Thursday, December 6, 2007

Well, is it?

Work With Me, Baby - The Time's revisits "but is it art" in the context of fashion photography. The model posed and poised to deliver a kick is the work of fashion photographer Max Vadukul in a photo appearing with today's story. The pistol shooter is a Spanish Civil War trainee photographed by Gerda Taro, who was featured in a recent exhibit at the International Center of Photography. The Zuni Governor is from Edward S. Curtis, whose expeditions across the American West were the product of an anthropological impulse to preserve at least the memory of the vanishing Native American cultures.

Which speaks to you and why? Fashion photography, photojournalism and commercial photography (think "Got Milk" or Absolute) are what you decide they are. As an investment they sometimes pose problems because the number of prints may be unlimited, but so what. You can enjoy them for the price of a magazine. This is the third As Good As News appearance for the Gerda Taro shot and I have the good fortune to see The Zuni Governor every day.

Greece and Macedonia to Restart Talks on Name - Greece is giving the new Republic of Macedonia (once part of the Soviet Union) a hard time because Greece fears the Republic of Macedonia will be confused with the Greek province of Macedonia. Relax Greece. The United States hasn't had any problems with another former Soviet republic, Georgia.

Crucial Test for Romney in Speech on His Religion - Relax, we will not do a third major post on this topic in a single week. Just spend a minute on this quote: “Most people don’t have a clear understanding of the faith,” said Tamara Scott, executive director of the Iowa chapter of Concerned Women for America, a Christian conservative group. “Really what they would like is maybe a little more explanation.” Most people can take a course in comparative religion if they want to understand the Church of the LDS. Most people are willing to vote for a Jew, Hindu or any other non-Christian without regard to religion when they are otherwise the best candidate. Most people don't need or want an advanced seminar in whether Mormons are really Christians before they can vote, since most people don't take a "Christians Only" approach to voting. Explaining and defending Mormon theology, particularly the question of whether Mormons are Christians, is exactly what Mitt should not have to do, and will not do.


Anonymous said...

Edward S. Curtis, Legendary Photographer, What no Photoshop?

Curtis didn't use a Canon or Nikon SLR, but made his images with a 6 1/2 x 8 1/2 Premo reversible back camera. It had a 22" bellows, and a ground glass back. It took at least 15 minutes to set up a picture, and his fastest shutter speed was 1/100th of a second. He didn't have a "healing" or "cloning" tool, sharpening, curves, or levels... neither Photoshop nor the computer, or the CCD had been invented yet. My God! How did he do it?

For as much criticism as this man has received in the last century, it leads one to think that perhaps he did create a little magic. Perhaps he was on to something in the photographic world.

The beginnings of the modern west certainly resonate in the works of Edward S. Curtis. His photos were made at a time when Indians already driven from their lands were being shorn from their cultures. Fast emulsion Photography was relatively new and competed with portraiture done on oil and canvas.

This history is very apparent in a new film on Curtis's works, THE INDIAN PICTURE OPERA, (, DVD). In it, his images are explained in his own words. It's a re-creation of a 1911 E.S. Curtis lecture and slide show.

This film goes way beyond the images in showing how the west was transformed. It was a last grasp at recapturing was he called the "vanishing race". Ironic that Curtis's works were underwritten by J.P. Morgan, who helped bankroll expansion of railroads into America's west.

A journey into the past is always enlightening. Even though photography has been reinvented by digital, it's golden age was a century ago.

Jay River

Michael J. Hassett said...

Thank you Jay River. Thanks to my Grandfather's purchase at the 1909 Seattle World's Fair and some good luck, I wound up with one of the platinum prints of the "Portrait of a Zunni Indian Governor" with stamp and signature. I claimed it from my grandfather's estate as a teen because the picture drew me in, but at that point I didn't know anything about Curtis or the photo's value. The Governor survived a couple of terms next to my dartboard in college in the 1970s and an attempt by an appraiser to buy it after undervaluing it in 1980. A few years later the Governor showed up on the cover of the catalog for a major museum's Curtis exhibition and I realized what I really had.