Tag Archives: Oldsmobile

Letter to Linda 3

(C) 2012 by Metta Anderson – All Rights Reserved

Hello and Happy Easter!

Isn’t it great that it’s spring in Michigan now, with daffodils and crocuses coming out and the snow melting away! Hope you’re enjoying it!

I think I wasn’t clear in a recent letter regarding the sale of some photos of mine. I did not “un-sell” them. I think he misrepresented himself and what he was looking for, and/or he believes all that weird publicity that photographic masterpieces lurk in every junk box. So let me explain what happened. Let’s call the guy “the mountain king,” which is a play on the name he used when he contacted me via e-mail after seeing some of my work on a sales website.

Colombia's national Cathedral in the rain ('93)

The Cathedral and the Sagrario Chapel overlooking the Plaza de Bolívar in Bogotá, in April 1993.

When he called my house, I explained to him at least twice that my photography is contemporary–photos taken by me of buildings and places in Bogotá, which will be 474 years old in August 2012. He insisted that the images be printed in a darkroom on fiber-based (FB) paper, and I said I can do that, up to an 11″ x 14″ size. If he came over, he could look through the catalogue and some other prints I have and choose which ones he wanted printed up.

He arrived the following Saturday afternoon, went through the photos available and pretty much threw them physically in my face. After some hemming and hawing, he whined that he had expected me to have a box or two of “old photos, from the Sixties” that I “didn’t want anymore.” Otherwise, I was wasting his time.

I explained as politely as possible at least three times that what he was looking for was nearly impossible to find in Colombia, for many reasons. He insisted that these snapshots did indeed exist, and I agreed that they did, but were in private hands (they usually belong to the people who took them or who inherited them). Also, several cultural agencies have been campaigning very successfully to get people to bring their old family photos to places like the National Museum and the District Archives where they are scanned “while you wait” and returned to their owners. Related information is collected and stored on museum and archive computers. Otherwise, we’re talking about very large archives belonging to well-known photographers, also in private hands, who sell limited edition prints at very high prices. These prints are posthumous or at least contemporary, made from the original negative or an inter-negative. Those collections do what I do–preserve the negatives and make prints to sell, sometimes digitally after scanning a negative and sometimes in the darkroom.  No one is throwing away “unwanted” snapshots.

The “mountain king” got pissed off and stomped away.

I could not “Un-sell” him my photos. He was looking for something that, in Colombia, virtually does not exist, and here’s why.

Photography is first of all a product of the urban environment. The very first photos are of cities. France and the rest of Europe had very old and well-populated cities before photography arrived, but the rise of the educated middle class with access to money and education and some leisure time also created the demand for photography. People wanted “the Kodak moment” before Kodak even came into existence in 1889. I’ll give you an example:

My great-grandparents, R. E. Olds and Metta Ursula Woodward, got married on June 5, 1889. They had their photograph taken and printed on visiting cards and announcements which were mailed to family and friends who did not live in Lansing, Michigan. R. E. was born in Geneva, Ohio, and his wife in Pinckney, Michigan, but both had gone to school and lived in towns. They read the Bible and the local newspapers and books. My great-grandfather was not only an inventor but was tremendously interested in whatever was going on in the world. When his parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1899, they too posed for the camera. And when R.E. and Metta celebrated their 50th, in June 1939, the party at their daughter’s house was photographed by R. E., his daughter Gladys, at least one professional photographer, plus someone from the Lansing State Journal and maybe even from The Detroit Free Press, as well as a film crew. R. E. understood photography as a wonderful scientific invention as well as a mechanism for preserving memories AND!–to be totally honest here–a fabulous new medium with which to promote and sell first the Oldsmobile and second, the REO. When his parents celebrated their 50th anniversary, Olds Motor Works was then 2 years old and producing the Curved Dash Oldsmobile, using photography as a modern sales tool. By 1939, Oldsmobile was part of General Motors and R.E. had founded another car company, REO Motor Car Company, which made cars and trucks and used photography as a contemporary sales tool.

And all this took place in a short span of time. What helped the auto industry was the fact that so many Americans lived in towns and cities, were connected by a rail system, a mail system, eventually a phone system and a road system, and had access to education, jobs and housing, which also gave them access to money. Women also went to school, in part because they were required to attend but also because a woman without even a basic education would have less chance to defend herself. My great-grandmother was an orphan raised by two maiden aunts, but she was given an education (even in Pinckney) so that she could work until or unless she got married.

