Eighteen Great Photography Books
We have this thing about photography books.
We can't get enough of them. With our reviews,
we like to choose the best of the pictures - - - sometimes
even blow them up, make them part of the art of it all.
Here are a dozen-and-a-half of some of the special books
from our last eighteen years - - - ones that we were and are
especially keen on preserving.

Living on Uganda Time
Douglas Cruickshank
(Verflectin Media)
But it isn't the dogs or pachyderms that he wants to capture; it's the people of Kyarumba. And here they are, the ones he caught with more than three hundred deliriously fine photographs ... some of them spread fullbody across the double page (the book, spread wide, has the wingspan of a Marabou, and weighs in at three or four stone; don't drop it on your tootsies). Cruickshank admits at the beginning that he doesn't believe in captions, which is fine by me because he lets his sweet short essays do all the footnoting. We learn here that we don't need the kind of busyness that cloys what they call coffee-table books.

As if there were any comparison. For Somehow is decidedly not arty. It has a friendly sprawl, comes on much like a let's-take-a-beer visit with a man who not only knows how to set the visuals, but also can, in a paragraph or two, reveal the singularity of the countryside about him.

He lets his pictures do the walking, lets them carry us over the hills and into the vistas and down in the valleys into the heart of the Kyarumba. Since Cruickshank is a friendly old sot, he's apparently willing to talk to anyone and set it down here ... the taxi-drivers, the hotel people, the villagers, the kids, the women washing their clothes outside, carrying things on their heads, the families who gather for the weddings, the people who invite him to dinner, the Bukonzos who can't get enough of staring at this big pale gringo with the camera around his neck.

The kids --- especially the kids: almost a quarter of the photographs are of the children from age six months to near-adult, clowning for the camera, solemn, funny, fretful, smiling, mostly wonderfully curious about this gawky guy with the urge to capture everything.

For it's everything that elicits Cruckshanks's curiosity. The people, what they eat, what they drink, what they find funny (especially about him), what they prize, how they live their days, what they carry on their heads: "In some parts of the world, Africa, South America, Asia -- people commonly walk around with all sorts of things balanced on their heads. In other parts of the world they don't. You won't see an elderly, nicely dressed woman walking through Denver with a machete teetering on her noggin. Or an ax. Or a 10-foot-long plank." Yet, he says, there in Kyarumba, he has seen men, women, and children with "most anything you can imagine balanced on their heads."

    The other day it was a woman with a classic, old black and gold Singer sewing machine. Then there are purses, jackfruit, giant bunches of green plantains, a stack of chapatis, neatly folded linens, shovels, hoes, bundles of firewood, bags of charcoal and, perhaps, one of my best sightings, a soldier, obviously on his way home, with his automatic rifle riding atop his felt beret.

The only thing I caught missing from Somehow was a picture of the author. I mean there's a painting on one page by a local artist that doesn't quite do him justice. It doesn't miss his sheer bulk, exactly ... but the eyes ... the eyes. One of Cruickshank's friends said that if you study his eyes you'll see nothing but a blur, whirring pinwheels.

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A Russian American Photographer
In Tlingit Country

Vincent Soboleff in Alaska
Sergei Kan
(University of Oklahoma Press)
There was no medical care, no government infrastructure or schooling, and certainly little enough sunshine to brighten up the days. Makes you wonder how these people survived without iPhones, MTV, and bands like Motorhead, Limp Bizkit, and Cerebral Ballzy.

It's not that the land wasn't fertile and generous. The Kootznahoo Inlet rivers were chock full of fish, the land knee-deep in guano, black-tailed deer, and brown bear. In fact, it was estimated that there were more brown bears than people. Angoon, where the Soboleffs spent most of their lives, now has a population of 572 (people), while there are over 1600 (brown bears) there on Xootsnoowú Island.

