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Prof. Boerner's Explorations

Thoughts and Essays that explore the world of Technology, Computers, Photography, History and Family.

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Archive for November 27th, 2009
by Gerald Boerner

  

“Photography helps people to see.”
— Berenice Abbott

“The camera is no more an instrument of preservation, the image is.”
— Berenice Abbott

“I didn’t decide to be a photographer; I just happened to fall into it.”
— Berenice Abbott

“Photography can never grow up if it imitates some other medium. It has to walk alone; it has to be itself.”
— Berenice Abbott

“Photography can only represent the present. Once photographed, the subject becomes part of the past.”
— Berenice Abbott

“Photography can never grow up if it imitates some other medium. It has to walk alone; it has to be itself.”
— Berenice Abbott

“The challenge for me has first been to see things as they are, whether a portrait, a city street, or a bouncing ball. In a word, I have tried to be objective.”
— Berenice Abbott

“There are many teachers who could ruin you. Before you know it you could be a pale copy of this teacher or that teacher. You have to evolve on your own.”
— Berenice Abbott

“There are many teachers who could ruin you. Before you know it you could be a pale copy of this teacher or that teacher. You have to evolve on your own.”
— Berenice Abbott

“Does not the very word ‘creative’ mean to build, to initiate, to give out, to act – rather than to be acted upon, to be subjective? Living photography is positive in its approach, it sings a song of life – not death.”
— Berenice Abbott

“I agree that all good photographs are documents, but I also know that all documents are certainly not good photographs. Furthermore, a good photographer does not merely document, he probes the subject, he ‘uncovers’ it …”
— Berenice Abbott

“I wanted to combine science and photography in a sensible, unemotional way. Some people’s ideas of scientific photography is just arty design, something pretty. That was not the idea. The idea was to interpret science sensibly, with good proportion, good balance and good lighting, so we could understand it.”
— Berenice Abbott

“Let us first say what photography is not. A photograph is not a painting, a poem, a symphony, a dance. It is not just a pretty picture, not an exercise in contortionist techniques and sheer print quality. It is or should be a significant document, a penetrating statement, which can be described in a very simple term – selectivity.”
— Berenice Abbott

  

Berenice Abbott (1898 – 1991)

Berenice_Abbott Berenice Abbott born Bernice Abbott, was an American photographer best known for her black-and-white photography of New York City architecture and urban design of the 1930s.

Europe: Photography and poetry

Abbott went to Europe in 1921, spending two years studying sculpture in Paris and Berlin. During this time, she adopted the French spelling of her first name, "Berenice," at the suggestion of Djuna Barnes. In addition to her work in the visual arts, Abbott published poetry in the experimental literary journal transition.

Abbott_manray Abbott first became involved with photography in 1923, when Man Ray, looking for somebody who knew nothing about photography and thus would do as he said, hired her as a darkroom assistant at his portrait studio in Montparnasse. Later she would write: "I took to photography like a duck to water. I never wanted to do anything else." Ray was impressed by her darkroom work and allowed her to use his studio to take her own photographs. In 1926, she had her first solo exhibition (in the gallery "Au Sacre du Printemps") and started her own studio on the rue du Bac. After a short time studying photography in Berlin, she returned to Paris in 1927 and started a second studio, on the rue Servandoni.

Abbott_broadwayAbbott’s subjects were people in the artistic and literary worlds, including French nationals (Jean Cocteau), expatriates (James Joyce), and others just passing through the city. According to Sylvia Beach, "To be ‘done’ by Man Ray or Berenice Abbott meant you rated as somebody". Abbott’s work was exhibited with that of Man Ray, André Kertész, and others in Paris, in the "Salon de l’Escalier" (more formally, the Premier Salon Indépendant de la Photographie), and on the staircase of the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. Her portraiture was unusual within exhibitions of modernist photography held in 1928–9 in Brussels and Germany.

Abbott_elIn 1925, Man Ray introduced her to Eugène Atget’s photographs. She became a great admirer of Atget’s work, and managed to persuade him to sit for a portrait in 1927. He died shortly thereafter. While the government acquired much of Atget’s archive — Atget had sold 2,621 negatives in 1920, and his friend and executor André Calmettes sold 2,000 more immediately after his death — Abbott was able to buy the remainder in June 1928, and quickly started work on its promotion. An early tangible result was the 1930 book Atget, photographe de Paris, in which she is described as photo editor. Abbott’s work on Atget’s behalf would continue until her sale of the archive to the Museum of Modern Art in 1968. In addition to her book The World of Atget (1964), she provided the photographs for A Vision of Paris (1963), published a portfolio, Twenty Photographs, and wrote essays. Her sustained efforts helped Atget gain international recognition.