Contrast this to Colombia in the same period. In 1899, Colombia’s total population was 4 million people, including the province of Panamá, which only became independent in 1903. Of the four million, only about 10% could read and write, and of those ten percent, probably one or two percent were priests (not necessarily nuns). The fact that the population may have been living in cities and towns did not mean they had access to education, jobs and housing. Transportation was limited and difficult. And the country spent almost all of the 19th Century in one form of civil unrest or another. By 1899, Colombia was involved in the “War of the 1000 Days,” which ended in November 1902.

Economically, the majority of the population was poor. Even rich people were, by standards of the time, middle class financially. But there was no real middle class.

This does not mean there was no photography. There was, but usually in the major cities. In Medellín, for example, Melitón Rodríguez opened a studio and was able to photograph the landscape, the cityscape and the people of Antioquia. We are fortunate that his glass negatives have survived. During the War of the 1000 Days, some photos were taken and are now in museums. They show a devastated landscape and small, underfed men with rifles. Pathetic, in every sense of the word.

The development of the film negative and the cameras that use them made photography possible in Colombia. Even today, the chemicals and basic darkroom formulae and skills needed to make a photograph are drop-dead simple. And cheap. (Very cheap, when compared to the cost of photo printers, inks and imported papers for digital imaging. See? You even need a new vocabulary. Once upon a time, you took a picture. NOW! You “capture an image.” Wow, what an advance.)

Essentially, it’s almost impossible to have photography in a country that has not experienced the 19th Century the way Europe and the US did. Uneducated women who have three or perhaps four options in life (marriage, prostitution, joining a convent, suicide) do not produce forward-thinking children. The few women who could get an education often tried to help others, but had to do this very carefully, so as not to anger the men in power.

The one thing the men in power understood about photography was its realism, its immediacy and its ability to communicate with no intermediaries. Great for sales, but not so great for political and religious power. Even today, there are lots of paintings, drawings and photos in collections in other parts of the world, all produced in Colombia or inspired by the country. But Colombians themselves have little access to these works. Years ago, I saw a book called Dance of the Millions, which is about the violence of the late Forties and into the Fifties. It contains some incredibly graphic photos of the way people were assassinated. The book was actually banned here, and might still be prohibited. Out of that violence, and without photography, has come the violence of the drug lords (who grew up in that time period) and then the paramilitares. I do not know who took the pictures in that book, but I’m sure the scenes were burned into the photographers’ memories.

In short, the only people who could take pictures for the pleasure of it were from the upper class, and they in turn believed two things–one, that they were destined by God to be in charge, and two, that those people socially below them could not be educated, so why bother? But I have no doubt that they also believed that photography was a weapon that could too easily be turned on them. Therefore, education became a luxury and the Colombian government could easily control the importation of cameras, film, lenses and everything else relating to photography.

Fine art photography really did not take hold in the US until the 1970s, and I really do not care what kind of re-spun history the galleries and dealers put on that in order to make a sale. Fine art photography is as rigorous as painting. Much of the fine art being sold today is really documentary photography, especially if it comes from Latin America. It’s just that some photographers in these so-called undeveloped countries were artists at heart, and nationalists to some extent, who used their skills to preserve a history that was vanishing before their eyes. A few years ago, I saw an ad for some photos by the Peruvian photographer Martín Chambi, being sold by a prominent New York gallery. One photo in the display ad was titled “Cuzco,” a Peruvian city and the original Inca capital. But in fact, it was a photo taken at Machu Picchu. I knew that because, A) I’ve been there, to both places; B) I took pictures; C) the wall with three triangular windows is famous and often photographed, by me, by my father and by thousands of other people; D) the mountain peak Huayna Pichu is not visible from Cuzco, and was very visible in the photo.

I really felt sorry for Martín Chambi. His work is superb, and he deserves a better representation than what his work received from this “famous” gallery. Photography in South America, in Latin America (Mexico to Tierra del Fuego), was practiced by some real die-hard individuals. That the photographers did not follow idiotic dictates laid down by Ansel Adams and his followers should be applauded, not patronized.

