Photographer Friday: Rick Smolan

Before digging into today’s post I just want to give a shout out to the San Francisco Giants. I was lucky enough to attend one of their games while in town a few weeks ago and see Bumgarner pitch. The team won big that night (and loss bigger the next night). I have always enjoyed attending sporting events, there is something thrilling about the crowd’s energy. That night in San Francisco you could feel the energy and all the fans waving around their orange towels and taking pics in front of the stands – they knew this team was going to do something big. Sometimes I think I love the fans as much as the teams. As a child I attended a lot of Baltimore Orioles games and was a little sad to see them not make the World Series, but alas that was simply not meant to be – at least this year. Not sure I will be able to see any of the games where I’m heading, but am sure folks are in for one heck of a series.

So, to my last Photographer Friday post for a while….Rick Smolan is a former National Geographic photographer and co-creator of ‘Day in the Life’ book series.  What I know him best for, however, are his images in the beautiful coffee table book From Alice to Ocean.  In 1977 Smolan went to Australia to do a story on Aborigines when he met Robyn Davidson—the so-called “camel-lady” (Robyn Davidson) who undertook a 1,700-mile trek from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean on foot with four camels and a dog as her companions. During Davidson’s the nine-month trek Smolan visited her several times and eventually they became friends and then lovers. Davidson went on to write the best-selling account of her journey across Australia Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback. Smolan went home to America, got married, and inspired by his time with Davidson ventured out on his own to do the ‘Day in the Life’ series.

The experience calls to mind that of the famed primatologist Dian Fossey and National Geographic photographer Bob Campbell, who during a year of working together at Karisoke Research Center, a remote rainforest camp in the Northern Province of Rwanda, entered into a brief affair (Campbell was married). If only Campbell had captured his time in Rwanda with Fossey in a book similar to what Smolan did, but alas his images only exist in 40-year-old issues of National Geographic.

A few images from Rick Smolan’s book.

alice cover

alice pg 1

alice pg 2

Going on an adventure!

william-eggleston-plane

William Eggleston Untitled ‘Glass on Plane’

Dear readers, I am taking a two week break from blogging (after tomorrow – figured I’d get one more Photo Friday post in). Actually,  I am disconnecting entirely – no blogging, tweeting, pinning, or instagramming. For months I’ve been preparing for this big adventure – the continuation of a journey I began this past spring – one I was always intended to take. Rather than go the entire next leg of this journey alone though, I thought it would be fun to bring you all along. To share the experience with you as much as I can. Where are we going and what is the focus of the trip, well I don’t want to disclose all that just yet…so please be patient with me. I will be back the week of November 3rd with pictures, a story or two, and to let you know what has happened and what is up next. Just need some time to get there and settle in.

So, have a terrific couple of weeks, and should you find yourself in a blog-reading mood, I have taken the liberty of listing a few posts from the archives.

african antelope natural history museum

nashville

Travel and Maine posts, such as my sourcebooks for what to do in Manhattan and Nashville, or while on a road trip through the Hudson River Valley. (cue the photos above of African Antelope at Museum of Natural History NYC &  Nashville street art)

orchard

Food posts, such as meatballs with orange and mint, the Maine Heritage Orchard and what do you eat when you write?

climbing

jon tierney

Culture posts, such as movie marathons and my favorite snack mix,  Jean-Michel Basquiat’s CV, A-to-Z guide to conversations in Before Sunrise and After Sunset  and adventuresome spirit – a Q&A I did with my buddy/professional climber Jon Tierney.

Be in touch in a couple weeks!!

Maine Grains in Whole Foods Market magazine

Hi! I’m super excited to share this spread on Maine Grains with you from the holiday 2014 issue of Whole Foods Market Magazine. I was so excited to be asked to write the piece, and to be able to spread the word about Maine Grains. And, the piece came together so well with photographer Michael Turek‘s beautiful images that capture the spirit of Maine Grains. Pick up the issue when you are in WFM in Portland, Maine next time (should be there soon) and try some Maine Grains!

