Way Back When

It’s amazing how a trip to the back of a closet can jog memories.  At least when you haven’t cleaned your closets in 20 years.  I found a pair of cowboy boots and two cowboy hats in the “rear compartment” of that closet.  Memories of days on horseback and nights in saloons.  I felt I needed to saddle up and ride to the river, and then come back home and light up a cigarette and open a bottle of Miller. Every time I go to the basement I can see the two enlargers with which I produced thousands of black & white prints. What next my eight tract tapes?  It’s funny how things change, some for the best and some not so much.

As long as we are dealing with the past, let’s talk about nature photographer Larry West.  Larry fits the legend category to me, although apparently not for very many others. He is the father of the Michigan bunch.  Not literally of course. John Shaw, Rod Planyk and John Gerlach all owe their beginnings to Larry.  Larry is best known for his macros of insects and flowers but he also photographed his share of wildlife and landscapes.  I would have included a full bio of Larry, or a website link to a good tribute, unfortunately they don’t seem to exist.  I guess a lifetime of influencing nature photographers and nature photography doesn’t rate very high. He made pictures and taught workshops well into his senior years.  I actually don’t know if Larry is still alive (sorry Larry) as the info on him is so slim.  I do own several Larry West books.

While I am looking back, let’s take a look at two women pioneers of photography. The specific info I have included came from Photography-Art-Net.

Very few people know that women have been creating images as a profession, since the advent of photography.  Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879) was a true pioneer.

She is one of the most famous women photographers of the 19th century. She was given her first camera fairly late in life, but set about using it to create some brilliant portraits and photographic images of literary and religious scenes.

She was taking pictures during the really early days of photography, so it’s interesting to see such good shots from this time. What’s more interesting is that quite a few of her portraits feature some of the most brilliant people from Victorian society, e.g. Charles Darwin, Alfred Lord Tennyson and George Frederic Watts.

She tended to use a soft focus and seek to imitate contemporary oil paintings. Whilst it later became obvious that this was a pretty limiting way to view photography, her pictures are nevertheless extremely interesting and amongst the best from the 19th century.

Diane Arbus is someone who’s work I viewed in my youth and that was still during her life time. (1923-1971) She was “off the wall” and I do admit, I might find some of her work offensive today.  I was more difficult to offend in my youth during the 1960s and early 1970s.  Art of course, is in the eye of the beholder.

Diane Arbus is well known for images of people on the fringes of society. She photographed people who were categorized as different, ‘other’, not part of the society most people liked to see.

She had grown up in a wealthy family in New York, and soon after marrying set up a photography business with her husband Alan Arbus. But it wasn’t long before she grew tired of commercial photography and was drawn to the subjects that interested her most.

She photographed the likes of transvestites, dwarfs, nudists and giants; the kinds of people for whom a normal place in society is not reserved. One fascinating image shows a very young teenage couple in Hudson Street, New York, with clothes and facial expressions that somehow belong to people far older than them. It’s a subtle strangeness that’s very compelling.

Tragically, Arbus took her own life in 1971.

Finally let’s finish our journey into old photography with perhaps the most famous photographer who ever lived, Ansell Adams. There are those who might say Mathew Brady or William Henry Jackson deserve that billing, but do all of you know who they were?  Some say Ansell was a nature photographer and some say no, but it really doesn’t matter.  My own take on Ansell is that he may or may not have been an artist, but he was the finest craftsman of the b&w darkroom of all time.  I of course own a couple of Ansell’s books.

The image below was made by Ansell in 1944 at Canyon de Chelly in Arizona. I found it on the National Archives.aac02

Most of my own images that you see on the pages of Earth Images are in fact, a page from my own history.  They are definitely a little less important than the photographs of the photographers above, but I continue to show them anyway.

Water & light…Lake MichiganhisDSC_2685

Compressed mountain sides..Washington StatehistBLCanSanJuan 008

Amnicon Falls…WisconsinhistDSC_0043_b_0043_c_0043

Dewy web and interloperhistDSC_0051b

Storm in the RockieshistDSC_2905

Storm clouds lit by the morning sun!histDSC_8538

Autumn viewhistHhPets 001

The Hoh Rainforest…Washington StatehistMoreSlides 034

Prairie, wetland and forest…Bong State Rec. Area, WisconsinhistmpDSC_3011

Good morning from the BadlandshistSlidesButterfly 074

Have a great day an y’all come back now!                                                                                     Wayne

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