The men were tough, and the culture was Tlingit with a heavy dose of Russian Orthodox. There was no end of ice and snow and hoarfrost. To this day, the climate is still considered to be "mild," which means you have to wait all night to freeze to death. You are more likely to drown, because Juneau to the north gets 50 inches of rain a year, Ketchikan to the south, 150 inches, so in Angoon, you can expect eight feet or so per year. If you follow Sunset's directive and honeymoon in December or January, expect meals of blubber, berries, seaweed, shellfish, herring and gull. The villages are a dream for Scrabble players, being called "aan," with their potlatches spelled koo.éex.

Potlatching, by the way, was made illegal by Canada in 1884 in an amendment to the Indian Act and in the United States in the late 19th Century, "largely at the urging of missionaries and government agents who considered it "a worse than useless custom" that was seen as "wasteful, unproductive, and contrary to civilized values." Great. Someone dies, so you have a huge festival, and on the third day, you begin to compete with others to give away the most food and property, roiling with your neighbors to see who can be the most generous. Then the feds move in and tell you that you are breaking the law. Screw your neighbors, sell them marshland ... and you're OK. Give it away, and the feds will send you to the Graybar Hotel for six months.

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Capturing the Light
The Birth of Photography,
A True Story of
Genius and Rivalry

Roget Watson
Helen Rappaport

(St. Martin's Press)
The first war to be captured on film was the Mexican-American war, but the Crimean War was where it came into its own. It was no small problem to follow the soldiers around to shoot them --- not with bullets but with light --- because with all the tools and chemicals and plates and camera and lenses, you needed a small truck with a large team of horses. And, of course, since the exposure time was so long, one could never get a picture of people finishing each other off. The best one could hope for was an image of the many bloated bodies left behind after the action had moved on.

The New York Times caught its drift on seeing the first photographs to come out of the American Civil War:

    We recognize the battle-field as a reality, but it stands as a remote one. It is like a funeral next door: it attracts your attention, but it does not enlist your sympathy. But it is very different when the hearse stops at your own door and the corpse is carried over your own threshold ... Mr. Brady has done something to bring the terrible reality and earnestness of the war. If he had not brought bodies and laid them in our very door-yards and along [our] streets, he has done something very like it.

Political leaders were quick to catch on to the fact that war photography could quickly make war itself unpopular. If the lumpen were exposed to the sight of so many dead scattered here and there over a battlefield, they might want to abandon war as the mean of politics taken to its limits.

Cameras were ultimately banned from the killing-fields of the Somme in World War One as they were in the same areas in its continuation, World War Two. Recently a similar ban turned up: President Bush II did not allow photographs of any of the bodies being flown home from the fighting in Iraq.

But our willingness to hide from the reality of humans doing in other humans may soon come to an end, along with the demise of Talbot's and Daguerre's style of photography. The availability of videos from minuscule cell-phones has already shaped policing in our cities. And someday images of men and women dying for our country (right or wrong) may finally come to touch the rest of us as well.

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The Color of Hay
The Peasants of Maramures
Kathleen Laraía McLaughlin
H. Woods McLaughlin

(H L Books)
Kathleen and H. Woods McLaughlin actually did something that you and I have been thinking of doing all these years. They took off for eastern Europe and ended up in an old village in the mountains --- one that had hardly been touched by the modern world. They moved in for a couple of years, living with a family in a cottage, doing as the simple folk did --- no air conditioners or cars or televisions or computers, avoiding all those things we use to keep ourselves from reminding ourselves that there are other ways to live on the earth, a living with the earth rather than living by stealing the earth. The McLaughlins "went native," as we used to say.

Here they are giving us a book about their journey, a hefty book, a book of love and reminiscence. These folk, however, are in no way over-romanticized, nor are their ways painted as lovely, gentle, all wise, all good. There are harsh winters, along with dirt and blood and sweat. The authors are not here to prettify it, they are certainly not ethnologists nor cultural sociologists. They are a couple with a camera and a fine sense of form and grace and a love of the past. Somehow they brought into being a great volume --- forty-four color photographs, ninety-four black-and white pictures --- spread out full page. There's no wasted commentary, only a fine tribute to peoples who are immersed in a change that no one seems to want.