*FYI, Scratch Bakery and Standard Bakery are just a couple of the bakeries in Maine baking with Maine Grains.

ox

WFM HOL14 Maine Grains

Food books I’m excited about this fall

cookbooks

Classic Palestinian Cuisine by Christiane Dabdoub Nasser
There is something that draws me to the cuisine of ancient cultures. How did the cuisine evolve, what were the influences… A couple recipes I am excited to try from this book: Cauliflower Stew and Apricots in Syrup (doesn’t that sound like the perfect winter night dessert!?).
Oh, and my friend Nancy Harmon Jenkins wrote a wonderful article about Palestinian food for Saveur earlier this year – here’s a link.

Pomegranates and Roses: My Persian Family Recipes by Ariana Bundy
My friend “M” has been teaching me about the Assyrian Tree of Life from the Zoroastrian religion, which I have learned unsurprisingly had an impact on Persian cuisine.
This book has me excited to roll up my sleeves and make some Persian food, especially because she doesn’t make the cooking intimidating. Next up I am making Baghali Ghatogh (Fresh Broad Beans with Dill, Garlic and Poached Eggs).

A Simple Feast: Year of Stories and Recipes to Savor and Share by Diana Yen and the Jewels of New York
This past summer when Yen’s book came out I was sent a copy of her book and did this Q&A for the Huffington Post (check out the recipe she shared for a Raspberry Eton Mess).
What don’t I want to make from this book? So far I have made the Roasted Turkey, Manchego, and Fig and Onion Jam Sandwiches and the Double Grilled Cheese and Ham Sandwiches. This holiday season you better believe the Hazelnut Hot Chocolate is happening! What I like more than the recipes is how they are grouped – into cute “themes” for lack of a better description – like Brown Bag Lunch, Snow Day, and Tapping Maple Trees.

At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen: Celebrating the Art of Eating Well by Amy Chaplin
This was another book that was sent to me and what a beautiful surprise. Thank you Steven!! I dare you to read the introduction describing Chaplin’s childhood in rural New South Wales, Australia and not want to know what this woman is doing in the kitchen. I can always use more help eating healthy so I really appreciate the “In the Fridge” section, which gives ideas of what to have on hand when I need to make a fast meal (fermented vegetables, goat cheese, miso, nut butters…). There are so many yummy sounding soups and salads Chaplin describes, that will be served up this winter when I need that extra healthy something. p.s. Natalie Portman (Padme) and Liv Tyler (Arwen) are big fans.

Brown Sugar Kitchen: New-Style Down-Home Recipes from Sweet West Oakland by Tanya Holland
I was in San Francisco a few weeks ago and got to eat at Brown Sugar Kitchen, and folks the best food (there) is in Oakland. There can be a wait of an hour or two, but during that time you get to drink coffee or a mimosa and eat pastries and meet the coolest people – I won the lottery with the family I met from Oakland (who has been eating at BSK since it opened 8 or 9 years ago). Still bummed I did not get to make it to their Oakland Raiders fish fry party. Man, that would have been fun. Anyhow, back to the book – well, I’m a biscuit girl so there’s that recipe for Bacon-Cheddar-Green Onion Biscuits, plus the book’s cover with the plates of fried chicken and waffles, and then there was that night the Sweet Potato-Kale Hash just hit the spot.

Tasting Whiskey: An Insider’s Guide to the Unique Pleasures of the World’s Finest Spirits by Lew Bryson
After reading an advance copy of Bryson’s new book Tasting Whiskey, out this November, I wanted to learn more about tasting whiskey so I organized a tasting at the Portland Hunt & Alpine Club – details here. FYI, Bryson is Whisky Advocate‘s managing editor.

