"Perhaps more than any other artifact, the photograph has engaged our thoughts about time and eternity. I say “perhaps,” because the history of photography spans less than 200 years. How many of us have been “immortalized” in a newspaper, a book or a painting vs. how many of us have appeared in a photograph?" -- Errol Morris, Whose Father Was He?
You have to read Whose Father Was He?, a fascinating five-part series about the fate of a civil war soldier and a photograph of his children over at the New York Times. One of about 8000 casualties of the Battle of Gettysburg, a soldier was found without any identification. He did, however, have an ambrotype photograph of his three young children in his pocket. The series chronicles the efforts to locate the soldier's family, and what has become of them in the ensuing 140 years.
I am by no means a civil war buff, but the story was so moving that I found myself looking forward to each installment of the story this week. The Carter has a good number of 19th-century portrait photographs, many of which depict long-dead people that no has been able to identify, and probably never will. When I work with these images, I always wonder about these people's stories and it makes me a little sad to know that they are essentially lost. I loved reading in this NYT series about the historian who went to great lengths to study the life of this soldier (and also some interesting tangents into whaling, orphanages, and Mayan astroastronomy).
Some of my favorite portraits of anonymous sitters from our collection. What are their stories? We'll probably never know.
[Unidentified infantry colonel], daguerreotype, ca. 1847
[Woman and child], daguerreotype, ca. 1850s
[Young woman in dark dress], tintype, ca. 1863-1869
Also in the NYT, an article about the renovation of the Hamptons home & studio of painter Thomas Moran and his wife, Mary Nimmo Moran, also an important landscape artist. The National Park Service declared the site a National Historic Landmark and awarded a $525,000 grant to spruce up the house (where according to the NYT, Thomas painted many of his famous western landscapes) and eventually open it to the public.
Thomas Moran, Cliffs of Green River, 1874, oil on canvas
Mary Nimmo Moran, An Old Homestead--Easthampton, L. I., 1880, etching
More sad news - Helen Levitt is the second American photographer we've lost this month (NYT obit). Levitt was known and respected for street photographs that show a great sense of humor - and a great sense of timing.
Though none are currently on view, the Carter has six photographs by Helen Levitt in the permanent collection. Here are some of my favorites:
Helen Levitt, Walker Evans, ca. 1938-1939, ©1975 Helen Levitt
Helen Levitt, New York, ca. 1942, ©1965 Helen Levitt
[This is the Halloween photo described in the NYT obituary]
Helen Levitt, New York, ca. 1942, ©1965 Helen Levitt
Five photographs from the Carter's collection will be on view starting Sunday at the Museum of Modern Art in the exhibition, Into the Sunset: Photography's Image of the American West. Our office recieved an advance copy of the exhibition catalogue, and it looks like a really interesting selection of images (nevermind what the NYT says). Check it out if you're going to be in New York between now and June 8, and keep an eye out for our photos:
Edward S. Curtis, CaÃ±on de Chelly, 1904
W.R. Humphries, Bisbee, 1904
Timothy O'Sullivan, Savage Mine, Curtis Shaft, Virginia City, Nevada, 1868
Wells Moses Sawyer, Chief Joseph and Nephew, 1897
Charles D. Kirkland, Wyoming Cow-boy, ca. 1877-1895
Alert registrar Melissa noticed "our" Prodigal Son over on the Art Blog By Bob's post about the Harlem Renaissance exhibition at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. This survey of African American art features over 100 works from 20 lenders, including God's Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse, an illustrated book from the Carter's library. The book is open to The Prodigal Son image for the duration of the exhibition. Check it out if you're in OKC!
We heard earlier this week that California photographer Pirkle Jones had died at age 95 (obits here and here). Jones is probably best known for being Ansel Adams's assistant and photographing the Black Panthers in the 1960s.
The Carter has 14 photographs by Pirkle Jones in the photography collection, and one of them - Sunset District and Pacific Ocean, San Francisco - is on view now in the exhibition High Modernism: Alfred Stieglitz and His Legacy through July 19.
This Week in the Arts has posted a new podcast - an interview with Brian Dippie, the author of the Carter's newest publication, The 100 Best Illustrated Letters of Charles M. Russell (among many, many others). Check it out.
We recently received some imaginative stories from sixth-grade students at the McAnally Intermediate School in Aledo. They were written in part during their virtual visit to the Carter via videoconferencing last fall. Here are the inspirational artworks and excerpts from the students' essays:
“I was having a difficult time focusing. The only thing my mind can ponder over is the thought of the place I’d rather be. I guess every 12 year old boy is like that”¦
This place gives me such peace that my heart is already slowing down from the long run to this place. The bluebonnet’s color is so vivid that they seem purple yet they are blue”¦.
In the near distance I can see my favorite old twisted tree”¦I hear the birds chirping and squeaking, the whisper of the wind in my ear, and the rustle of the leaves.”
“It starts to get dark and the temperatures are dropping. I start walking toward my tee-pee before it got too cold, and as I started walking a small snow flurry picked up. It was as cold as the arctic, so I hurried over the small, crowded, warm fire and looked back toward the blanket covered giants. Then I listened for the whisper of wind going through the branches and the harmonic sound of the timber wolves howling.”
“The twinkle of the sun is like a rapid flash of a flashlight. The”¦soft breeze blew through the trees and it was like the leaves were jumping off of the branches as they flew through the air like little feathers drifting to the ground.”
“Friendship [the horse] was still slurping the water not aware of the storm. The sun was being overtaken by the gigantic clouds. Beyond the pond it was beginning to darken. The wind was even faster now. More wind means more dirt, more dirt means harsher storms. You couldn’t take a breath of air without coughing once or twice.”