The volume is divided into a dozen or so chapters (Spring, Winter, Autumn, Home, Clothes, Food, The Ceremonies of Life, Marriage, Old Age, Death) and the photographs are displayed just as they should be: simple, direct, unflinching, the people in their funny hats that look like tiny upside-down baskets, the women in their kerchiefs, the local band --- violin, accordian, beat-up drum slung around the shoulder --- people in the open air market with their bloody just-killed lambs, old folk out in the fields building enormous haystacks, hauling 70-kilo bags of corn, working the icy whirlpool of the river to wash their heavy clothes and blankets, three women standing in their white thick woolen bootlets.

The whole of Color of Hay has a rich, sensitive form. The 150 photographs appear at the end reproduced in miniature with appropriate explanations. This picture of "Petru from Gold, 2000" is one of an old man, his hat tilted down, clean white shirt, steady look, no nonsense, workboots there in the background,

    People seem to grow old quickly here, yet at the same time, they grow old with grace. Many times a man of eighty will appear as only sixty.

    We asked them how they look so good.

    "The air is clean," they say. "And our land is blessed."

Woods McLaughlin is no slouch in the writing department. In the chapter on animals he notes,

    If one imagines the barnyard as a hierarchy of privilege to live according to one's animal impulses, the clear winner is the household cat. Through millennia of living with humans, cats have made the fewest compromises. We provide them a barn yard of mice, protection from predators, and regular bonus meals --- in return for which they lead their lives as they would anyway: sleeping eighty percent of the time and playing with their food.

    Roosters and hens occupy the next step down the list. They get the cat's protection from predators, but with the disadvantage of occasionally becoming soup.

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The Comedy of Charlie Chaplin
Artistry in Motion
Dan Kamin
(Scarecrow Press)
For those of us who are insight junkies, Comedy is full of artful twists. In one footnote, the author cites Julian Smith on the two most famous scenes in The Gold Rush: cooking work-boots for lunch; two dinner rolls in ballet on the table. Smith says, "At Thanksgiving, his shoe became food, now dinner rolls become little shoes." Kamin suggests that the vague machinery in the factory in Modern Times "shown in a cutaway" is like that of "a giant film projector." He concludes, "The factory is a film factory."

Later scenes in Modern Times show a true albeit comic portrait of prison life, with gay prisoners and drugs. In the dining hall sequence where Chaplin imbibes "nose-powder," one of the other prisoners is "ludicrously effeminate, walking with his hands bent upward at the wrist and swiveling his hips and shoulders."

    Because the viewer is riveted on Charlie revolving in his stoned state, this fellow invariably goes unnoticed in the several shots in which he appears.

§   §   §

When I saw my first Chaplin films, they were given added comic impetus by being speeded up. I had been told that newer projectors operated faster than the ones from the silent film era. But there are shooting logs for many of Chaplin's later films like Modern Times that reveal that he "shot much of it at eighteen frames per second, or 25 percent faster than life, and some of the chase and other action scenes at sixteen frames per second."

We also learn that the department store skating sequence (Chaplin is skating blindfolded, perilously near a ledge) was filmed using a "glass shot" and "trompe l'oeil paintings." Kamin cites no less than six authorities to kill the commonly held belief that Chaplin put himself in these dangerous shots and somehow never had a fatal nor disabling accident (vide, the famous monkeys-on-the-tightrope scene in The Circus.)

This is, I believe, a book that will be treasured by Chaplin fans, though some of the facts may be disturbing. We find, for instance, that there are many differently edited editions of each of his movies. While we may think we are watching the only one, there may be dozens of alternative takes floating around out there. "Like other major stars of the day, Chaplin shot every scene with two side-by-side cameras operating simultaneously."