Whiskey Women: The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch, and Irish Whiskey by Fred Minnick
Came out last fall and I picked up a copy at Omnivore Books in San Francisco. Fun read, really interesting. I just learned about women who were distilling at home being arrested for witch hunts in the sixteenth century and some seriously cool cloak-wearing, whiskey-making women in Ireland in the 1830s.

AND….

Sean Brock is the stuff of Southern food dreams and he is coming out with his first cookbook!! Heritage, which happens to have been photographed by my favorite lifestyle/food lensman Peter Frank Edwards, is due on shelves October 21. Brock is best known as the James Beard award-winning executive chef of Husk in Charleston and Husk in Nashville. What I tend to geek out about when it comes to Brock is his work with David Shields and Glenn Roberts (the latter is the owner of Anson Mills, in Columbia, South Carolina – I’m fond of their grits), who are resurrecting the food grown and served in 19th century Carolinas and Georgia.
Read about his “food genius” in this terrific article from The New Yorker.
And, whose mouth isn’t watering over this…an excerpt from his interview on the James Beard Foundation’s blog describing some of the recipe content…
My sister’s chocolate éclair cake, my Grandma’s stack cakes, the way I roast a chicken at home, verbatim Husk recipes, verbatim McCrady’s recipes. There’s a great cocktail chapter. All the desserts are family recipes—they were good at those. The Husk cheeseburger’s in there. My deviled eggs, pimento cheese, fried chicken…. all the standards.
**If you want to learn more about the influence of rice and African culture on the economy and households of the Old South look no further than Carolina Rice Kitchen: The African Connection by Karen Hess.
I’m so excited for you, because I found a copy of the Food & Wine article on one of Sean Brock’s trips to Senegal.
Oh, and I included Husk in my recommended eats (of course!) after I visited Nashville.  Happy reading.

Husk Nashville White Lily Biscuits with Black Pepper & Sausage Gravy at Sunday brunch Husk Nashville.

Photographer Friday: Brassai

brassai cover

During college I had my first opportunity to visit Paris while studying in Strasbourg, a beautiful and much smaller city on the border of France and Germany. One weekend I took the train into Paris to meet up with a couple girlfriends who were studying in Madrid. We walked throughout the city seeing churches, eating in bistros, and studying the stylish Parisians. Somewhere between the pastries, the cobblestone streets, and Notre-Dame I fell in love with the city.

Since that first trip I have been back a few times and during each visit I walk almost everywhere, visit Notre-Dame (though I no longer feel the pull to have to go inside), sit in cafes and eat pastries. I have added seeing the Louvre’s collection of Egyptian antiquities to my short list of must do’s while in Paris. Beyond that I just follow my best friend “S” who has lived there for several years (and who studied with me in Strasbourg) to any number of delicious ethnic restaurants, cinemas, wine bars, art exhibits, and parks.

When missing Paris I turn to a stack of photography books with images by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Eugène Atget, and Brassai and know the city and her streets full of handsome people and scenes is never too far away.

The late Hungarian born photographer Brassai (real name Gyula Halász), who lived most of his adult life in Paris, was a master photographer of the city’s nocturnal streets.  During the 1930s he was known for wandering the streets alone with his camera and tripod, seeking out the bizarre, whom he captured in in candid photographs.

“Thanks to my endless walks through Paris, I was able to go on and do a kind of social study of the creatures who peopled the city at night. I was familiar with all the low life, and even with the criminals of that time,” Brassai as quoted in Taschen’s book Brassai: 1899 – 1984.

He was good friends with Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti (one of my favorite sculptors), Henry Miller, and other members of the Parisian artistic and intellectual elite.

Between 1949 – 1960 he photographed for Harper’s Bazaar throughout Europe. He is best known in France for his drawings and sculptures.

Studying his images has taught me what his fellow Hungarian Antonin Kratochvil first tried to instill in me – get close to the subject. Very close. Don’t be intimidated by the intimacy of the space or subject. Brassai’s work to me is honest, fearless, beautiful, and  magical in that it captures these everyday, but also historical moments – each image I would frame and hang on a wall. That he went out at night makes them that much more unusual and special. When I am taking pictures (and granted, I am an amateur) I think about how he framed his images – what he chose to include and that he did not go for the obvious.

