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Image of Sea of Dreams

Ed Willis Barnett
American, 1899–1987

Sea of Dreams


Object Type: Photograph
Creation Place: North America, American, Alabama
16 1/8 in. x 13 1/4 in. (40.96 cm x 33.66 cm)
Medium and Support: Gelatin silver print on paper
Accession Number: 1988.0006.0002

Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Ed Willis Barnett

Ed Willis Barnett took up photography first as an avocation, and then as a profession later in life, after service in the Navy during World War I and competing as a member of the U.S. Olympic Fencing Team in 1928. While training for the fencing team, he lived primarily in Paris, meeting a number of modernists through the circle of Gertrude Stein. Most significantly, he met and befriended Man Ray, some of whose experimental photographic techniques he later adopted. Returning to his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama in 1929, he began a career in advertising, and it wasn't until 1952 that he realized his goal of building a darkroom to create his own photographic prints.

Barnett attended the Naval Academy from 1917 to 1920, serving in the Navy during both the First and Second World Wars. This image was printed by Barnett, apparently after he built his darkroom in 1952, but the negative may have been made earlier. "Sea of Dreams" appears related to the photographer's service in the Navy, with two anonymous seamen gazing at the wake of their ship as it travels at sea.

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