Changing New York

View camera In early 1929, Abbott visited New York City ostensibly to find an American publisher for Atget’s photographs. Upon seeing the city again, however, Abbott immediately saw the photographic potential of the city. Accordingly, she went back to Paris, closed up her studio, and returned to New York in September. Her first photographs of the city were taken with a hand-held Kurt-Bentzin camera, but soon she acquired a Century Universal camera which produced 8 x 10 inch negatives. Using this large format camera, Abbott photographed New York City with the diligence and attention to detail she had so admired in Eugène Atget. Her work has provided a historical chronicle of many now-destroyed buildings and neighborhoods of Manhattan.

Abbott_night-view-1932 Abbott worked on her New York project independently for six years, unable to get financial support from organizations (such as the Museum of the City of New York), foundations (such as the Guggenheim Foundation), or even individuals. She supported herself with commercial work and teaching at the New School of Social Research beginning in 1933. In 1935, however, Abbott was hired by the Federal Art Project (FAP) as a project supervisor for her "Changing New York" project. She continued to take the photographs of the city, but she had assistants to help her both in the field and in the office. This arrangement allowed Abbott to devote all her time to producing, printing, and exhibiting her photographs. By the time she resigned from the FAP in 1939, she had produced 305 photographs that were then deposited at the Museum of the City of New York.

Abbott_james joyce Abbott’s project was primarily a sociological study imbedded within modernist aesthetic practices. She sought to create a broadly inclusive collection of photographs that together suggest a vital interaction between three aspects of urban life: the diverse people of the city; the places they live, work and play; and their daily activities. It was intended to empower people by making them realize that their environment was a consequence of their collective behavior (and vice versa). Moreover, she avoided the merely pretty in favor of what she described as "fantastic" contrasts between the old and the new, and chose her camera angles and lenses to create compositions that either stabilized a subject (if she approved of it), or destabilized it (if she scorned it).

Abbott_tenements Abbott’s ideas about New York were highly influenced by Lewis Mumford’s historical writings from the early 1930s, which divided American history into a series of technological eras. Abbott, like Mumford, was particularly critical of America’s "paleotechnic era," which, as he described it, emerged at end of the Civil War. Like Mumford, Abbott was hopeful that, through urban planning efforts (aided by her photographs), Americans would be able to wrest control their cities from paleotechnic forces, and bring about what Mumford described as a more humane and human-scaled, "neotechnic era." Abbott’s agreement with Mumford can be seen especially in the ways that she photographed buildings that had been constructed in the paleotechnic era–before the advent of urban planning. Most often, buildings from this era appear in Abbott’s photographs in compositions that made them look downright menacing.

In 1935 Abbott moved into a Greenwich Village loft with the art critic Elizabeth McCausland, with whom she lived until McCausland’s death in 1965. McCausland was an ardent supporter of Abbott, writing several articles for the Springfield Daily Republican, as well as for Trend and New Masses (the latter under the pseudonym Elizabeth Noble). In addition, McCausland contributed the captions for the book of Abbott’s photographs entitled Changing New York which was published in 1939.

Approach to photography

Abbott_rockefeller Abbott was part of the straight photography movement, which stressed the importance of photographs being unmanipulated in both subject matter and developing processes. She also disliked the work of pictorialists such as Alfred Stieglitz, who had gained much popularity during a substantial span of her own career, and therefore left her work without support from this particular school of photographers.

Throughout her career, Abbott’s photography was very much a display of the rise in development in technology and society. Her works documented and praised the New York landscape. This was all guided by her belief that a modern day invention such as the camera deserved to document the 20th century.