Some of his images (from Brassai: 1899 – 1984):

brassai streets

brassai women

Winky Lewis’s hometown restaurant

pic by Winky One of the pics by Winky from the Boston Globe shoot.

I have none other than Portland, Maine photographer Winky Lewis to thank for the beautiful images of me sitting in a tree and the three photos of me at the top of my “about” page.  Before meeting Winky the idea of someone photographing me for an article/any public display was a wholly unpleasant one. When Boston Globe Magazine did a story on my little homestead a couple years ago and hired her to take the pictures any nervousness I might have felt blew gently out the window. She just made me feel comfortable and the photo shoot ended up being really fun. I have worked with her since and she is a pro – and fact – people love when they hear I’ve contacted Winky to take their photo. She’s wonderful!!

Following is an excerpt from the Q&A I did with her for themaineblog:

What is your earliest memory of photography? How did it come to you or how did you find it? 

Gosh, that is hard. I do have vivid memories of taking lots of pictures with my little Kodak camera that was so fun! Opening those envelopes of photos was as good as Christmas. Also, my father took great photos of our family when we were young, they are really beautiful. I’ve got many of them stashed away in a box right by my desk. Those pictures have always been very important to me. Family photos can be very powerful. I’ve come across some that have literally made my heart skip a beat with some new realization or thought. My brother edited some super-8 video from our childhood recently and I swear that file, with the two minutes of imagery, is one of my very very favorite possessions. I cannot watch it without a flood of tears.

When not photographing her family, Isle au Haut, food or interiors, Winky can sometimes be found at her favorite Portland restaurant El Rayo Taqueria eating Pescado Tacos. She said those and a margarita, with chips and guacamole is her perfect dinner.

Since I couldn’t get a recipe from the restaurant, I figured I’d share a couple links to better than average Guacamole recipes, because who doesn’t love guacamole??

How to master guacamole from Bon Appetit magazine.

Mango-Pomegranate Guacamole from Kate at the Kitchen Door. Yum!!

Still craving avocado?  Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton’s Avocado Mash will never do you wrong. It’s one of my go to quick meals.  Sometimes I have it with an egg on top.

el rayoGuacamole and chips at El Rayo Taqueria, pic by me.

My first visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo (part two)

out of the plane window

During the last few minutes of my flight into Kisangani, the only view out of the plane was of rainforest. Beautiful, green, wild. It was late morning, and the sun was high the sky void of clouds. I have been living in Maine long enough, that this appeared to me a refuge from the past week submerged in the urban chaos of Kinshasa.

After a quick bite to eat, I got settled at a lovely hotel with friendly staff, beautiful flowers, a swimming pool, and three very cool looking cats. Later that afternoon, I saw a bit of the town.

Along the road were street vendors walking by with goods piled atop their heads (also a common sight in Kinshasa). Pirogues (a small boat that resembles a canoe) arrived and departed on the banks of Congo River.

In its heyday (of colonialism) Kisangani was reputed to have more Rolls-Royces per capita than any other city in the world. In 1950, while filming The African Queen Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart were said to have taken breaks there. Those must have been glorious days (at least for some), but since then the jungle has eaten much! The buildings that may once have been the setting for glamorous occasions and guests are dilapidated. Perhaps, if the area remains at peace, in a few years tourism will come back and with it financing and repair.

I noticed a stationary train across the river and was told sometimes it works. When the Belgians left the DRC in 1960 and independence was declared, few if any Congolese had been trained how to repair equipment so things broke. Built by the Belgians, the rail system was used to bring natural resources they had mined with slave labor and were stealing to waterways where it could be more easily transported long distances. The broken network of railways is perhaps the most easily visible legacy of colonialism.

