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 have no idea who took this photograph, or where it was taken. It looks like there may have been some alterations involved as to the hue, etcetera, but I’ve not altered it myself. It was on Tumblr a few years ago and it reminded me so much of a memory that I found myself staring at it for quite a while. Then I realized it wasn’t necessarily evocative of a particular memory, but of a feeling. To me, this photograph feels like walking across the schoolyard on a winter day so cold the air is stinging my nose and ears. It reminds me of pulling my coat up and breathing down into the collar, shoving my hands into my pockets, of trying to figure out how to carry my books without exposing my fingers to the cold. The grass is wet and soaking through the toes of my tennis shoes a little, the brisk air is nonetheless invigorating. The steam and the smoke from the buildings remind me of finding dryer vents or heater vents to warm our hands under for a minute before returning to playing four square. It reminds me of the relief of reaching the warmth of the classroom but still not taking our coats off for a minute or two. It reminds me of early mornings and late afternoons in Wintertime.
It is an elegant photograph in a warm hue of what seems a cold day, in which there are hiding and living many stories and dreams.
The place in these photos is known to many of us who grew up in the valley as “The Top of the World.” Once upon a time, it wasn’t exactly a secret but everyone didn’t necessarily know about it either. From the Top of the World, you can see all the lights of the towns in the valley, and walk to the other side of the road, look in the other direction, and see the lights of Livermore, and the lights from the cities on the other side of the hill. It’s a place some of us went to when we were young. It was, back then, way out of town, in the country, the boonies, fifteen miles outside of town, the beginnings of the Altamont Hills between Tracy, California and Livermore, California. Patterson Pass Road, an Arco Station at the bottom of the road, where a friend or two worked at one time or another, was really in the middle of nowhere. In 1985, the population of the town of Tracy was less than twenty thousand people. These days, the town of Tracy pretty much reaches all the way out to that exit, and I guess people ride bicycles up there and, well, The Top of the World has its own facebook page. I cannot begin to tell you what a travesty that is. In the days of my youth it was a place of some mystery and romance, and legend, things that even now, I’m sworn to keep the secrets of by the code of one who knew and understood it as it was. If you know about the Top of the World, then you do, if you don’t, ah…
Knowing that most such places and things change with time, the growing population expanding the cities and towns further and further out, my husband and I could see it all changing. We could see the places of our youth beginning to disappear. So a few years ago we decided it was time to take a ride up there and kind of take a good look and bid farewell to it as we knew it. Someday, well, they’ll build right up to those hills and over the tops of them if they can for whoever can afford the view.
So we went up there and I was taking pictures, like I do. I got a couple of great shots of the sun beginning to set behind the hills, the windmills. I remember when those windmills were first going up on those hills. I decided to use one of the pictures on the back cover of my first collection of poems, “Red Line Wine”, as many of those poems were written during my years living in Tracy, with The Top of the World even specifically mentioned in one or two of them. I was just looking at some of the photos from that day again, possibly for another post, and I noticed something in one of the photos that I hadn’t noticed before, and to me, it’s a priceless moment I hadn’t realized I’d taken a picture of. The sun shines on the crest of the road just so every now and then, if you catch it just right, the road looks golden. I happened to see it and took a picture. What I didn’t realize was that my husband was standing all the way to the right, in silhouette, leaning on a telephone pole.
I’m reading a book about Abraham Lincoln and was reminded once again of this poem by Walt Whitman as Whitman was of that time. I think some weren’t too keen on it when Levi’s used some of this poem to sell jeans, but I thought it was great because it introduced a new audience to this work. As readings and videos of such and the like go, this is one of my favorites that I’ve returned to again and again.
listed as “possibly John Plumbe, Jr.”
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