Notes from Underground

Photo of the Week: Earth Day

This second installment of Photo of the Week celebrates Earth Day with photographs by two major American landscape photographers, Frank Gohlke and Robert Glenn Ketchum. Both have recently had exhibitions at the Carter featuring works that deal with environmental issues.

Frank Gohlke, Tire, the Sudbury River, Framingham, Massachusetts, September 1991, dye coupler print, © Frank Gohlke

Robert Glenn Ketchum, "I Like the Look of a Clearcut..." Attributed to a Forest Supervisor at a Public Meeting, dye destruction print, Gift of Advocacy Arts Foundation, © 1986 Robert Glenn Ketchum

There are some good ideas for reducing your environmental footprint over at EarthDay.Gov and a timeline of environmental progress since the first Earth Day in 1970 on the EPA website. If you don't like the look of a clearcut, do something nice for the environment today.

Photo of the Week

Because I manage the database where all the cataloging information and digital images of the collection are stored, I get to see thousands of photographs every week that are not currently on view. I'm starting a new series of weekly, thematic blog posts to highlight some of the interesting images I come across in my day-to-day work. So without further ado, here are my first selections...

Charles Weidner, Fleeing from the Burning City, April 18, 1906, San Francisco, California, halftone postcard, ca. 1907

Arnold Genthe, San Francisco, April 18th, 1906, 10am, gelatin silver print, 1906

This Saturday happens to mark the anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. These are two photographs of the San Francisco earthquake aftermath taken 103 years ago this week. The earthquake not only made Arnold Genthe famous, but had a lasting impact on another photographer: it broke the nose of four-year-old Ansel Adams.

Come back next Wednesday for the second installment of Photos of the Week!


An article appropriate for such an unseasonably chilly day: if you've ever wondered why museums are always SO cold inside, read Keeping Art, and Climate, Controlled in the NYT.

The Life of a Civil War Photograph

"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

'Into the Sunset' catalogue

The Guardian has reviewed the catalogue for MOMA's exhibition Into the Sunset, which features several photographs from the Carter's collection.

Also, the Village Voice's review of the exhibition is here.

Robert Frank Speaks

Check out Tyler Green's coverage of photographer Robert Frank's speaking engagement at the National Gallery of Art. It's two-parter. [Previously]

Thomas Moran's House

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

Helen Levitt (1918-2009)

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

Edited to add: NPR, TIME, The Wall Street Journal, and ArtsJournal are also remembering Levitt.

Carter Photos @ MOMA

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, Cañon 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

Harlem Renaissance in OKC

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!