Do not be confused by this title of “No Photographs Please.” The Maryknoll Mission Archives is home to over a million photographs that document Maryknoll missioners, their mission work, their headquarters, schools, the fields afar that they have journeyed to and so much more. We house this amazing collection and welcome any additional photographs that fall within our collection scope. As a keeper of this visual slice of Maryknoll’s history, I see how much of what Maryknoll does and who Maryknoll is can be illustrated by this treasure trove. However, in looking over what we do have, I can also see some of the holes that could be better filled. While some images may have been lost in the fields afar due to unrest within a country, fire, misplacement during a move to new office or living quarters, others may never have existed because there was no camera equipment available or because someone simply stated, “No photographs please.” Some people are camera shy or simply do not like to have their photograph taken and it just so happens that Maryknoll’s co-founder, Fr. Thomas F. Price, was one such person. He was so averse to his photograph being taken that upon hearing a nameless photograph of himself had appeared in the April 1916 issue of The Field Afar he wrote the following letter to Fr. James A. Walsh:
Catholic Foreign Mission Sem.
Maryknoll, Ossining, N.Y.
April 23, 1916
My Dear Fr. Walsh,
I have been given to understand that you have published a picture of me in the F.A. This matter has pained me deeply. I trust you will see your way to give me the assurance that all plates and negatives concerning the picture in question will be immediately destroyed and I trust that you will not allow the matter to happen again. Otherwise I fear that the freedom of our future intercourse will be marred.
Respectfully and sincerely,
You humble servant,
Thos. F. Price
Draft of a reply to Father Price written on original of the above by Father James A. Walsh.
I am so sorry to have occasioned you pain by the insertion of a nameless photograph in the F.A. I know nothing about the negative of the photograph, which has been in our collection for some time past, and why I felt quite justified in using.
The half-tone will be destroyed. If you look for any further assurance it would be best for us to talk on this subject which naturally involves others and I shall be at your service after my return from Scranton.
When you click on the scanned page from the April 1916 issue of The Field Afar, you can see the offending image in which Fr. Thomas F. Price is getting his haircut by a seminarian. With no caption information, in my initial search to find this image referenced in the letter, I passed by it multiple times, concluding that perhaps he caught wind of the fact his image was to appear and the photograph never made it into print. It wasn’t until I was pulling another picture of Fr. Price that I saw a folder titled “haircut.” Upon seeing the picture inside, an image I had passed by came to mind! His photo did appear in the magazine!
His is a face that I know and to not initially recognize him is quite a feat. This photograph has no caption information and can be unrecognizable to those who know his face. Clearly his dislike of ANY photograph that could potentially be traced back to his image was strong. However, he is a co-founder of Maryknoll. If Fr. Walsh had taken him at his word, we would have no images of him. They would all have been destroyed. I am happy to say that, though we do not have them in abundance, we do have photographs to help us remember the visage of our co-founder Fr. Thomas F. Price. In some cases, it is due to the creativity of Maryknollers that these treasures exist and are preserved within our collection. Below see the clever method used by Fr. Patrick J. Byrne to capture this series of three images of our co-founder: