"Fire is motion / Work is repetition / This is my document / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all defenses."

- Cap'N Jazz, "Oh Messy Life," Analphabetapolothology

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

history of photography

i love learning stuff! and i love looking at pictures. seriously, that is not a childish thing to say at all, so don't scoff. literature with fantastically-chosen images and photographs makes for succulent learning! i love when a writer can illustrate what they mean with their words, but sometimes words just aren't enough, you know? [ there is a reason for certain platitudes. . . ]

i sat in on a history of film and photography class at Miami, trying to force-add into a brimming class full of com majors, and it was the best week and a half of class i've ever had. i learned so much, i felt like that one hour of class every day did so much to open my mind and eyes to new things, it was a highly concentrated wealth of stimulation, and it was all from looking at photos and art! i gotta rummage thru my undergrad notebooks some time and see if i can find my notes from those classes, i remember scrawling endlessly about the Lumiere brothers and Michael Snow and diagraming how a camera obscura works and trying to sketch replicas of all the amazing things before my eyes, in order to try to preserve and save something on the paper to refer back to (if only i'd had a camera!)

anyway, i'm fascinated by the history of photography, and was delighted when i came upon this blog, which so generously shares hi-res historic (and historically important!) photographs with the general blogosphere. very exciting! did i mention it's hi-res? which is great, because if there's one thing you'll definitely want to do, it's click on every one of those suckers and check all the glorious details out!

like this one:
[Alexander Gardner / Gettysburg / Dead Confederate soldier in Devil's Den / wet collodion / July 1863]

if you click and blow this picture up, you can see all the amazing details, from the buttons on the soldier's uniform, to the cracks and moss in the rock. but beyond that stone wall, just empty whiteness, the hazy blur of a line of trees, nothing. it's so poignant. so much in the immediate before our eyes, and nothing beyond. transfixing!

also, looking thru historic photographs helps us to appreciate the clarity and detail in which modern life is preserved. the past has become a mythic blur in fuzzy bygone daguerrotypes. take, for example, a photo of Abe Lincoln from the Civil War:
his face lacks detail, stability, you can make out a rockin' beard and a kindness in his face, but it's mostly hidden in shadow. mysterious, beguiling, regrettable.

finally! be sure to also check out this article from NPR about photographs of atomic bomb explosions. way cool, way creepy and way way unbelievable (i could not, for the life of me, see the explosions. i kept thinking they were microbes. until i saw the trees in the bottom. whoaa!)

[Photograph taken by Harold Edgerton with a rapatronic camera, from the Smithsonian Museum of American History]


K. said...

Stephanie, have you seen the documentaries "Black White + Gray: A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe" and "Guest of Cindy Sherman"? They're two of my favorite documentaries about photography. "Black White + Gray" focuses primarily on Wagstaff, a prominent art collector, and how through acquiring photographs for his personal collection, he changed the way that photography was valued as art. "Guest of Cindy Sherman" focuses on Cindy Sherman's relationship with Paul H-O, like "Black White + Gray," there's a lot of discussion around photographs as art and the shifting value of photographs. They're both really interesting!

stephan!e lee said...

i have not! thank you for bringing those to my attention. i will need to look into those.

good to hear from you, K!