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An Eye of Silver: The Life and Times of Andrew D. Lytle


[singlepic id=55 w=320 h=240 float=left]On 16 September 1839, D. W. Seager created the first successful daguerreotype in the western hemisphere using the methods of the Frenchman L. J. M. Daguerre. Less than a year later, Jules Lion, native of France and a free man of color, became the first person to exhibit daguerreotypes in New Orleans. Within months another Frenchman and New Orleanian, J. B. Pointel du Portail, came to Baton Rouge to hold the first-ever exhibit of photographic images. The public’s reception of these images guaranteed a long, happy life for photography in the city.

Eighteen years later, Andrew David Lytle, a native of Ohio and journeyman photographer, came through Baton Rouge while traveling the South as an itinerant photographer. Lytle settled in Baton Rouge in 1860, established his photographic studio on Main Street, and began what would turn out to be more than fifty years of photographing the life and times of this small river city. Over the course of those years Lytle would find himself in the right place at the right time to create images of the Union capture and occupation of Baton Rouge, construction of river levees, social events of great importance, and the occasional disaster.

Lytle would rise from an unknown itinerant photographer to become a relatively wealthy member of local society with ties to social organizations, civic organizations, and other local families. He would also branch out into documentary photography for the state, particularly prison life and levee construction. Lytle’s work, ranging from formal portraiture to documentary images, nature scenes to casual family ‘snapshots,’ shows his ability to work both in the studio and outdoors.

Andrew would also suffer great personal loss. The death of his first son in Baton Rouge, 9 March 1859, may have been a factor in choosing to settle here. His second son, third son, and grandson would all precede him in death, as would his wife. Only in the waning years of his life would his name and work spread beyond Louisiana with the publication of some of his Civil War images in the 1911 publication The Photographic History of the Civil War.