Posts Tagged ‘Photography’

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan

October 20, 2014

Short Nights of the Shadow CatcherThis is an amazing account of the life of photographer Edward Curtis. It begins in 1866 in Seattle, where Princess Angeline is living in a 2 room damp shack down among the piers. She is the oldest and last surviving child of the chief of the Duwamish and Suquamish tribes, and also the most famous person in Seattle, her image on china plates and other knickknacks sold to tourists of Puget Sound.

Seattle is also where Edward Sheriff Curtis runs a successful photography business. Curtis is sought out by politicians and wealthy patrons, but also trolley car drivers and sailors who have saved for a session in front of the camera.

Curtis eventually photographs Princess Angeline, first in a studio portrait, and then in Shantytown, where he captures her in her daily chores of digging clams and gathering mussels. Angeline tells of other Duwamish and Suquamish people living on the edge of the city and the Tulalip reservation to the north. He visits, even pays for access, and photographs them. This is the beginning of what becomes a lifelong endeavor of photographing all intact Indian communities left in North American before their way of life disappears.

This plan entails traveling the Southwest, the plains, the Rockies, the fjords of British Columbia and Washington State, northern California mountains and southern California desert, and the Arctic. Curtis gives up a successful photography studio in Seattle for this pursuit.

He is constantly broke and struggles to obtain backers as he continues documenting Native Americans as their numbers are plummeting. While America is laying down railroad lines and paving roads for automobiles, the Indians who wish to continue living as they always have, end up hiding from dominant ever encroaching culture (the government has banned many ceremonies and children are sent to boarding schools).

Even when Curtis presents his picture opera–Indians in hand-colored slides and film, accompanied by music–to sold out crowds at Carnegie Hall and Washington’s Belasco Theater, he still faces bankruptcy: a penniless state that follows him through the rest of his life.

When he completes Volume XX of The North American Indian in 1930, thirty years have passed since the onset of the project, and Curtis is sixty-one years old. Sadly, his book goes unnoticed after his death in 1952, but resurfaces in the 1970’s to great acclaim. The Curtis family set goes to the Rare Books Library at the University of Oregon, and a gallery devoted to the work of Curtis is in Seattle.

Thankfully, because of Edward Curtis’ steadfast dedication to record the Native American tribes’ way of life before its tragic demise, we have an immense photographic and written historical record. And because of Timothy Egan’s exhaustive research, we have a sense of what Edward Curtis went through to accomplish this great feat.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral

May 7, 2012

This book caught my eye immediately. The format is somewhere between a photographic coffee table book and a graphic novel; the story is told in words and pictures, but also through instant messages, you tube videos, and drawings. The result is a beautiful finished product to leaf through leisurely or to tackle as a quick read (I was able to plow through the entire book on my lunch break one day.)

The story starts with the main character, Glory, missing. She has escaped from a mental institution and hasn’t been heard from since. Rewind eighteen months, and the events leading up to her disappearance are revealed:

Glory is a teenaged piano prodigy about to embark on a worldwide tour. She’s known for her skill of mixing classical pieces with modern scores in a cohesive and innovative manner (think Bach alongside Madonna). Her father is demanding and her schedule grueling. Between lessons, practice, and keeping up with her schoolwork, Glory doesn’t have a lot of time to be a normal teenager. And then she meets Frank, and her whole world turns upside down.

Glory’s deteriorating mental state is shown through clipped articles, postcards to Frank from her tour, and other documents, placed together to form a sort of scrapbook. She becomes incapable of performing the pieces that she is known for (and expected to play) and instead only plays (you guessed it) Chopsticks.

For a peek at the type of imagery you’ll see throughout this book, check out the video preview of the book or take a peek inside the book online.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian

December 15, 2009

“Laurel Estabrook was nearly raped the fall of her sophomore year of college.  Quite likely she was nearly murdered that autumn.”  These opening sentences drew me in, and I hardly put the book down until I was finished.  But this is not a novel about an attack.  It is a novel about the aftermath.

Six years after her brutal attack, Laurel is a social worker in a homeless shelter in Vermont.  After the death of one of the shelter’s residents, Bobby Crocker, she is asked to evaluate, and curate, a show of a large collection of photographs he obviously took.  Schizophrenic and alcoholic, Bobbie Crocker wasn’t really your stereotypical street person.  His photographs were used in 1960s issues of Life magazine, and included  Eartha Kitt, Dick Van Dyke, Muddy Waters—they’re celebrity shots he took, combined with elegant evocations of Jazz Age Long Island.  But among these fascinating shots, Laurel discovers something else:  photographs of her home town, and a snapshot of herself riding a bike, just as she had, on the day of her attack.   As she devotes more and more time to researching Crocker’s past, her friends and family become concerned for her mental well-being.

On the surface, this sounds like a straightforward story.  It isn’t.  Laurel is from East Egg, NY.  And many of the photographs she finds in Crocker’s collection are from East Egg, and include pictures of Tom and Daisy Buchanan and Jay Gatsby.  Can this be true?  Is this, in some way a sequel to The Great Gatsby?  This is an amazingly complex novel, with a surprise ending I never would have imagined.

Click here to find this book in our catalog.


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