    Because of the great popularity of Chaplin's films, hundreds of prints had to be struck, so in some cases three or even four versions of the films were prepared, using the best alternate takes from each of the two cameras.
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Lanterns on The Prairie
The Blackfeet Photographs
Of Walter McClintock

Steven L. Grafe, Editor
(University of Oklahoma)
This book shows the Blackfeet in full regalia: finely worked beaded dress, crowns of "feather horns," exquisitely decorated teepees, woolen blankets (with what some of us think of as the "L. L. Bean Stripe,") horses grazing, medicine pipes, and something the photographer described as "decorated bonnets."

Everything from Blackfeet life is there ... everything ... except reality. No starving natives, no drunks, no bedeviling "Indian Agents," no marauding white men, no poverty, none of the bitter humility of the "American Indian Policy" or "Manifest Destiny."

Steven L. Grafe, editor and one of the writers here says, "Despite the claim that the photos were not posed, that they recorded 'real life,'"

    McClintock's cameras selectively scanned the Montana landscape to create a window into Blackfeet life as he imagined it to have existed during the nineteenth century.

"He shows these people as they might have appeared during a romantic heyday, when buffalo were plentiful and young men earned names for themselves while battling tribal enemies."

It's easy to mock McClintock as one of the bevy of rich young dandies who took to the west during the time of Teddy Roosevelt --- but, as a photographer (no matter how biased) he was expert: in scale, composition, and scope. In a few cases, the images are heart-rending. They show tribal life not as it was at the turn of the century, but as we had always wanted it to be.

For this reader, one of the unexpected joys are the names. Not of the mountains, nor the valleys, or the rivers; rather, of the true heroes of these photographs: Medicine Bull, Black Weasel, White Grass, Wolf Plume, Eagle Feather, Three Guns, Jack Big Moon, Bull Child, Drags His Robe, and --- a slightly older Indian woman --- Heavy Breast.

And, too, there are the designs --- elegant beaded dresses, carvings on the medicine pipes, drawings of "dusty stars" woven into the teepees. According to McClintock, these were the names given to the plants "which grew in circular clusters upon the prairies ... They call them 'dusty-stars' because they emit a puff of dust when pressed."

    They are supposed to be meteors which have fallen from the night sky and spring up into puff-balls in a single night.

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Washington Sculpture:
A Cultural History of
Outdoor Sculpture in
The Nation's Capital

Hames M. Goode
(Johns Hopkins)
Editor Goode tells us there are over 500 outdoor sculptures in Washington, D. C. although at times it may seem like there are many more. He is generous, though, for he not only includes the equestrian statues and those national heroes with swords and busts, he brings in cemeteries, inner courtyards, hidden nooks ... and parts of Virginia and Maryland, too.

They are gathered in this definitive volume, all are given at least one picture (sometimes several angled shots) and the whole weighs in at a ton or so (the book, not the busts). Washington Sculpture runs almost 800 pages.

It's a heroic effort and it is hard to stop leafing through it to see what other silly figures are to be commemorated in the traffic circles, parks, courtyards, sidewalks, cemeteries ... and sometimes right out on the city streets. One is tempted to try to make sense of all these colonnades and fountains and memorials and the only way I could figure out to do it was to list them by official scientific category:

  • NICEST #1: The Angel Moroni (Mormon Church, Kensington, Maryland). Who would ever believe that the Latter-Day Saints, well known for their sacred overbuilding, could ever come up with something graceful ... but Moroni, complete with trumpet, perched atop one spire, manages to do it, nicely.
  • NICEST #2: "Negro Mother and Child" (Department of the Interior). This six-foot-high statue is one of the great WPA commissions, executed by Maurice Glickman in 1934.
  • NICEST #3: Braque Bird (The Phillips Gallery). Low-relief carving, flying along over the entrance.
  • MOST SPOOKY #1: The National Law Enforcement Officers' Memorial (Judiciary Square). A definitely malevolent eight-foot-long lion about to spring on two cubs playing on the other side of the fountain.
  • MOST SPOOKY #2: The Hardon Monument (Rock Creek Cemetery). A sleeping (or possibly deceased) cherub resting on the slab of a carved rock.
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Peterson Reference Guide to Owls
Of North America and the Caribbean
Scott Weidensaul
(Houghton Mifflin)
I count over three hundred color photographs in this lush volume. The sexiest owl, to my eyes, is the Snowy with its ominous white mask and the elegant white laced outfit with tawny dark spots. The editors no doubt agree with our fascination, giving it a generous twelve pages of text with almost twenty photographs --- one head on, an owl in flight going right at the camera, making one want to duck. (This is no idle threat. According to Wikipedia, "The photographer Eric Hosking lost his left eye after attempting to photograph a tawny owl, which inspired the title of his 1970 autobiography, An Eye for a Bird.) These guys aren't kidding, and their white tuxedoes with the stylish chestnut spots may take the dandy Bird-of-the-Year Award. They know how to make babies, too. A nest of the Snowy Owl in northern Canada was found with fourteen eggs, and despite the ferocious appearance of the parents, the young with their "mesoptile down" look good enough to eat.

I take that back. Global warming is killing the Snowy. Weidensaul estimates that this Owl may now be down to a mere 14,000 pair. Evidently, their main food is the lowly lemming, who is not disappearing because of their lemminglike suicide behavior patterns but rather through habitat loss "as alder and willow invade open tundra with the advancing tree line, rendering it unsuitable for the lemmings on which the breeding Snowy Owls depend."

The most dignified owl has to be the Spectacled Owl which the author calls "one of the handsomest raptors in the world."

Owls may need spectacles since they are what we used to call "farsighted," and they are not all that intelligent, despite their reputation for being wise. We think animals with large eyes are bright, but owls can be downright stupid, even these hooters with their fancy specs: one observer in Panama came onto "spear-nosed bats mobbing a roosting Spectacled Owl" who had been trying to feed on their babies. Bats certainly don't like being eaten out of house and home by a scholarly-looking bird, birds who also are known to eat possum, skunks and "naked-tail climbing rats," some of which are damn near as big as they are. Not exactly a scintillating diet, especially, as we pointed out in our earlier review, owls don't nibble delicately at, for instance rat-paté; they usually swallow their victims whole, head first.

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The New Dance Photography of Lois Greenfield
Designed by William A. Ewing
(Chronicle Books)
Lois Greenfield specializes in stark black-and-white photographs of dancers.   But it's not ballet members, locked in rigid steps,   in tutus.   Better ... it's dancers suspended (through the magic of photographs) in mid-air, human figures reflected back on each other, shadows and moves that --- for this reviewer --- redefine bodies ... elegant bodies.

William Ewing, the book's designer, states that in his visit to one of her shooting sessions, he expected that he would see that "the dancers appear to have lifted themselves into the air, waited for the photographer to snap the shutter."

It was not so, for

    I could see nothing in front of me that remotely resembled a Greenfield image; all I saw were heavy, sweating bodies thudding about, the strenuous movements accompanied by sharp exhalations of breath as they landed.

"I watched the dancers repeat each take with minor variations according to Greenfield's directions but the action never seemed to coalesce into the elegant, ordered motif I was expecting."

There are over 100 shots in Airborne, and they not only redefine bodies, they do the same to the art of dance, and the art of photography.   We might say that what we have here are "motion pictures" --- Greenfield stretching the art of still-life and still life photography so that there is in the images a powerful frozen motion that --- at times --- seems to make the dancers dance right off the page for us.   

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the complete

Isaac Bashevis Singer and
The Lower East Side

Bruce Davidson,

(Mead Art Museum
University of Wisconsin)
In this volume, included with this story by Singer are over fifty black-and-white photographs, mostly taken by Bruce Davidson in the 50s and 60s in and around The Garden Cafeteria at 165 East Broadway.

