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kottke.org posts about Shannon LaNier

A Portrait of a Direct Descendent of Thomas Jefferson & Sally Hemings

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 07, 2020

Jefferson Grandson

For his Descendents series, Drew Gardner takes photographs of people done up to look like their famous ancestors. The Smithsonian Magazine recently featured Gardner’s photo of Shannon LaNier recreating a portrait of his great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, Thomas Jefferson. Here’s the description of Jefferson’s portrait on the White House website:

The portrait of Jefferson was completed in Philadelphia before mid-May 1800 when he left that capital for Monticello. The face has the glow of health, a warm complexion. The sitter here looks directly at us and does so with candor, as our equal. The splendid eyes and mouth convey reason and tolerance.

At odds with that glowing description is LaNier’s very existence; he’s here today because Thomas Jefferson raped his great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Sally Hemings. Says LaNier of Jefferson:

He was a brilliant man who preached equality, but he didn’t practice it. He owned people. And now I’m here because of it.

Check out this video for a look at how the portrait was made and more of LaNier’s thoughts about it. (via open culture)