The Maryland Historical Society is proud to present Reflections: A Brief History of Looking at Ourselves, an exhibition of portraiture that celebrates photography as an expression of identity, place and sense of belonging. Reflections encompasses nearly the entire era of photography, from the earliest 1840s daguerreotypes to modern day digital photographs and Instagram “selfies.”

This year marks the 180th anniversary of photography as an invention, and Reflections celebrates this anniversary by focusing on one of humankind’s favorite subjects—ourselves. Drawing from MdHS’s vast photographic holdings, including daguerreotypes, salt prints, glass negatives, acetate negatives, and digital prints, Reflections examines the way portraiture has progressed over the years, and the way self-representation has evolved. While technology has changed, some of the ways we express ourselves in images has stayed the same.

The exhibition’s curators are Joe Tropea, MdHS Curator of Films and Photographs, and Elena Volkova, Assistant Professor of Photography at Stevenson University. 

In addition to focusing on the themes of identity, place and belonging, Reflections explores sub-themes that include family portraits, sports, work life, childhood, sexuality and transportation. The exhibition highlights work from unsung and in some cases unidentified photographers represented in the MdHS photo and print collections.

Reflections invites the public to consider this collection of photographs as representative of our collective experience,” says Tropea. “In the exhibition curation, we delved into Maryland’s historic records of a diverse and vibrant community and explored themes that bring us together.”

Reflections will invite visitors to take and submit their own portraits to the show using a “selfie” wall. Or they can take a portrait anywhere and tag the @ReflectionsMdHS Instagram account to have photos pulled into the exhibition’s digital component.

“The idea behind this project is to invite the public to slow down and engage with photography in a meaningful way,” says Volkova. “We hope that people will appreciate how the themes of photography that exist today have history and progression.”




Emily Spencer Hayden Emily Spencer Hayden(1869-1949) was the daughter of playwright Edward Spencer. She worked as a grade school teacher in Baltimore and took photographs and painted in her spare time. She received her first camera as a gift from her husband in the 1890s, and pursued photography in addition to other artistic practices. Spencer Hayden’s compositions fascinate with an incredible sensibility to light, careful framing and pictorial mood. She photographed mostly her immediate family and friends. Several images from the Emily Spencer Hayden Photograph Collection are featured in Reflections.




John Dubas John Dubas (1889-1976) was an Austrian immigrant who picked up a camera soon after arriving in Baltimore in 1904. Dubas’ earliest photographs feature himself and his family as subjects. Dubas was a professional photographer, working for the B&O Railroad. He documented life in Baltimore in numerous portraits and city scenes. Reflections publicly presents a volume of John Dubas’ images for the first time.




James Lewis James Lewis (1881-1959), a Baltimore photographer from Canton, started taking photos when he was 15 years old. Using the glass plate process, Lewis took photos of a variety of subjects including landscapes, architecture and interiors, but perhaps most compelling of all were his portraits. Reflections features a selection of Lewis’s work focused on his family and friends, showing mastery of composition and subject placement.