So now, we’re in the 21st Century and Colombia is trying to re-assemble its own past. Digital photography is a huge hit, because it requires virtually no technical information. Point and shoot, and then plug it into your computer. Voilà. You’re a photographer. (And of course, everyone is an artist.) But digital is very recent, and the search is on for the non-digital. While I certainly back up all the groups trying to find and preserve these fragile images, I also understand the odds. Not good. Photography was too much a luxury item. A family with a camera or access to one prized the images it produced. In 1976, my friend Barbara Chase and I went out to Mosquera, a village near Bogotá, to visit my former maid and her husband. The husband, the brother-in-law and some friends played “tejo,” a local sport, and I photographed it with a simple Minolta camera. After I got the pictures back, I taped them to a wall in the small apartment I was sharing with Barb. We had a party and the Colombian guests really could not understand why I’d taken the photos in Mosquera. First, because “tejo” is pretty much a sport among working class men, and as an educated American woman, Colombians felt I was either making fun of them or was being frivolous–taking pictures for my own amusement; therefore, these were “private” pictures which I should not show to anyone. A Colombian would have taken pictures of the other guests (group shots or the “cute” individual shot), or a landscape, or of the food and drink offered, but never a complete sequence of beer-drinking men in shirt sleeves tossing a flat rock at a gun powder cap 20 feet away.

Fortunately, my maid was more liberal. I gave her copies of some of the photos and she loved them, especially the ones of her husband and the guys drinking beer and playing “tejo.” She could identify with that, and so could an awful lot of other Colombians, even though they wouldn’t admit it.

Photography even now is politically and culturally limited in Colombia. These are powerful influences. I have pictures that are, sometimes, historical documents as well as aesthetic objects. They are for sale. That makes them unique. And I know it.

But the Mountain King is of the social class which pretends to live in another country altogether. He’s convinced he’s going to find a prize-winning shot by Leo Matiz that was “accidentally” thrown away by Matiz’s widow or daughter. He’s equally sure that the son of Sady (pronounced “sáh-dee”) González doesn’t really need a box of his father’s 1948 negatives re-touched by his mother before printing. The Mountain King believes that because, in his mind, he lives in Paris.

I’m sorry this is kind of long, but I hope I’ve explained a few of the differences between photography in the US and in Colombia. Two weeks ago I went to see a beautiful photo exhibit held at University of the Andes. The photos were originally taken by the Vargas brothers, in Arequipa, Peru, and the negatives are reprinted for the show, with the exception of a couple of ferric-oxide and cyanotype prints. Wonderful show! Loved it! And, for those who think Latin America is made up of a few white people and a lot of Indians, the exhibit is a revelation! It’s a travelling show, so if it turns up at MSU, go see it!

Sorry to go on and on about photography, but, as you know, this is pretty much my field. I was really happy to hear about your art sales! I’m so glad you can show your work on a regular basis, too! As for the buyers, at least with you they know they’re getting something original, and not some weird image that requires a ten-page monograph to explain!

Okay, it’s late and I have to go to bed. Happy Easter! Hope the Easter Bunny leaves you lots of presents!

Metta

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Untold Tales

Photography and Economics 101

(C) 2012 by Metta Anderson – All Rights Reserved

First of all, economics for me is more like conceptual art–there are concepts which are abstract but relate to a specific idea, usually money. However, in this case, economics ties into what I want to talk about, which is Kodak and photography and social history. Together. And not necessarily under separate categories.

Kodak, once known as “The Great Yellow Father,” was founded in 1889 by George Eastman. My great-grandparents on my father’s side were born in June 1864 and got married right around that time. They were photographed together for their wedding announcement. Their daughter, my grandmother, was born in July 1892, and was photographed often as she grew up. This year she would be 120 years old, so Happy Birthday, GaGa.

Her husband, my grandfather, was also born in 1892, in February, in Pueblo, Colorado, and much of his life, like my grandmother’s, was photographed. In fact, over the courses of their lives, if they were not taking pictures of events, someone else in the family was. And that’s not all.

My great-grandfather, R. E. Olds, not only loved photography, he loved films!!! He began Oldsmobile, and later the REO Car Company, and between those two industrial events (recorded with photographs), he could hire camera people to FILM parties at Albemarle (his house on Belle Isle, in Michigan) and at other homes he owned in his lifetime (such as the 17-bedroom cottage at Lake Charlevoix).

