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18 September 2010
No. 7,018 (cartoon)
No one will ever love you like this.
That’s fine. You look ridiculous in that outfit.
19 September 2010
Franz took me to an Austin cemetery, and I’m glad he did. There aren’t many Texans who can keep their mouths shut, yet we were surrounded by them. It made for a quiet afternoon.
There were lots of grandiose monuments. We were in Texas, after all. The most flamboyant of all belonged toif dead people can have belongingsHiram Justinian Ledbetter. No one’s heard of Ledbetter; he changed his name to Stephen Fuller Austin to capitalize on the popularity of state capitol’s name. The rest is, of course, history.
My favorite grave marker was modest and unremarkable. I don’t even know who’s buried there; I didn’t look at the front of the tombstone. I didn’t have to; the back was perfect. It read, “His students are his monument.”
Memorials don’t get any better than that, even in Texas.
20 September 2010
The Oldest and Newest Photograph in the World
My latest work almost made itself. Julie took me to see an exhibit, “Discovering the Language of Photography: The Gernsheim Collection” at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin.
I knew Helmut Gernsheim, the famous photographic historian and collector. Barely.
Come to think of it, I only talked with him once. Briefly. At a party. Twenty years ago. I was organizing a large photography festival, and I asked Helmut if he might attend. He politely and charming declined.
“Your organization doesn’t have enough money to afford me now,” he explained, “and when it does, I’ll be dead.”
(As a rare factual aside, Gernsheim died a few years later, on 20 July 1995.)
Gernsheim is noted for tracking down the oldest preserved photograph, a 1826 image made by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce on a pewter plate coated with bitumen of Judea. I saw the photograph on display, so I photographed it. (I chose to use third of a second exposure on a relatively tiny plate with twelve millions sensors, and no bitumen of Judea whatsoever.)
And that’s how I created The Oldest and Newest Photograph in the World.
21 September 2010
A Minor Photographic Epiphany
I’ve loved the medium of photography since I was a teenager. I’ve retained my enthusiasm, but these days I’m much more interested in art. Even so, I was glad to see so many photographs at the Gernsheim exhibition yesterday that had fascinated me when I was young.
Disappointment followed, when I found most of the photographs to be technically deficient: flat, muddy, unsharp, et cetera. I ascribed this to maturation: I’m much better at my craft, and have a more discerning eye (two, actually) than was the case in the last millennium.
But that wasn’t the real reason the iconic photographs were a letdown.
While I was at the museum, I looked through the exhibit’s catalog, The Gernsheim Collection. That’s where I saw the photographs I remembered fondly. The difference was that the images on the wall were printed with traditional chemical processes, the photographs in the book were printed with ink.
I should not have been surprised by my minor epiphany. I haven’t had my hands in a tray of photo chemicals in twenty years. On those rare occasions when I’ve wanted to make a print, I’ve used pigmented inks, and been quite happy with the results.
From this day forward, photography is dead; long live photography!
22 September 2010
Oh, Shut Up
I was looking through my recent photos, and spotted a photograph of an interview question. Evidently, Helmut Gernsheim sent George Bernard Shaw a dozen questions on a dozen separate index cards. Things seemed to be going well until the last question, a query about Shaw’s published photographs that elicited a terse reply.
“Oh, shut up. Good morning.” Having summarily concluded the interview, Shaw signed his name and noted the date: 19/9/1949.
In the unlikely event I’m interviewed, I shall have to remember that technique: save the best answer for last.
23 September 2010
The Bear, the Zucchini, and the Courgette
Which one of these headlines about a recent news story is funnier?
Woman fends off bear with fourteen inch zucchini.
... or ...
Woman fends off bear with a thirty-five centimeter courgette.
The courgette headline, obviously. First, there’s the metric system, which is inherently humorous. Most foreign things are. And that brings us to courgettes. That’s what foreigners call zucchinis. I think that’s eminently sensible; almost no one can spell “zucchini” correctly on the first or second try.
“Woman fends off bear with a thirty-five centimeter courgette” makes it sound like the story took place in a foreign country where bears aren’t real bears at all, just bear-like creatures the size of poodles. That’s funny too.
As for the true story, a proper bear tried to force itself into the home of an anonymous woman living outside of Frenchtown, Montana. When the beast managed to get its head and paw inside the door, the woman repeatedly whapped the bruin with the thirty-five centimeter courgette until it fled.
Without mentioning “the thirty-five centimeter courgette,” that would have been yet another bear versus woman with zucchini story, the kind one hears almost every day.
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©2010 David Glenn Rinehart