Sunday, September 5, 2010

history of photography

I have spent almost all of today in the basement, unpacking books. Unpacking? - yes, all too many books down there haven't been liberated from their boxes since they moved from Princeton in 2005 - a handful of them - a depressing handful - since they came from Oxford in 2000. Yes, this makes a fairly powerful case for their culling. But it's very tough - do I really want to get rid of my favorite pony books from when I was ten? No. My high school history text books - probably. My enormous collection of mystery stories (mostly, but not exclusively, by, or featuring women) - which I held onto in some vague belief that one day I'd teach the Rutgers course that's on the books in detective fiction - ah, that's a tougher one (I ended up determining that some authors - Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton, Ian Rankin among them - stayed, and others are sitting in boxes - again - waiting to go - where? That's a problem, too. We have a very good charity bookstore nearby in Eldorado, but I can hardly ship them out to NM.

But it isn't all books. This crumpled, torn poster, from 1980. was for an exhibition of the Alinari brothers photographs in Florence (I had it in the entrance hall of my first apartment, and then in my office, for years), and that, in turn, was one of the first shows to turn me on to the history of photography - a topic that I'd not taken particularly seriously before then, despite, in a rather unsophisticated way, Liking Old Photographs. But the Alinari - commercial photographers from 1852 onwards, and Wikipedia tells me that their archives now run to over 5.5 million images - were fascinating in the ways in which they captured social life, and the old Florence that was being redeveloped, and statuary, and local views. The image here has photographed curiously - it looks as though it's semi-colored, but it's in fact a striking black and white.

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