Scientific Work

Abbott_The Pendulum detail After spending ten years to make more than 300 pictures of New York City, Berenice Abbott turned to science. She knocked on the doors of scientists, telling them, "You scientists are the worst photographers in the world and you need the best photographers in the world and I’m the one to do it." (Kay Weaver and Martha Wheelock, Berenice Abbott, A View of the 20th Century, Ishtar Films, 1992) She invented what she needed as she worked, developing cameras and equipment like specialized tripods as well as techniques. After the Russian space capsule Sputnik was launched in 1957, people became more interested in science and scientists started listening to Berenice Abbott. This picture illustrating a pendulum appeared in The Attractive Universe: Gravity and the Shape of Space, a book about physics published in 1969.

Abbott cropped the photo to give it long, slender edges that complement the hanging ball. Determined to prove that a photograph could document scientific fact as well as communicate the beauty of science, she wrote, "The scientific photographs had to be carefully composed, but they couldnt look that way. I didnt want the composition to be so obvious as to take over . . . when you look at a photograph and all you can see is the composition then you know it is a big flop." (Hank O’Neal, Berenice Abbott American Photographer, 1982)

Abbott_Beams of Light through Glass Berenice Abbott’s attraction to facts and information in all of their glory, as well as her interest in the science of photography, made the subject of science a natural choice. According to Abbott, photography was "the medium preeminently qualified to unite art with science. Photography was born in the years which ushered in the scientific age, an offspring of both science and art." (Art in America, Winter 1959) For her Beams of Light Through Glass photograph, she explained:

Multiple beams of light from a source change direction when they go into a glass plate and when they emerge. Some waves are reflected inside the glass and then escape. The prism photograph was done very carefully. The prism was filled with water and not one drop of air was inside. The box that held the light source was specially designed and purposely looks as it does to make for a better composition.
Berenice Abbott American Photographer, 1982

  

Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Berenice Abbott that can be found at…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berenice_Abbott

Also see…

Masters of Photography: Berenice Abbott
http://www.masters-of-photography.com/A/abbott/abbott.html

Get the Picture: Berenice Abbott
http://www.artsmia.org/get-the-picture/print/abbott.shtml

by Gerald Boerner

  

“The only gift is a portion of thyself.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Don’t blow it – good planets are hard to find.”
— Quoted in Time

“Oh, for the good old days when people would stop Christmas shopping when they ran out of money.”
— Author Unknown

“The Christmas season has come to mean the period when the public plays Santa Claus to the merchants.”
— John Andrew Holmes

“Advertising may be described as the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it.”
— Stephen Butler Leacock

“Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realise we cannot eat money.”
— Cree Indian Proverb

“Christmas is the season when you buy this year’s gifts with next year’s money.”
— Author Unknown

“But it is a cold, lifeless business when you go to the shops to buy something, which does not represent your life and talent, but a goldsmith’s.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

“If instead of a gem, or even a flower, we should cast the gift of a loving thought into the heart of a friend, that would be giving as the angels give.”
— George MacDonald

  

Black Friday: The Shopping Frenzy

black.friday.holidaze.2008 Black Friday is the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the United States, which is the beginning of the traditional Christmas shopping season. The term dates back to at least 1966, although its usage was primarily on the East coast. The term has become more common in other parts of the country since 2000. Because Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday in November in the United States, Black Friday occurs between the 23rd and the 29th of November.

Black Friday is not an official holiday, but many employees have the day off (with the exceptions of those employed in retailing, health care, and banking), which increases the number of potential shoppers. Retailers often decorate for the Christmas and holiday season weeks beforehand. Many retailers open extremely early, with most of the retailers typically opening at 5AM or even earlier. Some of the larger retailers (depending on the location) such as Sears, Best Buy, Macy’s, Toys "R" Us, and Walmart have been reported to open as early as midnight on the start of Black Friday in localized areas and remain open for 24 hours throughout the day until midnight the following Saturday. Upon opening, retailers offer doorbuster deals and loss leaders to draw people to their stores. Although Black Friday, as the first shopping day after Thanksgiving, has served as the unofficial beginning of the Christmas season at least since the start of the modern Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1924, the term "Black Friday" has been traced back only to the 1960s.

The term "Black Friday" originated in Philadelphia in reference to the heavy traffic on that day. More recently, merchants and the media have used it instead to refer to the beginning of the period in which retailers go from being in the red (i.e., posting a loss on the books) to being in the black (i.e., turning a profit).