His daughter and son-in-law, in addition to the photos they took, made a few films, too. One in particular was taken in the 1930s, before their divorce, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. There’s my father as the defiant teenager of the time, next to his sister, and unhappy teenager, and my grandfather’s mother,  mugging for the camera in a grainy black and white.

The film rolls on. My grandfather is showing us the landscape and some of the customs of the area, and then, lo and behold, a small adobe church which would become a major art icon just a few years later, on the canvases painted by Georgia O’Keeffe. She’s not in these films, but another artist is–E. I. Couse. He was part of the Taos Artists’ Society, and a little elderly when the film was shot. He’s seen coming out of the screen door of his house in Taos, walking toward the tiny garden. His resemblance to Monet is striking, which is cool, because the Taos group brought the philosophy and techniques of the French Impressionists to bear on American painting in the Western US. My grandfather bought their art and photographed the artists as they painted outdoors in the Taos-Santa Fe area.

At some point, my father and his sister got their own cameras and recorded the rest of their lives with them. My father went into photography for personal but never expressed reasons. I came to that conclusion after looking at his films and photos. He liked the aesthetics of photography and he liked the chemistry of it. He learned to print color in his own darkroom (he had an Omega enlarger which probably still works, with the appropriate set of Kodak filters), and I sincerely regret that I never got that far. There is a fascinating combination of chemical precision leading to the possibility of flights of fantasy when working in the darkroom that just does not exist in digital. Digital avoids the “happy accident” that has often resulted in more interesting photos than the photographer had planned.

For years my father used a Speed Graphic that took 6 x 7 cm negatives. He knew that camera so well that he used it as a kind of spy camera, sneaking shots that surprised everyone later. He took it with him to Egypt and accidentally photographed the name “E. Anderson” scrawled in an upper right corner of a tomb wall by some irreverent person who, we still hope, is NOT related to us.

He took the camera on a trip to Japan. He got a lot of the usual tourist shots, but the one I liked best was taken of the Golden Temple from across the lake in front of it, but through the pine branches. Dad said that the group was led to a spot across the lake by the tour guide and told that, from there they could all get nice photos of the temple. Dad agreed that yes, you could, but when he glanced at the ground, he discovered that the spot was worn down to nothing by the endless army of tourists who had stood in the same spot to get the same damn shot. Good for them, but not for Olds Anderson.

He moved off to one side and wrapped himself–sort of–around the trunk of a pine tree. Through its branches he could clearly see the temple, but through the viewfinder (parallex corrected), he could compose something much more interesting.

And another Kodak moment was born.

When I was born in June 1945, my father got permission to photograph me in black and white, no flash, in the bassinet in the pediatric ward. I was less than 24 hours old.

And when I was five, I got my first camera, a Brownie that took 620 film. Later I got another Brownie, and then a Fiesta and finally a Pentax Spotmatic (1968), and so on.

I am, at this point, very pleased to report that the films and photos from my great-grandparents’ and even grandparents’ generation are in museums. Try the Transportation Museum (R. E. Olds Museum) in Lansing, Michigan. Try the Museum at Michigan State University. Try the Michigan Historical Society. And then, “if you’re feelin’ lucky. . .,” get in touch with my brother and my stepsister and my half-sisters.

And I have not even touched upon the incredible collection of stereo-optical slides taken by my stepgrandfather, Harry L. Conrad, in his travels and events. Michigan State University’s Museum has those, too.

My mother’s family also took pictures, but my mother was pretty bad about keeping them, so few exist. I think my brother has them.

When I say that Kodak is part of my family, I’m not kidding.

Therefore, to see Kodak in financial problems is almost like being told that a member of the family has been poisoned and is dying a slow and painful death. But, who did it?

My money is on Wall Street, and yes, the pun is intended.

Brokerage firms have been telling the American public for too long that it has an obligation to its shareholders, and then presents the image of decrepit elderly people barely hanging on til their next dividend check arrives. Boy is that a crock!