Like Singer's work, they are funny, strange, stark. Unfortunately the editors decided to pad things out with several spurious add-ons: an essay about the pleasure and pain of photographing Singer; an interview with Bruce Davidson; a piece about the Lower East Side of New York of yore.

Thus, we are given 15,000 words to support a piece of fiction that needs no support, photographs that need no explaining. The commentary is of the nature of, "The unnamed elderly woman ... defines the setting and epitomizes the forbearance and resilience of the denizens inside." This proves little except that when they start handing out those two-bit words ("forbearance," "denizens"), it's time to head for the hills. Or the potty.

By cutting verbiage and adding twenty more of Davidson's photographs and ten more Singer stories, the editors would have offered an even finer homage to a master, a writer who deserves to be classed right up there with Anton Chekov, Stephen Crane, Guy de Maupassant and Ernest Hemingway.

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This Place, These People
Life and Shadow on the Great Plains
Nancy Warner
David Stark

(Columbia University Press)
There's change here, and it is not one of decay, because those who have stayed behind are learning a new type of self-sufficiency, a new way. A new form of luxury --- at least in the work: with an "air-conditioned tractor pulling a 24-row planter." A new life, with astonishing new equipment, astonishing new sophistication, and astounding new debt.
    There's lots of technology out here on these fields. I couldn't even think about doing this if I didn't know about hydraulic systems, the new vacuum system in this planter, the electrical system, irrigation system, mechanical systems, and the computer system.

Warner may be recording the death of the hardy family alone on the great plains from before, with their pigs and dogs and cows, but at the same time, she is recording the birth of a new technocracy in the 21st Century ... and a complicated new debt culture.

This Place, These People is romantic in that it offers a link to the past where individuals could buy a homestead from the government and build a life, perhaps living years in a sod house with wife and children and a few cattle and pigs and cows and neighbors a half-a-mile away who could be counted on to help in a pinch ... but, mostly, solitary, hardy country folk surviving by luck against drought, flood, tornadoes, sickness ... the tales we read in Willa Cather and Mary Austin Holley: that painfully hard life with its human wreckage, and the chance of success.

And the hope.

For this is, after all, America. As Laurie Anderson reminds us, it's The Home of the Brave.

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E. O. Hoppé's Amerika
Modernist Photographs from the 1920's
Phillip Prodger, Editor
Hoppé shows a magisterial hand. He sets his camera perfectly to insert a cross-purpose in every scene: steel beams going that way, transmission lines going this, a roof over there. It is a photographic style that is both architectural and subtly transforming. The stockyards of Chicago reveal a crisscross artistry of light and shadow. The pictures of factories, cityscapes, and buildings chosen for inclusion in Amerika outnumber the studies of faces, but the latter are daring close-ups: faces of beggars, farmers, the poor, blacks, and American Indians [see "Yakima Indian, 1926" above].

In his lifetime, Hoppé was well-known for his photographs of beautiful women; one of his books was entitled Skyscrapers and Women. Hoppé himself was invited to judge "beauty shows" of the day. With this mix of the personal and the industrial, the editor suggests that Hoppé may have foreshadowed the documentary photographers of the Depression --- Ansel Adams, Paul Strand, Charles Sheeler, Edward Weston, Alvin Coburn, and Dorthea Lange.

In his portraits, Hoppé was a documentarian. Often, he used reflected light. The camera rests slightly below the subject. Heads fill the frame. No detail is left out: grime, warts, moles, scars, veins, skin blemishes. He used Hollywood techniques without the romanticism.

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Children of the Depression
Kathleen Thompson,
Hilary MacAustin,

(Indiana University Press)
During the early years of the Depression in the United States, over 250,000 children were homeless, and, in some areas, 90% were malnourished.

