MHERST, Mass. — Scholars at Amherst College in Massachusetts believe a collector may have what would be just the second known photo of Emily Dickinson. The college says the collector, who wishes to remain anonymous, bought the photo in 1995 in Springfield. He brought it to the college’s archive and special collections staff in 2007, and they’ve been researching it since.
The daguerreotype, dated around 1859, appears to show Dickinson sitting next to a friend, Kate Scott Turner. There’s strong evidence it’s Dickinson, including comparisons of high-resolution digital images of the newer photo with the known image, from 1847, said Mike Kelly, head of the archive and special collections department at Amherst College.
Kelly said perhaps the best evidence is an ophthalmological report that compared similarities in the eyes and facial features of the women in the photos.
“I believe strongly that these are the same people,” concluded the doctor who wrote the report. That could shift some perceptions about the Amherst native, Kelly said. For instance, a book in the 1950s was the first to propose Dickinson had a lesbian relationship with Turner, Kelly said.
“This is photographic evidence of their friendship, whatever the nature of that friendship was,” he said. It also offers a strikingly different image from the existing photo of Dickinson as a frail, teen girl, which was taken before she began writing poetry. The newer image was taken when she was roughly 30.