Origin of the name "Black Friday"

black_friday_08Black Friday as a term has been used in multiple contexts, going back to the nineteenth century, where it was associated with a financial crisis in 1869. The earliest uses of "Black Friday" to mean the day close to Thanksgiving come from or reference Philadelphia and refer to the heavy traffic on that day. The earliest known reference to "Black Friday" (in this sense), found by Bonnie Taylor-Blake of the American Dialect Society, refers to Black Friday 1965 and makes the Philadelphia origin explicit:

JANUARY 1966 — "Black Friday" is the name which the Philadelphia Police Department has given to the Friday following Thanksgiving Day. It is not a term of endearment to them. "Black Friday" officially opens the Christmas shopping season in center city, and it usually brings massive traffic jams and over-crowded sidewalks as the downtown stores are mobbed from opening to closing.

black_friday_03The term Black Friday began to get wider exposure around 1975, as shown by two newspaper articles from November 29, 1975, both datelined Philadelphia. The first reference is in an article entitled "Army vs. Navy: A Dimming Splendor," in The New York Times:

Philadelphia police and bus drivers call it "Black Friday" – that day each year between Thanksgiving Day and the Army–Navy Game. It is the busiest shopping and traffic day of the year in the Bicentennial City as the Christmas list is checked off and the Eastern college football season nears conclusion.

The derivation is also clear in an Associated Press article entitled "Folks on Buying Spree Despite Down Economy," which ran in the Titusville Herald on the same day:

Store aisles were jammed. Escalators were nonstop people. It was the first day of the Christmas shopping season and despite the economy, folks here went on a buying spree. … "That’s why the bus drivers and cab drivers call today ‘Black Friday,’" a sales manager at Gimbels said as she watched a traffic cop trying to control a crowd of jaywalkers. "They think in terms of headaches it gives them."

Usage of the term has become more popular in the Midwest since 2000.

Shopping

black_friday_13 The news media frequently refers to Black Friday as the busiest retail shopping day of the year, but this is not always accurate. While it has been one of the busiest days in terms of customer traffic, in terms of actual sales volume, from 1993 through 2001 Black Friday was usually the fifth to tenth busiest day. In 2002 and 2004, however, Black Friday ranked second place, and in 2003 and 2005, Black Friday actually did reach first place. The busiest retail shopping day of the year in the United States (in terms of both sales and customer traffic) usually has been the Saturday before Christmas.

black-friday-linesIn many cities it is not uncommon to see shoppers lined up for hours before stores with big sales open. Once inside the stores, shoppers often rush and grab, as many stores have only a few of the big-draw items. On occasion, injuries and even fatalities are reported. On Friday, November 28, 2008, Jdimytai Damour, a worker at a Wal-Mart in Valley Stream, New York was trampled to death by shoppers who broke through the store’s glass doors minutes before the store’s scheduled opening at 5:00 a.m.; a pregnant mother was hospitalized from injuries in the same human "stampede", though early reports of a resultant miscarriage were determined to be in error. On that same day, two people in Palm Desert, California were shot and killed in a Toys R Us store during an argument

black-friday-300x232 Electronics and popular toys are often the most sought-after items and may be sharply discounted. Because of the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, many choose to stay home and avoid the hectic shopping experience. The local media often will cover the event, mentioning how early the shoppers began lining up at various stores and providing video of the shoppers standing in line and later leaving with their purchased items. Traditionally Black Friday sales were intended for those shopping for Christmas gifts. For some particularly popular items, some people shop at these sales in order to get deep discounts on items they can then resell, typically online.

In an attempt to draw attention to the negatives associated with a consumerist lifestyle, this day has also been used for activities such as Buy Nothing Day.

Cyber Monday

The term Cyber Monday, a neologism invented by the National Retail Federation’s Shop.org division, refers to the Monday immediately following Black Friday, which unofficially marks the beginning of the Christmas online shopping season.

black_friday_05 In recent years, Cyber Monday has become a busy day for online retailers, with some sites offering low prices and other promotions on that day. Like Black Friday, Cyber Monday is often wrongly said to be the busiest shopping day of the year for online shoppers, though in reality several days later in the holiday shopping season are busier.

Earlier in the 2000s the day had more significance (though it was not named as such until 2005) as most people did not have broadband connections at home and presumably used the first day back at work from the long Thanksgiving weekend to take advantage of such connections in the office to do online shopping. In response, many retailers now encourage people to do their online shopping at home on Thanksgiving Day itself by offering their Black Friday sales online that day.