In 1932, Clarence E. Pickett reported to Congress that --- depending on the school --- 20 - 90 percent of the children that the American Friends Service Committee had surveyed were underweight, suffering from rickets, pellagra, malnutrition, lethargy and sleeplessness.

In Chicago, 11,000 children in the public schools were being assisted by their teachers who paid for their food out of their own pockets. 3,000,000 children had to leave the educational system to take jobs, but there was no protection from exploitation because there were no child-labor laws.

Over 15,000 young people were working in saw-mills, another 15,000 mining coal, and 5,000 more in steel mills. Younger children were paid less than the older ones --- in some cases they received not much more than 50-cents a week. Wages were as low as two cents an hour.

Beginning in 1935, the New Deal wanted to record its works to alleviate poverty, malnutrition, unemployment, low wages, and the general misery that was part of the Depression. It also saw the project as a chance to give employment to starving photographers. Roy Stryker was hired by the Resettlement Administration and the Farm Security Administration to find and give work to likes of Walker Evans, Arthur Rothstein, Dorothea Lange, Ben Shahn.

Between 1935 and 1943, the RA and the FSA made more than 200,000 photographs of American life --- an astonishing record of the good and the bad of the U. S. The photographs were generally superb and the photographers given immense latitude in what they were to record.

The photographs chosen to appear in Children of the Depression number well over a hundred. They are presented with respect and grace, and not a few are genuine heart-breakers. They are interspersed with quotes from oral histories of those who lived through the Depression, along with letters in government files, addressed to those in Washington, D. C. One, dated 20 January 1938, was sent to Eleanor Roosevelt:

    I am writing this letter in hopes that you will answer in my favor. My father H. C. has been in bed from a stroke for almost a year. We have no money and my brother works but makes $3.00 a week and there are eight in our family. My step-mother is very good to me and I try to help her. She takes in washings and I have to walk for six or eight blocks and then carry the washings home. I have to go of a morning before school and it has been very cold here. If you would send me a bicycle to ride when I go after washings for her I shall appreciate it. I am in eighth grade at school and work very hard to make passing grades. The Principal of the school bought two of my sisters and me a pair of slippers so we would not have to stay at home. If you would do this for me I shall be able to help my step-mother more. If you send me one I would like a girls bicycle. I am about 4 feet 3 inches tall so if you send me one you can judge as to what size.

Loving and appreciating,
A. L. C.

Moko Maori Tattoo
Hans Neleman,

(Edition Stemmle)
In The Piano, that delicious, dramatic movie that presented us with another startling view of 19th-century colonialism, the Maori of New Zealand are always in the background: carrying the piano, the luggage, working --- but it is a bizarre (and uncommented on) background. Their faces are graved with lines, designs, figures --- permanent line drawings on the skin that emphasize or contrast the shape of eyes or nose or mouth, and contrast sharply with the mostly pale-white ghostly faces of the colonialists. Ta moko is the traditional facial decoration of those of Aotearoa, New Zealand. The authors of Moko --- Maori Tattoo tell us that it is not only tattoo,

It is also a name used for lizards throughout Polynesia, and it carries all the mythical associations attached to such creatures . . .

It was inevitable that the Christians who invaded the island three hundred years ago should attempt to ban the process, since it was an homage to the Maori divines.

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The Art of Rockefeller Center
Christine Roussel

There was something of a to-do with a fresco by Diego Rivera. Rivera was offered a wall and $21,000 for "Man at the Crossroads" who "looks uncertainly but hopefully towards the future." He was hired on in 1933 by Abby Rockefeller, despite the fact that just a few months before he had raised the ire of the respectable families of Detroit when he stuck the Holy Family in the middle of a panel named "Vaccination," though god knows what the mother and father of the divine --- complete with horse and cow --- would be doing in the city clinic getting our Holy Babe inoculated against small pox and diphtheria.

