The featured image has been dubbed “Moonrise, Hernandez” and was taken by Ansel Adams in Hernandez, New Mexico, on November 1, 1941. Ansel Adams is a photographer that I’m just beginning to learn about, though I am somewhat familiar with a few of his more famous photographs, like “Moonrise.” It is a stunning image, one that is, I think, in many ways the kind of photo every landscape photographer hopes to take. Plus, I am somewhat obsessed with photographing the moon, so it’s all there happening in that photo. It’s just beautiful, the church, the cemetery, the modest buildings in the middle of all that space. I love this picture.
There’s another of Ansel Adam’s photographs that I’m familiar with; this one has been titled “Monolith, Face of Half Dome,” and it was taken in Yosemite in 1927. It is the photo that is said to have launched Adams’ career as a professional photographer.
I’m familiar with this photograph because one afternoon my husband and I were out and about, and we spied a yardsale closing up shop, and there was a big, black and white, framed print sitting there that they hadn’t sold. I said to the guy, “What do you want for that?” He said, “Oh, I don’t know, fifty cents.” So now that print is hanging on our wall. I just thought it was cool. But I kept looking at it and thinking it looked familiar. It’s an Ansel Adams print. It has a tiny scratch that the face of Half Dome hides very well. Best yard sale find ever, so far.
I had bailed out on all social media for a while. I needed to reevaluate some things and take a minute. Creatively speaking it can be draining to be putting a lot of content out there, I needed to find my equilibrium with replenishing my well, so to speak. I love taking pictures. I missed using Instagram. So, if you are of a mind to follow along there, here’s the link… Teri’s Red Rose Vine on Instagram.
Thanks for following along!
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” – William Shakespeare, “Romeo and Juliet”, Act II, Scene II
Photo, Red Rose, the Last Blooms of Summer, 2019
The featured image is a picture of my grandfather holding two great big Catfish. The photo was taken by my grandmother. The photo is from a collection of 35mm slides given to me by my grandfather five months prior to his death. He also gave me the slide projector, and screen. The slides were all originally in dozens of carousels, which were cumbersome to store, though I have some of them. At that time, my wonderful husband purchased for me an expensive Epson Scanner/Printer. You know how those work, if the ink runs out, the scanner won’t function. Eventually, not only did the ink run out, repeatedly, but the pads were saturated to the point of deterioration and replacement parts were impossible to find as technology had moved on. As was my mission, I was able to get most of the pictures of people, old family photos, scanned and I shared them all, sending photo discs, to family. But there were hundreds of slides left unscanned.
Over the course of the last year, I began thinking about the unscanned slides and realized that they aren’t just old family photos or old vacation photos, there are images that are a matter of some historical significance in that they are of a particular time. I determined to get a new scanner for 35mm slides and old negatives, and now I have one.
I don’t intend to share a myriad of personal old family photos, but if there’s something interesting in the mix, I’ll load that up. They often bought souvineir slides as well, and some of those are kind of neat to see. I wanted to share the photo of my grandfather as this was his legacy to me, this was his hobby, besides fishing. This will be quite the undertaking, in addition to my writing, but it will be a worthwhile one.
In 1957, photographer Richard Avedon had a photoshoot with actress Marilyn Monroe, already one of the most photographed women in history, to take some pictures to help promote the release of her new film with Sir Lawrence Olivier, “The Prince and the Showgirl”, and to some, the results were stunning.
I’ve never seen that film. I would not call myself a “Marilyn Monroe fan” in terms of her films or work. Many years ago, decades, I’m pretty sure I managed to watch the film “The Seven Year Itch” to completion, though I couldn’t tell you how it ends. I’ve seen some of her scenes from the film “Bus Stop”, likewise from her unfinished last picture, “Something’s Got to Give.” Out of something verging on what I guess would be morbid curiosity, I’ve seen the film “The Misfits”, the last film completed by Monroe, as well as being Clark Gable’s last film, and I can only describe it as heart-wrenching. There is a Marilyn Monroe film that I do happen to adore, 1953’s “How to Marry a Millionaire”, co-starring Lauren Bacall, Betty Grable, William Powell, Cameron Mitchell, David Wayne, and Rory Calhoun. Marilyn Monroe’s comedic performance in this film is brilliant. To me, this performance said everything about Marilyn Monroe in that it illustrated perfectly that this woman was anything but a “dumb blonde.” No, what has interested me about Marilyn Monroe at all isn’t her films, it is her story, it is knowing that despite seeming to have everything or having everything materially speaking, she felt unloved, she was a lonely heart, a lost soul, one who perhaps never quite got the respect she deserved while she was alive. Some people, iconic figures, interest me in that way. Not to digress, but Katharine Hepburn is another whose story interests me, it is because of her films that we know about her and without that her story wouldn’t be as interesting, however, I can take or leave her films for the most part, but she is an endlessly fascinating character to me as a person, as a figure. So, there, we’ve established that I’m not a huge Marilyn Monroe fan in the usual sense.
“For hours she danced and sang and flirted and did this thing that’s – she did Marilyn Monroe. And then there was the inevitable drop. And when the night was over and the white wine was over and the dancing was over, she sat in the corner like a child, with everything gone. I saw her sitting quietly without expression on her face, and I walked towards her but I wouldn’t photograph her without her knowledge of it. And as I came with the camera, I saw that she was not saying no.” – Richard Avedon regarding the now-famous photoshoot from May 1957
Some of the photographs Avedon took of Monroe that day are not necessarily flattering by some standards. Monroe was not a skinny supermodel type, she was not a waif. She was curvy and fleshy. Monroe possessed the body of a woman, not a girl. Some of the photographs seem taken from odd angles that accentuate the wrong features. The dress seems wrong, like it was wearing her, and in some of the photos, the dress seems to make her look shorter than her already petite five foot five frame.
