Meditations on Photographs: Lewis Payne by Alexander Gardner


General Photography


Now here’s a picture for our times: A photograph taken by Alexander Gardner in 1865, a portrait of Lewis Payne, one of the men involved in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. If there ever was defiance, here we’d have it, and we love that kind of attitude, even (especially?) if it is on display by a soon-to-be-convicted (and hanged) criminal. It’s a handsome face, too, oddly out of time: You wouldn’t be surprised to meet someone looking, even dressing like this, in a local coffee shop. But Payne also looks like the hero in every movie - the dashing main figure who will escape into the night even if all his accomplices get caught or killed, the ruthless killer or violent lunatic that we still root for (think “Doug MacRay” in The Town). Find the rest of the piece here.