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Untitled ("I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance")

A work made of albumen print.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of albumen print.




Sojourner Truth, American (c. 1797-died 1883)
in collaboration with S. C. Wright, American (active mid-late 19th century)

About this artwork

Isabella Baumfree was born into slavery in upstate New York, but she escaped with her infant daughter in 1826. Under the name Sojourner Truth, she campaigned for abolition, protections for emancipated slaves, and voting rights for African Americans and women, disseminating her message by writing several memoirs and lecturing widely to rapt audiences. Truth used photography in shrewd ways to promote her causes. She sat for her portrait several times, selling cartes de visite—small, inexpensive images widely circulated in the 1860s and 1870s by celebrities and everyday sitters alike—to fund her activities. In an unprecedented move, Truth copyrighted her own image, allowing the activist who had herself once been sold as property to profit from the sale of her photograph. The printed caption plays on one of photography’s early slogans: “Secure the shadow [the photograph] ere the substance [body] fade.”

Currently Off View



Sojourner Truth


Untitled ("I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance")


United States


Made 1864–1865


Albumen print


8.8 × 5.6 cm (image/paper); 10 × 6.2 cm (mount)

Credit Line

Gift of W. Bruce and Delaney H. Lundberg

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


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