, 76). While documenting the Mexican railroad, which connected with the Santa Fe Railroad, Jackson also directed his lens toward the surrounding landscape, city views, buildings, and local inhabitants. In the same year, French photographer Abel Briquet was commissioned by Compagnie Maritime Transatlantique to document the ports of Mexico (Debroise, 79). Like Jackson, Briquet also turned his gaze to the inhabitants and surrounding cities. While Jackson only stayed briefly in Mexico (returning in 1884 to finish documenting the railroad), Briquet stayed on and opened a photography studio in Mexico City in 1885, making him the first commercial photographer in Mexico.
The newly acquired Mexico album supplements the department’s two significant portfolios containing William Henry Jackson photographs of the American West: Photographs of North American Indians (WC054) and the Sheldon Jackson Collection of Indian Photographs (WC055). Both of these portfolios have been digitized in full and are accessible via the Princeton University Digital Library. See: Photographs of American Indians and Sheldon Jackson Collection of Indian Photographs.
Debroise, Olivier. Mexican Suite: A History of Photography in Mexico. Translated and revised in collaboration with the author by Stella de Sá Rego. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2001.