  

Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Black Friday that can be found at…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Friday_%28shopping%29

by Gerald Boerner

  

“On Thanksgiving Day we acknowledge our dependence.”
— William Jennings Bryant

“Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.”
— W. T. Purkiser

“True thanksgiving means that we need to thank God for what He has done for us, and not to tell Him what we have done for Him.”
— George R. Hendrik

“Thanksgiving is nothing if not a glad and reverent lifting of the heart to God in honor and praise for His goodness.”
— Robert Casper Lintner

“I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and new.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Thanksgiving Day is a jewel, to set in the hearts of honest men; but be careful that you do not take the day, and leave out the gratitude.”
— E. P. Powell

“The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.”
— H. U. Westermayer

The Pilgrim’s First Thanksgiving

Plymouth Colony (sometimes New Plymouth) was an English colonial venture in North America from 1620 to 1691. The first settlement was at New Plymouth, a location previously surveyed and named by Captain John Smith. The settlement, which served as the capital of the colony, is today the modern town of Plymouth, Massachusetts. At its height, Plymouth Colony occupied most of the southeastern portion of the modern state of Massachusetts.

Founded by a group including separatists who later came to be known as the Pilgrim Fathers, Plymouth Colony was, along with Jamestown, Virginia, one of the earliest successful colonies to be founded by the English in North America and the first sizable permanent English settlement in the New England region. Aided by Squanto, a Native American of the Patuxet people, the colony was able to establish a treaty with Chief Massasoit which helped to ensure the colony’s success. The colony played a central role in King Philip’s War, one of the earliest and bloodiest of the Indian Wars. Ultimately, the colony was annexed by the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1691.

Despite the colony’s relatively short history, Plymouth holds a special role in American history. Rather than being entrepreneurs like many of the settlers of Jamestown, the citizens of Plymouth were fleeing religious persecution and searching for a place to worship as they saw fit. The social and legal systems of the colony became closely tied to their religious beliefs, as well as English custom. Many of the people and events surrounding Plymouth Colony have become part of American folklore, including the North American tradition known as Thanksgiving and the monument known as Plymouth Rock.

“First Thanksgiving”

Thanksgiving-Brownscombe “The First Thanksgiving at
Plymouth” (1914) By
Jennie A. Brownscombe

The autumn celebration in late 1621 that has become known as “The First Thanksgiving” was not known as such to the Pilgrims. The Pilgrims did recognize a celebration known as a “Thanksgiving”, which was a solemn ceremony of praise and thanks to God for a congregation’s good fortune. The first such Thanksgiving as the Pilgrims would have called it did not occur until 1623, in response to the good news of the arrival of additional colonists and supplies. That event probably occurred in July and consisted of a full day of prayer and worship and probably very little revelry.

The event now commemorated by the United States at the end of November each year is more properly termed a “harvest festival”. The festival was probably held in early October 1621 and was celebrated by the 53 surviving Pilgrims, along with Massasoit and 90 of his men. Three contemporary accounts of the event survive: Of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford; Mourt’s Relation probably written by Edward Winslow; and New England’s Memorial penned by Plymouth Colony Secretary – and Bradford’s nephew – Capt. Nathaniel Morton. The celebration lasted three days and featured a feast that included numerous types of waterfowl, wild turkeys and fish procured by the colonists, and five deer brought by the Native Americans.

Eyewitness Account

Edward Winslow, one of the Pilgrims, left us the only other eyewitness account of the harvest feast in a letter he wrote on December 11, 1621. Though sparse in description, it conveys some sense of joy and gratitude that must have marked the occasion:

Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the company almost a week, at which time amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest of their greatest king Massaoit, with some ninety men, who for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and dilled five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.

  

Other Events on this Day
  • In 1806…
    President Jefferson warns citizens of a conspiracy to make the western frontier a separate nation, a scheme that allegedly involves Aaron Burr.
  • In 1834…
    Thomas Davenport, a Vermont blacksmith, invents the electric motor.
  • In 1924…
    The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is held in New York City.
  • In 2003…
    President George W. Bush spends Thanksgiving with the troops fighting in Iraq.

Dates and events based on:

William J. Bennett and John Cribb, (2008) The American Patriot’s Almanac Daily Readings on America. (Kindle Edition)

Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Pilgrim’s First Thanksgiving that can be found at…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Alfred