James Presley Ball pioneered Black photography


James P. Ball
Date: 
Thu, 1825-07-28

*The birth of James P. Ball in 1825 is celebrated on this date. He was a Black Abolitionist, free Black man, photographer and businessman.

From Virginia, in 1845 James Presley Ball opened a one-room studio in Cincinnati, Ohio. One year later Ball returned to Richmond, Virginia and had a more successful business in a rented studio located near the State Capitol building. Ball returned to Ohio in 1847, as a traveling daguerrotypist, (a special field of photography) and settled in Cincinnati. There he hired his brother (Thomas) as a studio operator. In 1852 his brother-in-law (Alexander Thomas) became a partner in the studio; and the Ball and Thomas Gallery opened for business.

In 1855, he published a pamphlet addressing the misery of slavery from capture in Africa, through the Middle Passage, and then to bondage. He also held photo exhibitions on the experience of slavery. During the 1850s displays of Ball’s daguerreotypes were shown at the Ohio State Fair and at the Ohio Mechanics Annual Exhibition. In May of 1860, the Ball and Thomas Photographic Art Gallery was destroyed by tornado; however it was rebuilt with help from the community.

During the 1870s Ball dissolved his partnership with Thomas and moved to Minneapolis, opening another studio. In 1887, he was the official photographer of the 25th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation held in Minneapolis. During October of that year, Presley relocated to Helena, Montana where between 1887-1894, he produced hundreds of photographs of the White, Black and Chinese community. In 1900, he moved to Seattle and opened another studio under the firm name of Globe Photo Studio. James Presley Ball died in 1904.

Reference:
J.P. Ball, Daguerrean and Studio Photographer
by Willis, Deborah (Ed.)
Garland, NY, 1993
ISBN: 0815307160

To Become a Photographer

Person / name: 

Ball, James Presley