All Saints Day

All Saints Day

Today is All Saint’s Day. It is also called All Hallows or Hallowmas. Celebrated on November 1, it is preceded by All Hallows Eve or Halloween and is followed on November 2 by All Souls Day otherwise known as the Day of the Dead, a day celebrated with great enthusiasm in most of Mexico. All Soul’s Day is a Roman Catholic day of remembrance for friends and loved ones who have passed away. The living pray on behalf of Christians who are in purgatory, the state in the afterlife where souls are purified before proceeding to heaven. It is a time to pray for their souls that they may be received into heaven.

I found an Episcopal service with suggested readings for All Saints Day and was intrigued by the selection of Ecclesiasticus 44: 1-10, 13-14 as the initial scripture. This begins, “Let us now praise famous men.” This is also the title of a book written by James Agee with a series of photographs supplied by Walker Evans. Agee and Evans went to Alabama in 1935 to write an article for Fortune magazine about poverty in the South during the Depression. The article never materialized, but Agee eventually published his book. It sold only 600 copies until it was re-issued and became a cult classic in the 1960s. The sharecroppers Fields and Burroughs along with their families were hardly famous. Evans photos are some of the most highly regarded documentary photos ever made and are a part of the book.

These are portraits of Floyd Burroughs and his wife Annie Mae made at their cabin in 1935 by Walker Evans.

floydallie maeEach year I teach about this and more and more I come to realize that Floyd Burroughs, his wife Annie Mae, the Tengles, and Bud Fields are the Famous Men (and Women) that Agee wanted to praise. These people and many like them are the unknown saints that we celebrate on All Saints Day. Walker Evans’ photographs catch the humanity and dignity of these humble sharecroppers because he took the time to know them before he photographed them. Once seen and literally lived with for a month or more, it is easy to see how James Agee could say of these simple hard-working people, “Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers who begat us.”

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Artist’s Studios of Fearrington Village June 1

This past Sunday a group of artists who reside in Fearrington Village held a sale of their work. This has been a semi-annual event the past several years. There were about 45 venders. The weather was most cooperative with brilliant sunshine and a fresh breeze almost all day. Susan and I got sunburned, but not blistered. Sales were not great,but we did sale enough to justify our presence. Part of the fun is just getting the group together and visiting one another and looking at the latest work of fellow artists. This group which is not formally organized has been a Godsend for us moving here 2 years ago. We have made a lot of friends, I have fallen into as group of people who love photography, and we meet once a month to have show and tell. Next week,  just like students, we are having a field trip to go and shoot in Duke Gardens. I can see and feel that my picture-taking is improving and it is due to more shooting, more critiquing, and more stimulation. One of my better friends studied at MIT and then ran Minor White’s darkroom for several years. He has lots of interesting tales about Minor. I’m headed out this PM to see what the recently baled hay in the fields looks like at sunset. If there is anything there I’ll post it.

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Pete Seeger, Clearwater, and a couple of friends

In 1966 Pete Seeger and his wife Toshi founded the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Inc. This is an organization located in Beacon NY that works to protect the Hudson River and surrounding wetlands through education and advocacy.The organization is known for its sailing vessel the Clearwater as well as its annual music festival. Pete Seeger worked tirelessly through Clearwater promoting the Clean Water Act. Once passed he continued to promote it and made it into one of the most successful environmental laws. The sloop Clearwater was launched on June 27, 1969. It was 106 feet (32 meter) long with a 108 foot (33 meter) mast. In August, 1969,the sloop pulled into the East River in New York City on its way to the Hudson River. Seeger also formed the Clearwater organization, an environmental group dedicated to advances in sewer treatment, industrial waste disposal, and the discharge of major pollutants into the Hudson.

Seeger who was a controversial character most of his life was also concerned with the environment, and became more so as became older. He was decidedly to the left in his politics, was indicted and imprisoned by the HUAC for his association with Communists. He remained committed to Social Democracy and a better environment throughout his life. He died yesterday at age 94.He was a worker most of his life and used his music to accomplish much.

I made these pictures of the Clearwater while visiting the BWAC (Brooklyn Waterfront Art Center) down in Red Hook one cloudy day. Ira had photos on display, and Jessie was just visiting with us.

Looking out from BWAC

Looking out from BWAC

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Photography Books

Publishing a book. The goal of so many people in the arts, the sciences, and those who aspire to write. I was spurred on to go to Lystra Books after reading the piece by Nora Estheimer on TriArtSpark, a local arts and opinion site put together by Trudy Thomson. I have been thinking about books a lot recently. First, moving and packing them up and then having to unpack and put them somewhere (on wonderful built in book shelves done by Ed Ralston) made me more aware of their physicality. I vacillate back and forth between liking my Kindle and wishing I had a real book. Certainly in many cases there is not a great deal of difference between the cost of the physical book and its digital cousin, an excellent lesson in the value of intellectual property. The Kindle is useful for travel. Second, I have a project that I still don’t know what to do with that I finally made into a Blurb book. That’s not an end, but it is a initial step that hopefully will create some momentum for me.
I follow some websites and blogs using Google Reader, and this morning I happened upon a lot of book news. On Burn, David Alan Harvey had a “Letter from the Editor” that described what he had been up to and what he had planned for they near future (going to Dubai). He also talked about the efforts in the recent past and future plans for Burn Press, which will be a small, boutique like publisher of photography books. He is a smart person and his ideas usually come to fruition in even better form than planned, so watch out for this new outlet for photographic books. David’s ability to attract, inspire, and recognize young, emerging photographers is uncanny. On the Luminous Landscape site there is a nice article regarding Publishing Your Own Photographic Book by Peter Cox. Peter is a photographer from Ireland who aspired to publish a book of his landscape photography. He worked on a Kickstarter proposal, got it accepted, up and running and eventually raised more than $40,00.00 for his book project. This is a must read for any one seriously looking to self-publish their book. Roger May, documentary photographer from Cary (really West Virginia), who is making a book he has titled Testify with photos of the areas he relates to in Appalachia. You can find several articles relating to his experiences in doing this work on his blog.
For those who want some good instruction in laying out a book whether it is an e-book, print on demand, or a traditional book, Mat Thorn has some video webinars that are superb in providing the basics of book layout and design as well as editing and sequencing. They are also quite applicable to building a photographic web site. Sponsored by Blurb they can be found on Vimeo. Delving a bit deeper I found a very useful site called Photosecrets which is published by West Coast photographer Andrew Hudson. There he relates his experiences in the self publishing endeavor and is brutally honest in the estimate of costs and profits. He has worked very hard on his books and has self-published at least fourteen. Mind you, these are traditional books, not POD or print on demand books. This is a much different world of book publishing as compared to the print on demand type of thing.

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