Today, Kisangani, which means “island” in the Wagenia tribe’s language, is known primarily as being the country’s most important inland port. Barges depart here with goods heading down the Congo River for Kinshasa. The journey could take two weeks. I was not allowed to photograph the port, so if you are interested I recommend checking out season three of Anthony Bourdain’s television series Parts Unknown when he visits the DRC and charters a boat out of Kisangani to travel down part of the river. It’s one of the best episodes.

In his novel Heart of Darkness author Joseph Conrad referred to Kisangani (then known as Stanleyville) as the inner station, home to the notorious ivory trader Mr. Kurtz (FYI film buffs, this is who the antagonist of Apocalypse Now is based on). Following is how Conrad described the Congo River in the book:

Going up that river was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest. The air was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish. There was no joy in the brilliance of sunshine. The long stretches of the waterway ran on, deserted, into the gloom of overshadowed distances. On silvery sandbanks hippos and alligators sunned themselves side by side. The broadening waters flowed through a mob of wooded islands; you lost your way on that river as you would in a desert, and butted all day long against shoals, trying to find the channel, till you thought yourself bewitched and cut off for ever from everything you had known once—somewhere—far away—in another existence perhaps.

Borlaug

The reason for my visit to Kisangani was to see the Borlaug Institute’s agricultural development project at a Congolese base camp in Kisangani. This U.S. State Department funded program, teaches soldiers how to farm. As I wrote in my piece for the Huffington Post, it offers hope and stability.

Per my fixer/translator’s suggestion, one foggy morning I found myself just outside Kisangani on the edge of the river watching members of the Wagenia tribe set their nets. Long a draw for tourists, the Wagenia have been fishing this section of the river for 150 or more years. They use wooden scaffolding constructed by hand over the rapids to lower wooden nets into the water. The nets have a wide mouth and then taper down to a long, thin neck. The fish swim down the rapids and go into the nets, where they are get trapped in the neck. Every morning the nets are lowered, every afternoon they are raised with vines. The precise movements of each male between 12 and (let’s say) 40 seemed choreographed – as if each muscle had been trained since childhood how to respond to shimmying up poles, balancing out on them….and then there were a few fishermen throwing nets. I was mesmerized. There is so much more to tell about the Wagenia and how the trip changed my life, but I will leave that for future posts.

hotel and cat

The swimming pool at my hotel and one of the resident cats.

Congolese Philly Cheesesteak and fries

cheese from Goma

The Congolese version of a Philly Cheesesteak (cheese from Goma, meat likely sourced nearby, and a peppery paste) served with French Fries and Coca Cola or Beer.  Below it is some of the “famous” cheese from eastern DRC. It is so yummy, a lot like Dutch Gouda.

Wagenia setting nets

Wagenia setting nets two

fisherman diving in

throwing a net

man and his family's net

getting a shave by the river

fish for sale

homemade meal

A few images from the time I spent with members of the Wagenia tribe. Fishing, daily life, fish heading to market, and one of the most incredible meals of my life. It was prepared by the wife of Augustin, a member of the Wagenia tribe, while we chatted and observed some of village life. We sat on traditional wooden stools low to the ground and ate with our hands out of metal bowls set on the dirt floor. The dishes are common in northeastern Congo.  Lokele Lituman – the Wagenia called it “Lituma” (plantains pounded into balls). A stew with chunks of fresh fish (the rich redness comes from palm oil, a staple in Congolese cooking). And, Sombe (in Swahili or Mpondu in Lingala) a stew containing the young, green leaves of manioc. So much flavor! The closeness to the earth and the Congo River. A light breeze buffered the heat. I felt connected.

My first visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo

boy selling avocados

A few months ago I went to Africa for the first time. To the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to be exact. I know, you’re probably thinking (in this order?) Ebola, dangerous, WHY? Ok, fair enough…let’s start with the why.

