Tailoring Freedom – Fassena

© the artist. Image credit: Autograph

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In March 1850, Louis Agassiz (1807–1873) commissioned J. T. Zealy (1812–1893) to photograph enslaved people on the Edgehill plantation in South Carolina, USA. Utilising the technology of photography as part of his eugenics campaign, Agassiz chose seven enslaved individuals – Alfred, Fassena, Jem, Jack and his daughter Drana, Renty and his daughter Delia. In an attempt to prove his theories of black inferiority, the seven were then forced to pose in Zealy's studio. Agassiz's son, Alexander, donated these images in 1858 to the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography at Harvard University, USA, where Agassiz was a professor and Founding Director of the Museum of Comparative Zoology. Since they were rediscovered in the Museum in the late 1970s, these works have been at the centre of urgent debates about photography ever since.




Tailoring Freedom – Fassena




metal staples on photograph on wood


H 69 x W 49 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

commissioned by The Power Plant, Toronto; Autograph, London; Turku Art Museum, Finland; and Kunstinstituut Melly, Rotterdam, 2022

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