Next week, an exhibition of river baptism photos, titled Take Me To The Water, opens at New York City's International Center of Photography. The heyday of this ritual, and the majority of the photos, are from the 1880s-1930s. Apparently, photographs of the rites were made into postcards popular among the family of the baptized person and also tourists visiting the South and Midwest where the river baptisms were most popular. The photos in the exhibit were donated to the Center by Jim Linderman, whose collection was also the basis for the 2010 Grammy-nominated book and CD package "Take Me To The Water: Immersion Baptism in Vintage Music and Photography 1890-1950." (That book/CD was designed and published by Dust-to-Digital, makers of the phenomenal Goodbye, Babylon gospel box set and other top-notch historical music packages.) Over at Collectors Weekly, Linderman posts about his collection and the collector's spirit:
Collecting anything is fun–somehow any group of objects always equals more than the sum of its parts. Personally, I prefer groups of three. That's enough to show differences and similarities at the same time.
Over the course of 10 years, I collected every photograph I could find of people participating in the ritual of immersion baptism. Most of these original vintage photographs are pre-1950. Many are Real Photo Postcards, which is the focus of the exhibition, but there are numerous large albumens, too. One is a yard long and shows hundreds of spectators watching a mass baptism. It's quite a spectacle, and one of the show's centerpieces.
Initially, I found my baptism photos at flea markets and such. If I spotted one while browsing through boxes and baskets of photographs, I treated it like a prize and filed it away at home…
The point is that I collected in a very narrow field with a particular, specific project in mind. This can be done by anyone! I always tell my friends to pick one area and collect it relentlessly.
"Total Immersion Collecting: Baptism Photos" (Collectors Weekly)