Two young African-American children wearing party clothes, or perhaps their Sunday best, stand frozen in time in a photograph taken in Alabama on a sunny day in 1929. The girl looks directly at the camera while the boy stands behind her, his right hand resting on her shoulder as he gazes into the distance. The photograph, taken by acclaimed photographer Prentice Herman Polk (1898-1985) and titled Young Love, is simple, arresting, and significant, as it was gifted to the University of Delaware by Donald Polk, his son, and the Polk Family.
The photograph became a treatment project for Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC) Fellow Amber Kehoe this year after collection curators became concerned about signs of mold on the print, likely induced by past exposure to high humidity and temperature. Amber, a photograph conservation major, loves the way photographs make her feel connected to real people and places, and she was touched by the image of the young children, one of whom appears to be the photographer’s son, Donald, when he was young. Polk frequently photographed his family and community—people who were important to him—something we still do today.