Yes, corporate law dictates that corporations pay dividends to its shareholders (who are its investors) as a reward for loaning the corporations money in order to keep going. (I’m referring to publicly held companies, national and international.) But those shareholders are large pension funds which have invested in mutual funds (when they don’t set them up for their own benefit) and hedge funds and private equity groups. They could care less what Kodak or GM or even Hershey’s produces. They only care about the bottom line and how much (quantity) of the product has been sold so that a good-sized dividend can be paid out. Better yet–let’s produce it abroad (say, China or Afghanistan) for fifty cents per item, pay no Social Security nor other benefits to their workers, pay little taxes in the host country and make ga-zillions of bucks. Tax structures allow for write-offs and deductions, so the pure profit is much greater. Figure that the dividends represent maybe 15% of gross (or net), and the rest goes to the executives, and then down to secretaries and some other people. This structure sidesteps the issues of social responsibility–the amounts of money previously set aside by corporations for funding cultural or social programs locally or nationally.

I think Kodak fell into this trap. It is a multinational corporation, but like other companies, its product line is relatively narrow–photography and the items related to that. (I am excluding GM from this. Not only does that multinational have multiple product lines, it made some financial mistakes and buried itself in its own hole in Detroit. Only psychiatrists with experience in forensics will ever be ablel to understand GM’s problems.)

But here’s the interesting part. Kodak–in this sense like GM–sells its products quite successfully OUTSIDE the United States. The Chevrolet Division of GM has excellent sales in Latin America. In Colombia, Chevrolet is the number-one-selling automobile in an expanding market. That may not represent much in US dollars, but it certainly helps fund the shrimp platter at a GM cocktail party in Bloomfield Hills.

Also OUTSIDE THE US–people still take pictures with film! Really! Kodak and Fuji are easily available. Kodak has a manufacturing plant in Mexico, which lowers its distribution costs for all of Latin America. It used to have another distribution point in Bogotá for the Andean region (Venezuela, Colombia, Equador, Peru, maybe Bolivia), and the network may still be in place. I don’t know how Fuji handles distribution of its products, but it’s probably similar to Kodak, and frankly, I think Fuji’s black and white film is fabulous, especially in the 120 format!

The US has covered itself with quite a bubble, and maybe even bubbles within bubbles. Digital photography has gained ground for a lot of reasons, one of them being that it’s exceptionally simple. Actually, so was shooting color with a Brownie in 1960. The only real difference that I can see is this–digital is ever so DISPOSABLE!!!!!!!!!!!! With a negative, you are stuck with the image. It’s always going to be there, unless you burn the negative, which might be a little difficult because of the chemical nature of the film itself. With digital, on the other hand, just click on “Delete” and it’s gone, just like your memories. In fact, the digital image is like the film image–it is a visual memory of what was in front of the camera at the split-second the shutter was pressed. With film, the memory stays. With digital, it’s gone.

That has become so Very Very Very A-M-E-R-I-C-A-N!  ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !  NOTHING is permanent!!! All is ephemeral!!!!!! All is DISPOSIBLE!!!!!

I read just last week in a column in “El Espectador” newspaper that if Kodak had migrated to Silicone Valley, it could have saved itself by being in the center of all the new technology and all those hot young minds who are so (wowie!) up on all the latest trends!!!!

Actually, the bigger problem is not Silicone Valley nor Rochester, New York (nor even Rochester, Michigan). It’s the American lifestyle that has gone off the deep end in terms of gullibility, of wanting Absolutely EVERYTHING RIGHT THIS GODDAMNED VERY SECOND!!!!! In short, a nation of snotty little kids. In the roughly 45 years I’ve lived in Colombia, I’ve flown back and forth between Bogotá and Detroit (and other US places) more times than I can count. The distance between Bogotá and Miami is fixed, geographically, and the flight time has not changed very much (approx. 3 hrs 20 minutes, airport to airport) regardless of the type of aircraft involved (707 to 747 to Airbus).  In the past, it was a nice flight. These days, it’s just a little horror with wings, and I’m not talking about security. It’s the airlines’ idea that you absolutely MUST pack into the plane more people than can comfortably fit, and THEN! Not serve them. No food. No drinks. Just, “Shut up and SIT THE FUCK DOWN!”

And once you get to Miami or Atlanta or wherever, you are disgorged from the aircraft and pretty much forced to do a double-time march through miles of airport corridors in order to get on the next plane, which left ten minutes ago.

