My Image and I

(C) 2011 by Metta Anderson – All Rights Reserved

I ran out of steam and fell asleep for part of this session.

However, I noticed Ms. Norris wasn’t quite as chipper either. She has to give a lecture tonight at 6:30 at the Museo Nacional on conserving family photos.( Someone should have warned her about the way the altitude here sneaks up on you.) Anyway, I feel a little bad about the evening conference because the whole concept of family pictures (and the “Kodak moment”) is socio-economic. In Colombia, this just did not happen til the 1980s, because it trickled down from the upper classes of the 1930s, became broader after World War II and took shape in the 1970s. Pretty much as the country’s middle classes grew and prospered.

Debra Norris is very diplomatic with her audience, making it clear she believes they are on the same techno-socio-cultural-and-economic levels as Americans of the same period. This may be inspiring to her listeners, making them want to investigate their country’s sociology and social history or at least support people who do. That’s all to the good.

It is ALSO nice to listen to someone who does NOT patronize the audience! VERY refreshing that she encouraged questions from the public. This probably impressed the audience (myself included) far more than anything she said. But it also shows that the translations are accurate, as the questions (translated from Spanish to English) referred to what she had already said. In addition, the common practice with foreign speakers (regardless of language) is a really patronizing attitude that the speaker is dropping pearls of wisdom which must be accepted at face value. What a crock! Debra Norris is a genuine gem!

NEGATIVE SIDE: Her photo samples were all East Coast (studio name and name of New York town, e.g., NYC or Poughkeepsie, etc.). Since photography began before the Civil War, her post-1865 samples should come from the Midwest, South and West, which had flourishing cities with photo studios. If my greatgrandparents could be photographed for their wedding in June 1889 (and they were), imagine the treasure trove available in Detroit, Chicago, PIttsburg, Cincinnati and points in-between.
Colombia does not have that history. A civil-war-torn-95%-illiterate agricultural society is hardly in a position to embrace a complicated (at the time) technology. Colombians were not taught to remember, so a photo has little emotional or psychological value. (They’re still not taught to remember, just MEMORIZE, which is a different thing.)

I personally want Ms. Norris to include the art historical context, although it’s no doubt germaine to the issue of preservation and conservation. But on this point, I think she ought to include Kodak and its vast database. She probably does not want to sound like she’s promoting their products, but at some point someone will have to explain to her and to the attendees that most (if not all) of the material used in conservation and preservation must be imported, and (for the attendees) that some companies actually specialize in making these things. What’s wrong with a handout listing manufacturers and their websites?
(I’m asking too much!!!)

The Colombian girls who are in charge of this event are basically snotty. Watching them this morning, I thought, “How ironic and maybe sad. They’re working in a cultural sector in the hope of meeting a wealthy older man, while the only ones they can actually date are gay.”

And that was Day One.


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