Rivera was given a large wall in the Grand Lobby at 30 Rockefeller Plaza --- sixty-three feet wide, seventeen feet long --- and promptly sketched in faces around a large centrifuge under what appears to be the engine (with propeller) of a DC3. What was not acceptable was the visage of Nikolai Vladimir Lenin off there to the right holding hands with several auto workers, though presumably the hand-hold was a sign of mere solidarity, not affection.

Three weeks into the project Rivera was given his walking papers, his fresco was papered over and within a year it was painted over (being named "The Wailing Wall" by the architects who were entreated to come up with something a little less sprightly.) Rivera got his revenge by hurrying back to Mexico City and painting a fresco at the El Prado with Trotsky, Marx, and Rockefeller in an awkward dance.

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Past Tents
The Way We Camped
Susan Snyder
Bancroft Library)
Susan Snyder takes us back to these halcyon times. She opines that camping was slow to catch on in America because in the 19th Century, camping was all there was. When you wanted to get from West Virginia to Missouri, and from there to Oklahoma, and from there to the Nevada Territory and California, you camped your way across the country.

Sleeping under the stars and cooking over an open fire had been matters of necessity and expediency in trackless wastes that concealed wild beasts and nightmare sounds. Wilderness had been the formless enemy to be conquered and crossed at all costs.

"Now," she writes, "the trailblazers became pleasure trekkers, and trails that had been the routes of arduous travail become the paths of holiday jaunts."

Ms. Snyder has collected here over a hundred photographs to delight the soul: people dressed to the nines, posed formally outside their white-and-blue striped tents; three young fellows on high-front-wheel bicycles of the times, their packs carefully hung from the steering bar; a booted ruffian in a pork-pie hat standing before a wood-plank lodge marked WELLS FLAT; a "Silver Dawn" Sauerkraut can cut at both ends to serve as smokestack.

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Penguins of the World
Wayne Lynch
Wayne Lynch is a penguinophile.   He doesn't, I assume, carry one about in his backpack; rather, he goes to visit them in Antarctica, the Falklands, Macquarie Island, New Zealand, Cape Horn.   He seems to know everything there is to know about penguins: that they have been clocked moving through the water at nine miles-per-hour; that the smallest --- the Fairy Penguin -- weighs less than three pounds and lives along the coast of New Zealand and southern Australia; that there are almost ten million Macaroni penguins but the one that I slept with as a child was most likely modeled on the Adalie.   

The biggest threat to penguins is a bird called the skua, although up to a few decades ago, humans murdered them to light their oil lamps and to enjoy in a stew.   In 1902, while studying them, the geologist Otto Nordenskjold reported eating "cold penguin and sardines; salted penguin; macaroni and salted penguin; breast of penguin and dried vegetables; salted penguin and beans; and pastry with leftover penguin."

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Seduced by Modernity
The Photography of Margaret Watkins
Mary O'Connor, Katherine Tweedie, Editors
(McGill-Queens University Press)
When Watkins died, she left behind a carefully sealed box, with instructions that it was to be opened only after her death.   It was filled with photographs, many of which are reproduced here.

Photos of dirty dishes (part of the collection) do not come off as the most interesting.   Rather, there are the straight-on photographs of men (dressed) or the women (more often not so).   The former, presumably friends and clients from New York, are warm, inviting. The shots of the women are somewhat more chilly.   The nudes are carefully framed, discrete, with a tell-tale drape to hide the obvious.

One of most interesting is shown as the cover of a book, The Art of the Body: Rhythmic Exercises for Health and Beauty. The book was published by Harcourt Brace in 1931.

It carried over forty illustrations of the author, Marguerite Agnielm. The editors tell us that it is "an odd mixture of moralistic monitoring, efficiency management, cosmetic advice, and spiritual guide."   There is a well-oiled lady on the cover. We aren't told if it was composed by Watkins or not.    Whatever it may be, it's a doozy: an excellent example of Early Depression Neo-Classic Quasi-Erotology.

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And don't miss the best of
them all, tucked inside
The Walls of Delhi.