It is absolutely NOT the fault of the passengers that jet fuel prices skyrocket. It is probably not the fault of the passengers that they really have to carry luggage and can not live out of a small briefcase for two or three weeks. For most airlines, the ideal passenger is George Clooney in “Up in the Air.” Well, sorry, but we’re not. Deal with it.

It is this mindset that is killing Kodak and many other businesses, not the products nor how and where they’re manufactured. Yes, fast food chains are “upgrading” their product lines  (along with their prices, of course), but the genuine bottom line is that eating even healthy food quickly and then running off to do something the eater thinks is “important” will make you sick. It’s not that “healthy fast food” (such as it might exist) will keep you slim. It won’t. The stress of daily life will keep the pounds off for a while, but when people are stressed out, they eat. And they eat in a hurry (so as not to get caught eating), they end up getting sick. Or even sick-er.

With photography, yes, in many cases, the digital image is very helpful. Commercial photographers love to be able to show clients and art directors or whomever a series of images right on the spot. And yes, it’s fun to take pictures at a party and be able to show them seconds later. I had that experience once, using someone else’s new Polaroid X-70. Polaroid worked on its product so that you could get the image in about 10 seconds, instead of 60. (I remember my grandmother GaGa experimenting with a Polaroid in the late Fifties. It only took black and white, and she had to have my father’s help to pull the photo out of the camera body, so she stuck with her Minox, whose color film had to be sent to a special lab in St. Louis, MO, or maybe Chicago. She loved getting her pictures back, even though she had to wait a few days.) In Colombia, the university students now seem to need to take pictures and videos all the time with their cell phones and upscale (purchased in Miami over Spring Break) DSLRs, but their parents and grandparents are quite happy to wait for their film to be developed and printed at Foto Japón and other minilabs. What’s the big rush?

Kodak and GM need to sell their products in order to survive. DUH! But I think the public is asking for miracles. Film is film, and it is not instant, but it is definitely a viable visual medium. More than that, it becomes a link to a personal past over time. GM needs to produce cars, but it is without question absurd to insist that the corporation create a “crash-proof car.”  Cadillac used to be a prestigious marque, but after the 1970s and a few unfortunate movies, I see an Escalade or Sedan de Ville and think, “Pimp-mobile.”  (And then I see a Mercedes-Benz and think either, “Nouveau so riche the ink’s still wet,” OR “narco. . .”) I know from experience that Nikon is an excellent camera and so is Hasselblad, but I find their advertising so male-ORIENTED and, in some instances, so full of crap that I refuse to own either one. I do own a Kodak Z981 digital camera, because very frankly, it has a Schneider lens (Schneider-KREUZNACH Variogon with ED (extra dispersion) glass). I find that it reproduces the quality of the light here in Bogotá breathtakingly, and I suspect its film speed algorithms are based on certain Kodak films. Great! But I still love my Pentaxes and Mamiyas and the films they use. I still like to work in the darkroom, and more so now that the Epson Stylus Photo R1900 that I purchased in November 2010 is doing strange things. Please Note:  A US$500 price tag for digital equipment may not seem like much in the US, but when translated into a foreign currency, it may become prohibitively expensive. In Colombia, US$500 for a printer translates into Pesos $1,500,000.00, because the exchange rate is just below 2000 pesos to the dollar, but factor in import and local taxes, and the exchange is 3000 pesos to the dollar. The average Colombian will definitely think twice before getting into digital photography with these prices.

I think that Kodak, GM and other companies these days face this conundrum–poor sales at home, good sales abroad, and “shareholders” (those pension funds) who just do not understand that life is lived differently outside the US.

How to deal with this? I don’t know. Privatize? Sell off all the publicly-held stock and let all the employees and their families and friends buy into the corporations. What the corporations earn goes to their employees. The pension funds and their kith and kin can go suck blood someplace else.

So to answer my question, who’s poisoning Kodak, I think the answer is–the American people who made it great. How’s that for maturity?

Leave a comment

Filed under Untold Tales

My Image and I

(C) 2011 by Metta Anderson – All Rights Reserved

DAY 2 — BACK AT HOME
Put on the Rostropovich DVD of Bach’s Cello Suites; windows open to a soft afternoon; Apricot and Friday accompany me.

