Provenance-Documentation of Historical Photographs& My Answer to the Age Old Academic, Pontificating Old "NAY SAYERS"

"Quite aside from errors and apparently deliberate distortions of fact, not to mention photos of dubious origin"..."The photography section takes climacteric historic liberties in offering a selection of images that are purported to be of famous Missouri Partisan Rangers. Yet, the surpassing amount of provided images are not documented, or proven authentic in any semblance of reliable manner so as to delineate them as credible. Provenance and foundation are ostensibly unheard in this presentation. While a very smallish smattering of provided imagery are correctly identified, the vast majority are unfounded, groundless and highly impugnable and problematic."

How do these so called "experts" know that the images are not "proven authentic" or, worse, "deliberate distortions of fact and dubious origin. I defy anyone to contact me and let me show them the error of their ways. Don't EVER impugn my integrity! I have been a collector of antique original, historical photography for almost 50 years. I have accumulated a collection of something over 1500 individual pieces that have afforded me a considerable amount of respect in the collecting field.I have published articles in national magazines and even published entire chapters in leading books on the subject over the years.

While I am by no means an "EXPERT" (as "experts" are people who have nothing else to learn), I think I have earned the title of AUTHORITY. I do know, after all these years of actual EXPERIENCE, what I am talking about concerning documentation and provenance on historical photographs. I know the things that you learn by doing and not the things that you learn from some school book or through a method of gobbly gook vomited out by so-called "experts".

The quotes above are both from reviews of Paul Petersen's first book on W.C. Quantrill, QUANTRILL OF MISSOURI. As many of the original photographs in both Paul's first and second book are mine, the comments pertain to me and are, of course quite personal.

They are also what I call age old academic, pontificating old"NAY SAYERS"I've seen them stated in the same manner (almost word for word) for years. Where do these words come from? The "pompous, old NAY SAYERS"dictionary? Give me a break! How do these so called "experts" know that the images are not "proven authentic" or, worse, "deliberate distortions of fact and dubious origin".

Each of my original Quantrill raider photographs are either period IDed, documented, came directly from the men's families or all of the above. I am very careful about how I document each photograph and what the recorder provenance is on each one, and I can prove what I say.

Can these jealous, pontificating so-called critics? No they cannot. Their only desire in life is to pump themselves up by criticizing everything they do not own. They criticize everything that they think their small group of followers will  cheer them for demeaning. They are not academics. They are not authorities or experts. They have no experience or credentials to back up their claims. They never even try to state any themselves because they have none. They are simply mean spirited, no class individuals who love to see their names in print spewing their libels on anything that they can.

After all, they believe it is their job to bad-mouth and/or destroy everything they do not agree with regardless of whether they know anything about what they are saying. They do not own the images themselves, they were not offered them first, or perhaps they did not have the funds to acquire such images themselves. They have no idea of any real "distortions of facts or dubious origins" as they deal in no proof at all; no documentation of their ascertions; just libel from their hands to paper or computers. Maybe a bit of just plain jealousy is at work here. Who know? Who cares? They simply need to be shoved aside and ignored.

What is documentation and/or provenance on historic photographs? Well, let me get into that right now. I think I can explain the parameters concerning this issue without just spouting off and requesting the reader to take them at my "word" like  "NAY SAYERS" do (or as others have stated "leaving it up to the so called Gold Standards" in the collecting and historic fields). I think the best method of examining this is to break it down into different areas of interest.

The finest form of documentation of a photograph (or anything else for that matter) would be a document in the hand of the original subject or owner swearing to the authenticity of the photo or discussing the photograph. This is a form of primary documentation. I don't think anyone would necessarily dispute that. However, in all my 50 years, I have only seen this once or twice. It virtually never happens. Why? Because the original person could have cared less and had no idea that there would have been any future reason to do so.

The second form of documentation is an original, period identification on the image (front, back, or both) OR inside the case, if the image is a cased image. This is another form of primary documentation, as long as it can be determined that the identification is, in itself, period and original.

The third form of documentation is a documenting letter written by a descendant relative of the person in the photograph. It should clearly state the family relationship and declare that the person in the photo is the person in question.

This form of documentation is more prominent and, although a clear form of secondary documentation, it is considered quite strong, especially when combined with a period identified photograph.

The fourth form of documentation is a letter from the dealer or collector who purchased the photograph from the family member when the family member refused to write a letter or the dealer forgot to ask for one.This one is also considered secondary documentation. All secondary documenting letters are valuable when combined with other forms of documentation. This is especially true when these are combined with a period identified image. The letter(s) are a form of backup or contributing documentation.

The final form of documentation and by far the least valuable is the comparison method whereby a person compares the image to another known and authenticated image of the same person.

I always suggest that this be used as a last resort and, frankly, consider it of little to no value unless it is backed up by more substantial documentation. However, it seems to be the documentation of choice these days on such sites as eBay and others, often to go unchallenged by eBay's so called experts.

Finally, provenance is often confused with documentation. They tend to go together like a hand-in-a-glove, but provenance is actually the documented passing of the image from one person to the next, often over a series of many years. Added to a strong documentation, a good provenance can make an historical image.

With all this in mind, I need to say that getting documenting letters from family members or collectors who obtained them from the family can, at times, be rather problematic. Some family members won't sign a letter because they don't want other family members to know they sold it or what they got for it. Some family members are frankly afraid of putting their names on any document for what they think are legal reasons or future liabilities.

Some collectors, on the other hand, do not want to sign letters because they do not want to become bothered by other collectors or "historians" who often stoop at nothing to chase what they want and resort to bothering and hounding the family member, violating their deep sense of privacy. Others simply wish to remain anonymous. I believe the collector is honor bound to follow the wishes of any of the above.

Back to the issue of the so-called "experts" and their so-called academic reviews; I am sure I seem rather bitter. Well, I am. I am simply sick of the empty rhetoric and gutless moaning of these critics. In all cases, each of my images is documented by the standards defined above. In many, many cases the image(s) are documented by a combination of them.

This is America. If you want to challenge my photographs, do so. However, if you draw the sword be willing to follow through. I and my friends on this site have strict standards that we follow and live by. Attack the one you attack all.

So, Mr. and Mrs. "NAY SAYERS," attack at your own risk. There are slander and libel laws in this country.

©Emory Cantey, quantrillsguerrillas.com "Permission should be requested and agreed to before using this copyrighted essay and or image." Below is one of the few documentened images of Aleaxnder Franklin James and Little Archie Clements. 

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