Researchers can't yet definitively say the photo is Dickinson, but “I think we can get beyond reasonable doubt,” Kelly said
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.
The photo contradicts a misperception that Dickinson never left her house, when in fact she was quite social in her younger years, Kelly 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.
“This is really when she's coming into the height of her powers,” Kelly said. “To see her as this fully mature woman rather than this sickly little girl, I think it just shifts the way people think about what she's writing.”
Amherst's collections department has a copy of the daguerreotype, which it says can be viewed on request.