Actually better today. Keeping the session down to the morning (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) with two breaks and concentrating on specific subjects helped. At the end of the session, Ms. Norris had a slide show of old to antique photos accompanied by a Simon and Garfunkel song; I only remember the last part of the title, “. . . To My Friend.” It was very effective and I applauded at the end, along with the rest of the audience.

I may have disagreed with her on a couple of points (use of a polyester base for negs; she said it was too thick and stiff for roll film, but Fuji uses it and therefore, I use it, in b&w), but overall, I felt pleased that I am virtually a third generation “photo maven,” keeping my negs and prints in very good condition. (My MOTHER, on the other had, had very serious issues regarding photography–throw away negatives, “store” photos in whatever box is available, box to warm corner of attic; hit a shutter button with great force (with anger, really), etc. This is a separate subject to explore later.)

That realization probably hit me harder than anything else. It means I have a visible, concrete history of my own. Me with Great-grandpa Olds; with grandparents; with parents; with REO; with other siblings; with friends; in Colombia, Mexico and Europe; in Michigan, Texas and Arizona (in part because I took most of the pictures as I got older; MAJOR REGRET–I do not have the negatives!) I grew up with all this BEFORE it became “art,” or “collectible” or “historic.” It was not even a novelty because my entire family was educated, interested in the world around it (HUGELY interested, even EXHAUSTIVELY interested when referring to those “twins”–R. E. Olds and Harry L. Conrad), travelled a lot, and had enough money to make picture taking a normal part of its life. You name it–we photographed it.

Kodak owes us.

Today Ms. Norris included useful website addresses and names of organizations dedicated to photo conservation and preservation. She covered setting up a basic collection in a museum and, among the sensible points made was something useful for people like me, who take pictures.

The institution holding a collection must first define it–what it’s about, what does it cover, what is its “raison d’être,” what is its philosophy, its importance culturally/historically/artistically, etc. Once this agenda is articulated, it is [theoretically] easier for donors to decide where to put their collections (and money). (I mean, of course Hugh Hefner’s outtakes of Barbi Benton deserve a place of honor at the Met, right?) I thought this was a really good point for both sides–who might be more interested in my photos of Bogotá–the Archivo del Distrito Capital?, the Archivo de la Corporación de la Candelaria (they changed their name to “something-something Patrimonio”)?, the Archivo de la Nación?, the Museo Nacional? or the Museo de Arte Moderno?

Sitting by myself and immersed in the images, I realized my interest in photography is both specific and broad.
SPECIFIC–the quality of the light, the composition; b&w vs. color; film, camera and subject; acid-free storage; immaculate processing; film and how it influences the final print; the paper on which it is printed.
BROADLY–theme; inclusion/exclusion of people; what I SEE in a photo; what a photo TELLS me (sociology–clothes, person, places, accessories). I play to it. I READ photos, because each one is a story being told; sometimes part of a larger story. Thus, there were all those STORIES up there on the screen and I wanted to “read” each one.

I also realized that I want to put each image in its “context”–date, process, people (m/f, period, relationships, children, artistic influences).

And I’m writing at home and the music got the better of me:
ROSTROPOVICH– one man, one cello
like a photographer
One person can make
something beautiful
Music–I see and hear the
music in the stories
I see in a photo.
I try to create photos
that allow others to
hear the music and
see the stories I’m
trying to tell.
Not everyone does
but I keep taking pictures
and telling stories.

I managed to take a few pictures before I went into this morning’s session. The light was nice and I even felt more confident, but nothing guarantees a great shot. In fact, I’ve been trying to photograph the water on the black monolith inside the courtyard and maybe I got something when I photographed it during a break. Vamos a ver.

But anyway, after I took some pictures and went inside to find a seat, I started to think about Barbara Chase. I wanted to send her an e-mail saying–“Dear Barb and Signe: I just want to apologize for the way I clung to you both for so long. I wasn’t just insecure, I was avoiding doing two things that are the most important to me–writing and taking pictures (esp. the former). //I thank you both for your patience.//And to quote Mr. Spock, “Live long and prosper.” Affectionately, Metta//P.S. Barb, we’re STILL Oldsmobile.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Untold Tales