Edward S. Curtis nearly starved to death as a child and a young man yet still managed to move his family to San Francisco as it was booming. He joined another photographer who was already in business and made their studio the most successful in the city. His brother joined them and they both began artistic pursuits. The brother set about documenting the construction of San Francisco as we know it today. Edward was compelled to go East to document the last Native civilizations existing in America. He spent thirty years photographing these disappearing and dying tribes. This Taschen book is a complete collection of portfolios published in his lifetime. It is so very beautiful and simultaneously a heartbreak to become a witness to not just one but hundreds of genocides. Buy it anyway. This is not the kind of book you will sit and read cover to cover. It is too vast and the many varied faces too complex and unfamiliar to be absorbed that way. It is a book you live with, a very unsettling document that will have you asking yourself exactly who is being erased by greed and cultural conceitedness in our own time. I found myself reexamining Orwellian terms like "conflict minerals."
Around 1987 or so my Mom acquired an Olympus XA-2. For me, it was love at first sight. Just a smidgen bigger than a bar of soap with a slightly protruding belly of a lens cover, it is an adorable industrial design. It is the smallest 35mm film camera I've held in my hands. Only 7.5 ounces, it turns itself off and resets the focus to mid-distance when the clamshell is closed which also completely protects the lens. Two S76 batteries will last for years.
I took an XA-2 to Burning Man in 2014 and 2015. It's a very light travel camera and the loud clicking of the shutter is such an anachronistic sound people in front of the camera laughed out loud. Pure joy.
"Fittingly, Tina Modotti died en route. Though she reveled in being of a place, a people, a profession, all proved slippery to her touch. No sooner did she plant one foot on firm ground than the earth eroded under the other, leaving her geographically and emotionally homeless. Acknowledging a "tragic conflict between life which continually changes and form which fixes it immutable," she responded by improvising, with all the grace she could muster, a series of remarkable lives." - from Shadows, Fire, Snow, The Life of Tina Modotti by Patricia Albers
This is a very beautiful book about one of those twentieth century lives that beggars belief. Modotti was an Italian emigré; a movie star; a founding modernist in Mexico; a Communist spy; friend to Frida Kahlo and Pablo Neruda; lover, colleague, and muse to Edward Weston and Diego Rivera. Her photographs are stark and sensual. Her story might have disappeared were it not for two trunks of letters and photographs belonging to her husband that were passed on to the author.
Recently I collaborated with the Angel City Junior Derby on a themed group portrait. This was a sizable production as it involved getting 15 teens into wardrobe, hair, and makeup on a Saturday morning at 8 o'clock. Four makeup artists and two hair stylists worked for two hours to give the skaters the look chosen for the occasion, their individual takes on Keanu Reeve's hit-man John Wick. Everyone brought their very best and we were all happy with the finished image.
Editing the picture was quick. The young women looked formidable and fierce. Then... the team grew by two players. Can we add two players to the existing photo? A professional retoucher told me she couldn't be certain what she would charge for the job until she had seen all of the elements. We shot the new players in the same location at the same time of day and sent the pictures to the retoucher for an estimate which came to $200.
Turnaround time was a quick three days. Time was of the essence as the picture was needed for printed programs. Here is the finished result which also included extending the pants to meet the skates on the far left skater.
Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines a composite photograph as a photograph made by combining several distinct photographs either made one over another on the same plate or made on one print from a number of negatives. Digital photography and photoshop have made this process more precise and seamless.