Southampton Historical Museum is presenting a unique look into the lives of the village’s most rich and famous residents over three decades this May. The landmark exhibition, Southampton Blue Book, 1930 to 1960: Photographs by Bert Morgan, features a collection of pictures selected from thousands in the archive of Bert Morgan, known as the “dean of society photographers” in his day.
Opening May 10 and on view through October 18, the show provides a glimpse of Southampton’s wealthy summer residents, as Morgan photographed them at their exclusive clubs or as guests at private parties, weddings and galas. Perhaps the most compelling photos among those on view (courtesy of Patrick Montgomery and The Bert Morgan Archives) is a series featuring young Southamptonite Jacqueline (Bouvier) Kennedy competing in a local horse show. The pictures were selected from the more than 500 photographs Morgan took of Jackie Kennedy and her family.
Born in 1904, Morgan came to America with his British parents when he was 7 years old. He started his illustrious career with a $7 camera bought in a pawnshop, and he eventually struck out on his own as a freelance photographer in 1930. According to the museum, Morgan once told an interviewer that he had worked his way into the social field by using common sense. “I got to know the Southampton group, the Newport group, the group that went every day to the races, the group that regularly went to Jamaica and Bermuda,” he explained, adding, “Shortly, no matter where I went, I found plenty of people I knew I could make pictures of.”
Over more than half a century, Morgan penetrated the inner circles of high society, impressing his subjects with his gentle professionalism and discretion. Those he photographed trusted him never to show them in an unkind way and were charmed by his geniality, the museum notes, explaining that socialites and celebrities invited him to their parties and were happy to oblige when he asked them to pose for a moment or two on their way to the beach. The prints would then be sent to his subjects for purchase as well as to fashionable publications like Town & Country and Vogue.
Ticket-holders for the museum’s Insiders View of Southampton Homes will be guests at a preview of Southampton Blue Book, 1930 to 1960: Photographs by Bert Morgan on Saturday, May 31, from 4:30– 6 p.m. The public is invited to an opening reception at the Rogers Mansion in Southampton on Saturday, June 7, from 4– 6 p.m.
The Rogers Mansion is a property of the Southampton Historical Museums and Research Center, located at 17 Meeting House Lane in Southampton. The museum there is open Wednesday–Saturday, 11 a.m.–4 p.m.
Visit southamptonhistoricalmuseum.org or call 631-283-2494 for more information.