About a year-and-a-half ago I was researching a story about several people from the DRC visiting Maine to learn about farming. I wanted to include a little background on the country and I honestly can’t remember how this happened exactly, but someone introduced me to Susan Schulman. Susan is an incredible woman/filmmaker/storyteller/journalist. She’s brave and smart, and spent years documenting the fighting there.  Learning about the DRC through her eyes inspired me to want to know more about this country. It was around this time I happened to have a chocolate craving at Whole Foods Market and walked smack into a display of Theo Chocolate‘s Eastern Congo Initiative chocolate bars.

I’m a gal who believes in signs and it’s hard to explain, but that’s when the DRC really began pulling at me. I decided to do a story on Theo’s ECI partnership for the Huffington Post. Ok, couple more facts that will help you figure out why I did what I did. I’m a very curious person and I love to read. While working on the story I managed to stack up about a dozen books on the history of the country/region (thank you Laura S. for recommendations!!).

I mentioned these “developments” to Susan and being her she just responded – well, why don’t you go there. I think it was pretty much like that and I just felt/said yeah why the heck not. That was it. Well, not quite. From there I started connecting with people – everyone from ex-aid workers to photojournalists to diplomats to women who had traveled there to adopt – and it became more real. Hold on – this place has so much more to tell the world than Ebola, war, rape, poverty… And, I wanted – arrogantly enough – to help be one of the people to share those stories with the outside world.

Jeffrey Sachs, a genius/amazing economist/humanitarian…, wrote a book called The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time. Read it! In chapter 3 “Why Some Countries Fail to Thrive” he writes about how the poorest of the poor are trapped in poverty – and that it is important to understand why economic development is not working by looking at a number of factors and not making assumptions. Not judging. In regard to Sub-Saharan Africa, these are human beings who live in countries, which are held back from developing sustainably because (in great part) of the legacies of colonialism.

Why I am sharing these economic tidbits with you? Because, there are a lot of negative stereotypes made about the DRC, and I believe with some education (not being actively provided by most western media outlets) people will have the opportunity to shift their perceptions of the country.

I am not suggesting anyone book a vacation to the DRC, but speaking from my own personal experience, don’t necessarily be afraid for someone traveling there either.

Here is how I saw the DRC before I traveled there: A place of great history and beauty that has been violated over and over again, and is broken but standing. I wavered between a childlike fascination, a boxer’s determination, and terror at the idea of what I had committed to.

And then, the wheels touched down. Achille, who the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa (the DRC’s capital) had arranged to pick me up, chatted with me as we drove from the airport into town. A 20-minute drive on a paved highway (Chinese built), which would have taken an hour a couple years ago. I realized a few days later, when driving the same route, the lack of light – the real darkness – that had hidden so much life from my view. During the first few days of my trip I woke to the sounds of birds, suffered through the almost unbearable humidity, felt the thunder in the afternoon, met the friendliest most beautiful people, discovered I absolutely love Mfumbwa (essentially a stew of greens, peanuts, and smoked fish), danced the night away at an outdoor nightclub, walked through a couple outdoor markets churning with activity – people buying and selling a selection of food staples (palm oil, manioc, meat, grubs, crickets – oh, I discovered I love those!), learned how to make Mfumbwa, and so much more.

I was the first participant of “Karibu Kwetu” – a nascent program of the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa, the basis of which is to share with visiting Americans some Congolese culture and food. The program provides a “home stay” experience by organizing and hosting Congolese dinners at their homes. If you are interested in participating in this program let me know and I’d be happy to talk to you about it!

After a week, I flew to Kisangani on a Congolese airline (one of the single worst experiences of my life, but it all worked out fine and again I met some really wonderful people).

