Monday, July 29, 2013

research and rain

What was my favorite bit of research today?  Surely the ephemera in Jessie Tarbox Beals's papers.  Oh yes, indeed, there was the correspondence with her cat sitter about whether Sam liked his liver raw or cooked (said sitter gave it cooked one day, to be sure, because she thought that even though it was in the ice box, it smelt a bit iffy).  But I think that this dreadful piece of everyday racism - advertising a tailors' establishment in Chicago - gets the prize.

Or maybe this flier for a photo exhibition?

What's emerging, however, is that Beals, despite using flash as a tool of her trade all the time, didn't write about it.  And her writings - and drafts for broadcasts - about photography are inordinately bland and boring.  Yes, I admire her for her professionalism, keeping going with all kinds of commissions - portraits, house interiors, and, increasingly gardens - and I'm sure she was a fun person (at least, she went to a lot of costume balls ...) - but I do wish that she hadn't become convinced that she was truly interested in writing poetry - she was outstandingly bad at it.  So I learned a lot about the life of a professional woman photographer in NY (and briefly in California) in the first half of the century, but dismally little about her work with flash.

And then there was re-iteration of my ability to attract violent thunderstorms.  This was the Longfellow Bridge at around 5.30, as I headed off to Whole Foods - and it's not an attempt to imitate Steichen, or even Beals, in 1911, but a color image of the torrents rushing down the bridge incline.

There ... in this picture, one can actually see the color, creeping in at the bottom.  Next time I go on a research trip I shall make sure that the hotel is (i) within comfortable distance of the archives (ii) if not, within comfortable distance of a subway/bus stop.  But the walking is good exercise ... once the rain stops ...

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