Lesson 2 -Inspiration of Many

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    Carolyn Cogan

    Inspiration of Many
    When I saw this assignment – I needed to choose just one photographer or artist! This is not an easy task to decide on one individual. Our collection of art(35 plus years) is very eclectic from Alaskan to Northwest Coast of British Columbia to China and now Navajo rugs, Hopi pottery and katsinas, traditional to contemporary plus our own work. Artists who have inspired me have been Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir (especially the Luncheon of the Boating Party), Rodin, Van Gogh, Modigliani are a just few of the European artists. Here in the states, R.C. Gorman, Rie Munoz and Arthur J Hammond. My other interest is weaving which can be very structured, can be color intensive or tapestry (illustrative) – James Koehler and Rebecca Bluestone showed their subtle changes in color plus Sarah Sewett’s tapestries tell stories. Looking at art and the world around us, no matter where we are, can be an inspiration but one has to look and see everything from large to small.

    Photographers like Ansel Adams with his dramatic and impressive landscapes I admire being able to get beautiful landscapes is a matter of the right time and place. I also admire Edward Sheriff Curtis and Matthew Brady who photographed a very important time in United States history. Matthew Brady documented the Civil War and Edward Curtis documented the Native Americans. We are very fortunate that their photographs have been saved.

    Curtis took on a challenge of photographing the Native Americans at a time when their world was changing the beginning of the 20th century. He had an opportunity early in his career to travel on an expedition, he photograph Native Americans in the habitat and realized the culture of the Native Americans was important to document for future generations. I have 2 books of his photographs but recently learned that he was an ethnographer as well as a photographer. I had always wondered why his photographs looked realistic at a time period where photographs of the West looked staged. He lived with the different tribes, travelled, ate their food, and learned the stories, games and religion. If Curtis hadn’t done this with his 20 volume set of books, all of us would have lost many societies and their cultures.

    Two of my favorite photographs are The Blanket Weaver and By the Pool-Tule River Reservation:
    The Blanket Weaver happens to be a favorite because I am a weaver, too. Curtis captures how the Navajo weavers worked outdoors, how she could make a loom anywhere and if you look close how the loom could be packed up to transport to another site. Also, the design of the weaver can be seen. I am not sure which pattern she is weaving. (See attachment 1)
    By the Pool-Tule River Reservation, Curtis shows his ability to compose a still life photograph. To me this shows the baskets in a please arrangement, the designs woven into the baskets in an outdoor setting. I can imagine the baskets were made using the grasses it this setting. (See attachment 2)

    Since my husband’s job brought us to the Navajo Nation and Hopiland, I hope that someday we can document the arts, crafts and social functions of these people. It is harder now to photograph without permission of the tribes and the individuals.I have been fortunate to photograph a Navajo Grandmother for her children. Ruby is spinning using a lap spindle, once the wool is spin, a saddle blanket is woven. Ruby still wears the traditional skirt and is a Navajo speaker. (See attachement 3) Just before Indian Market in Santa Fe I photographed some pieces of jewelry for a Hopi jeweler.

    I hope I will be able to learn my camera better so I can follow Edward S. Curtis and photograph the arts, the Navajos and Hopis for future generations. It is sad when societies and cultures forget or lose their roots because it grounds us in seeing what is around us daily.

    Duncan Rawlinson

    Hi Carolyn,

    Wow you are really doing well here. You win the contest and you’ve now posted one of the better essays to date.

    I took a moment to look at the images of Edward S. Curtis. I was not familiar with his work and found myself getting engrossed in learning about his works.

    Here are a couple amazing photos by Edward S. Curtis:

    [attachment=1:1535doey]Edward S. Curtis Angeline_01.jpg[/attachment:1535doey]

    [attachment=0:1535doey]Edward S. Curtis In_a_Piegan_Lodge3.jpg[/attachment:1535doey]

    These images are remarkable because they are not only interesting from an archeological and historical standpoint but they’re also just downright interesting on their own.

    One of the things I’ve learned as a photographer is that the context in which you shoot a photograph doesn’t actually feel historically relevant to you at the time. When history is happening to you, you’re aren’t really aware of it. For instance I went to the world trade center a few months before the attack. At the time I was just being a goofy tourist snapping photos. Obviously now those images have a very different historical context and relevance now. This is really the case with every photo you shoot. Over time the only thing that stays the same is the image itself. The person viewing your photo will even find different meaning in the same image at different times in their lives.

    All of this is to say that if you find yourself in any kind of interesting situation shoot, shoot, and shoot some more. If you have images that are great on their own they will only be more interesting over time once the historical significance of the image is sprinkled on them.

    Whatever the case, you certainly are note short on inspiration. If you can focus what inspires you, and refine your craft your images will matter.

    An idea you can borrow from Edward S. Curtis is to photograph a group of people who are essentially being subjugated by another group of people. This could mean culturally or whatever. Photograph something or some culture that is going away and save it forever.

    Overall you’ve done a nice assignment here and I’m happy that you’ve got no shortage of inspiration. This is really the opposite of many students who literally have no idea.

    Nice work and see you on the next assignment.

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