fictographica005: Wilfred Eng

For much of his life he had operated a commercial portrait studio on Grant Street in San Francisco, which he occasionally closed to indulge his famous wanderlust. Among the Aperture images reprinted from the 1870s was a picture made in that studio of a Chinese woman and her son seated on the same divan as the one in the self-portraits. The pattern of the fabric matched. A small tear appeared in one corner. When I bent over the broken plate with a loupe, I saw the same tear and said, “Holy shit,” out loud. The five self-portraits had been made in San Francisco  and must have been brought here some time later. Eng must have brought them himself. Given that they were cumbersome and easily broken, I wondered why he’d bothered. Vanity, maybe. “This man loves his mirrors,” Alfred Stieglitz had observed when the two first met. In 1912 he had invited Eng to show at his 291 Gallery, which had marked the beginning of their prickly friendship. “Wherever we walked, even along busy streets,” Stieglitz wrote, “he was forever giving bird-like twitches of his head in order to catch glimpses of himself in shop windows.”
The Lost Glass Plates of Wilfred Eng
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