And some of the photos captured Marilyn in all her Marilyn Monroe glory…
But then there were these…
These images seem haunted. And though Avedon said he would not take photos of Marilyn without her knowledge of it, and from that one could reasonably assume that these photographs could also be Marilyn playing to the camera in some way, Avedon nonetheless managed to give light to the other side of the coin.
In my opinion, the images that made Marilyn Monroe an enduring icon, even while she lived, were not the perfect images of a glamorous movie star, a blonde bombshell, after all there have been plenty of blonde bombshells and pin-up girls with gleaming images and sparkling sex appeal, but were instead the images that showed the other side of the coin, that showed Marilyn to be an intelligent human being who had a life and heart-breaks and dreams and a depth far beyond what any photograph could ever contain.
Some have said that this photo taken by Richard Avedon in May of 1957, is the most honest photo of Marilyn Monroe ever taken. But I wonder if that’s true. I wonder if perhaps the most honest photograph ever taken of Marilyn Monroe wasn’t just some easy moment when she was relaxed and happy and laughing in her everyday life, that’s what I like to think.
Photos used in this post not otherwise notated or credited are photo credit Richard Avedon, presented for topical discussion, no copyright infringment intended.
I think the best way for those who are new to the work of photographer Sally Mann to learn about her work, is by visiting and exploring her website. Here. Some of her work is definitely not for the faint of heart, or an immature audience.
I learned about the work of Sally Mann from the 2005 documentary, “What Remains.” I was completely blown away by her work, her work ethic, her thinking about the “ordinary” as art. This spoke to me on a deep level because this is what I feel, and think, and believe. Poetry is the art of the people, the commoner. To see the beauty in the simple, the plain, the every day, to see the extraordinary in the seemingly ordinary and give that light, that is where I think art begins. – TS
Photographer Bill Cunningham lived his life completely dedicated to his art in a way that very few artists, working in any medium, seem to these days, or seem to be able to. He lived his life in a way many would consider to be sacrificial for the sake of his art, but he didn’t see it that way. He did what he loved, and everything followed. I find that to be inspiring and somewhat fascinating. – TS
How I happened to come to know the work of photographer Walker Evans is thus: My grandfather, born in the 1920s, one of seven children, grew up as an Irish-Catholic sharecropper’s son in a place that wasn’t even a place in Mississippi. They didn’t have indoor plumbing, they didn’t have an outhouse, to begin with, they had a latrine. If they didn’t have a mule to pull the plow, the boys took turns wearing the harness and they plowed the fields that way. When I saw this book, “Cotton Tenants” by James Agee with Photographs by Walker Evans, it was a must-read for me, it made me feel closer to my grandfather and helped shed light on a way of life I’d heard firsthand stories about but hadn’t quite fully understood because I was so young when I heard them. I remember going to visit my great-grandparents in Mississippi, all those years ago, they still lived in tin-roof houses with threadbare floors, the linoleum worn through, and a pull chain toilet in the bathroom. My great-grandmother mopped her kitchen floor every day. They had no extra anything and nothing went to waste. The photographs of Walker Evans struck a personal chord with me.
Walker Evans is best known for his work as a “Farm Security Administration” photographer, taking pictures during The Great Depression. Somewhere or another I heard an interview of Evans, when asked about the work of documenting The Great Depression, and of being hired by Fortune Magazine along with James Agee to go get this story about how these poor families were living, what he said was to the effect, paraphrasing, that it was The Great Depression for everybody, and even though he didn’t care for being told what to photograph, he couldn’t afford to turn down the job.
Cover Photo of “Cotton Tenants”: Floyd Burroughs and Tingle (Tengle) children, Hale County Alabama, 1936
Lucille Burroughs, picking cotton, Hale County, Alabama, 1936
Walker Evans’ work for the FSA is now in the public domain. Walker Evans had previously collaborated with Agee for the book, “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.” His work has otherwise been collected and documented in numerous volumes. Evans also took photos of urban landscapes, including a series of photographs taken in 1938 when he snuck a camera, hidden under his coat onto the subway in New York. These photos became his book “Many Are Called.”
I am continuing to learn about the work of Walker Evans. To me, his images are stark, evocative of a sophisticated simplicity, without manufactured sentimentality, and feel very much like he is showing us the world exactly as it presented itself to him.
Enjoy. ~ TS
They had a wildness that I couldn’t get to in the same way anymore, if I ever knew it.
They had gypsy clothes on, no matter what they wore,
it was how they moved,
how to wear a hat,
and you can’t teach natural cool like that.
They sat with their legs tangled up, their hands were each other’s and his on her foot,
so intimate alone together in a crowd. What are you people doing here anyway?
Waiting on the poetry?
TS, April 2018
I wrote this poem about Tom Waits and Rikki Lee Jones after seeing a photo of them tangled up together backstage in London in 1979. It’s an intimate photograph, the two of them seemingly oblivious to the rest of the world. The photo was on Pinterest at the time. A little digging and I found it credited to Adrian Boot.
Author Joan Didion, who is a huge fan of The Doors and of Jim Morrison in particular, said, paraphrasing, that in many ways rockstars and music people are the perfect subjects to write about because they’re so used to being in front of an audience they just “live their lives” regardless of whoever is present at any given time. I thought it was an interesting observation, one that I don’t know would hold as true today in the world of twenty-four-seven internet.
If you take the time to look through the gallery of Adrian Boot photographs at Urban Image, you will find some astonishingly candid pictures, in addition to some that are wonderfully theatrical and self-aware.