I’ll cover Kisangani in tomorrow’s post. Let’s look at some pictures, shall we?

pool

The pool outside my guesthouse.

view

A view of the sprawling metropolis that is Kinshasa, city of 12 million, on a road out of town. Driving around I saw a number of high-walled compounds standing directly next to dilapidated shacks.

liboke

Liboke (fish in banana leaf) served with plantains and Coca Cola at a little restaurant by the Congo River.

congo river

The Congo River.

home cooked meal

home cooked meal two

These are photos of delicious home cooked meals I was treated to by Congolese friends of the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa.  The host families made many traditional Congolese dishes including fresh fish (Mpoka) of the river prepared with spices and a few vegetables, Makemba (plantains steamed), a gumbo of smoked fish and spices and vegetables, Mfumbwa, grubs cooked with vegetables, and Fufu (made with cassava roots or plantain roots).

masks

A mask display at the national museum.  A small amphitheater outside is where James Brown played prior to the Rumble in the Jungle.

open market one

open market two

open market three

open market four

market six

market five

market seven

Scenes from open-air public markets. Hey, it was only fair I got in one of the photos. When I jumped in for a lesson in cutting what I was told are cassava leaves, people started pointing at me and taking my photo and shouting out “mundele” (the Lingala word for foreigner or white person). It was all in great fun with a lot of laughing all around.

Photographer Friday: Dorothea Lange

cover

I think it was probably my dad’s subscription to National Geographic that first got me interested in photography. Every month they’d arrive with gorgeous images from the four corners of the earth. When I graduated from college I got an internship in the photography department of a then popular lifestyle magazine in Manhattan. I did not choose photography, but all the internships in features were taken and besides the photography editor seemed so much nicer.

During that seemingly brief time of my life I found myself exploring the wonderful world of photography. I took a lot of pictures (mostly bad), looked at a lot of portfolios (mixed), and when time allowed I went to photo exhibits.

Since then, photography has stuck with me. Mostly I just admire other people’s work, but sometimes I like to play around with my camera – and let’s face it amateurs – Instagram and Snapseed certainly make that easier.

I’ve gone through periods of admiring different types of photography, but I always come back to loving B&W images most. There’s something incredibly timeless about them. I was telling my friend S that I love B&W photography over color, because I think it is harder to get a beautiful shot in B&W. You can cover up imperfections with color – be distracted by what’s going on – like a theatrical stage with a lot of furniture and props vs. just two actors baring themselves. There’s an intensity. She disagreed, but I’m still put.

Earlier this year I took a free online course through Coursera with the University of London. The course “The Camera Never Lies” was about how images and media are used as historical evidence in the twentieth century, issues of authenticity and manipulation, and the place of film and historical adoptions as public history.

One of the best examples of providing accurate historical evidence of rural conditions, something I am often far more interested in, are the collection of photographs from the Farm Security Administration (FSA) in the 1930s.

The FSA was supposed to help poor rural farming families during the Great Depression get loans and provide subsistence homestead training programs.

Roy Stryker, who worked for the FSA and knew the power of strong images, helped launch a photography program to document the people FSA was trying to help and landscape where they lived. The program resulted in thousands of images published in outlets nationwide, which promoted the work FSA was doing, and introduced the effects of the Great Depression on rural America to the country.

One of the photographers Stryker hired was Dorothea Lange, who is as far as I am concerned one of the most iconic documentary/historical photographers period. Best known for their Depression-era work, she would see the growing number of unemployed outside the window of her San Francisco studio.

It was near there in 1933 she took what I consider to be one of the most perfect and historical images “White Angel Breadline” of a hungry person at the White Angel Jungle, a local soup kitchen. I got to stand in front of the images in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art a few years ago and it was as if time stood still for me for just a few minutes. Standing that close to something so beautiful and devastatingly real.

A couple years after taking that picture she began photographing migrant workers in California for the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, and from there for the FSA.

page 23

page 61

All images by Dorothea Lange from her book The American Country Woman, published by the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, TX. Top image (cover), second from bottom (family farmstead in Nebraska, 1940), bottom image (unknown in California, 1938)

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about this blog

About Me Sharon Kitchens and Delicious Musings. Welcome and thank you for visiting my blog. I write about all the things I enjoy - Culture, Food, Photography &Travel. Read more on my about page.

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