Monday, February 27, 2017

Gifted photographer a mystery man

photo of Richard Aloysius Twine
Photographer Richard A. Twine self-portrait
(Photo credit: State Archives of Florida/Twine)

July 2019 update:
Mystery photographer revealed

Original 2017 post:

First of two parts

Funny how threads of interest travel online. Last week, I saw a Facebook post by Florida's Bureau of Library Development. It linked to a page on the State Archives of Florida's Florida Memory website. A mouthful of titles, I know. 
The trail was worth following. It led to an African-American photographer named Richard Aloysius Twine.

I can't link to a Wikipedia page about Twine, because one doesn't exist. I hope to rectify that by creating a page for him as part of a retirement project. He deserves wider recognition for the visual record he made of the African-American community of Lincolnville in St. Augustine. Between 1922 and 1927 he created more than 100 images of Lincolnville people, places and events.

Twine's images are preserved at the St. Augustine Historical Society and showcased online at Florida Memory. That website provides the only biographical detail I could find about Twine. He was born in 1896 and was a professional photographer, at least during the 1920s. He was in his 20s when he documented community life.

What the brief bio doesn't say, but what I infer from the photos, is that Twine was Catholic or was close to the Catholic community in Lincolnville. A number of his pictures depict St. Benedict the Moor church, churchgoers and schoolchildren. St. Benedict the Moor was the first African-American parish in the St. Augustine diocese, according to a 2014 article in the St. Augustine Record. Part Two of this blog post looks more closely at the church and school.

Ninety-six of Twine's photos can be viewed online. One of my favorites is titled "The 'Catholic Crowd' After Church." Twine - looking quite dapper - is seated in the middle of the photo, and is surrounded by women wearing their Sunday best. The image preserves a slice of life from a long-ago Sunday.

I looked at every one of the photos. Each draws the viewer in for a closer look. Each leaves the viewer with a better understanding of a place and people at a certain point in time. A sensitive and gifted man was behind the camera. I wonder what happened to him. Did he stop taking photos? If so, why? Did he move away? Embark on a different career? The photos are silent.

Early 1900s photo of group of African-Americans
'The 'Catholic Crowd' After Church," by Richard A. Twine, seated at center.
(Photo credit: State Archives of Florida/Twine)

Part 2 of the original 2017 post is about St. Benedict the Moor Catholic School.

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