Category Archives: Travel

Laila Ali: The White House Gate

Photo: Rosalind Solomon. The White House Gate.

 

Report by Laila Ali, Copyright 2012

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An Exploration: The White House Gate

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In this photograph report, I plan to examine a piece called the White House Gate created by Rosalind Solomon. I will start with the biography of the photographer, Rosalind Solomon. After, I will explain how print quality, print materials, and print size impacts the image of The White House Gates image. Then I will claim that The White House Gate image is best categorized as its dominant formal characteristics as defined in John Szarkowski’s book: The Photographer’s Eye the detail. Lastly, I will conclude with how the other components Szarkowski mentioned will shape the photograph. 

Rosalind Solomon: Biographical and Historical Context

Rosalind Fox Solomon was born on April 2 in 1930, at Highland Park, Illinois. She is an American artist, established in New York City, known for her portraits and connections to human suffering, ritual, and survival. Solomon attended Highland Park High School and graduated in 1947. She then attended Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 1951. Then, Solomon got married and moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee. She then later divorced 63 years later after having two children. In 1968, Solomon began her photography work. She occasionally studied with Lisette Model, whose an Austrian-born American photographer primarily known for her frank humanism on her street photography from 1971 to 1977.  

Before Solomon started to get into photography, she became the Southern Regional Director of the Experiment in International Living. She visited communities throughout the Southern United States, where she recruited families to host international guests to build on cross-culture in a personal way. Through her volunteer work with the Experiment in International Living, Solomon got the opportunity to travel to Japan, where Solomon stayed with a family near Tokyo. Later, when Solomon was 38 years old, she began to use an Instamatic camera to convey her feelings and ideas, which was a turning point in her career and life experience in photography. 

In 1977 and 1978, Solomon moved to Washington where she photographed artists and politicians for her project series “Outside the White House”. Within this series, she photographed “The White House Gate”, the one I will later be exploring. This project lasted for about two years. Later on, in 1978, John Szarkowski included her work in the exhibition Mirrors and Windows at the Museum of Modern Art and presented examples from her Dolls and Mannequins series in the show. The use of dolls, children, and mannequins was some of the items she used as her subject. Also, Szarkowski selected 50 of her pictures to be part of the MoMA’s permanent collection. Her pictures appeared over the years in many different group exhibitions at the MoMA such as American Children, American Politicians, Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography, and The Original Copy: Sculpture in Photography 1839. Recently, the MoMA included her work in the anthology Photography at MoMA: 1960—Now, and curator, Peter Eleey, even dedicated a room to present her art pieces at MoMA PS1 in the Greater New York 2015 exhibition. Ultimately, this led to the rise of her as a photographer and the beginning of her work internationally like Peru, India, Germany, Zimbabwe, South Africa, etc.

Overall, Solomon’s work circulates between the personal and the universe as a whole. Her expertise is in her interpretation skill and the ability to take a snapshot of both social elements of the places she travels. In 2019, her artwork was recognized by receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Center for Photography. Over the past 45 years, Solomon has created inspirational work, presented in almost 30 solo exhibitions, about 100 group exhibitions, and in the collection of over 50 museums worldwide. 

Medium and Presentation

As mentioned, Solomon worked on the “Outside the White House” series. In this series, Solomon created a piece called “The White House Gate” in 1977. The photograph is present in the Jane Lutnick Fine Arts Center at Haverford College. This image is a gelatin silver bromide print. A gelatin silver print can be sharply defined and detailed based on the light sensitivity to the silver halides. Also, this type of print can last several hundred years. The picture has a strong negative, specifically on the gate, which is probably due to the silver chloride to darken the gates and make the gate pop in the image.

The dimension of the picture is 15” x 15” (38 cm by 38 cm). The photograph is generally a regular size. But, it’s over matted with a beveled-shaped edge around the image. So it allows the viewer to focus more on the White House gate. Overall, the purchase of the photograph was through a Patrons of Art gift in May 1986.

“The Detail” in The White House Gate

In the book, the Photographer’s Eye, John Szarkowski describes an overview of the fundamental difficulties and opportunities of the photographs. In the introduction of the book, he offers a brief historical overview of photography, specifically how photography has evolved over the years and how he views it as a unique characteristic. Szarkowski begins the book by stating that “the invention of photography provided a radically new picture-making process- a process based not on synthesis but selection. The difference was a basic one. Paintings were made-constructed from a storehouse of traditional schemes and skills and attitudes-but photographs, as the man on the street put it, were taken” (1). This led to the posed question – how can the process of photography be used in creating meaningful/significant pictures and valid art? In the book, Szarkowski argues that photography has a unique place within the broader world of artistic practice. Throughout the book, Szarkowski discusses and provides exemplar photographs of characteristics of the medium that is represented as a form of art but does not define discrete categories of artwork. He states five main characteristics: the thing itself, the detail, the frame, time, and vantage point that are important for the creation of eloquent photography.

According to The Photographer’s Eye, Szarowski would say that the photograph of the White House Gate would be a picture representing “the detail”. The idea of “the detail” photography connects to depicting reality and depicting reality as it happens, in front of the photographer. The photography can not really “pose the truth”, but can capture snippets of the truth as it unfolds. So, the photographer needs to be content with representing the details of a narrative or an event, rather than trying to represent the whole thing. 

In The White House Gate image, Solomon shows us different parts of the image. In the photograph, Solomon focuses on multiple details. One detail is the picture being taken in 1977 in front of the White House Gate at Washington, District of Columbia, US. The photograph displays the northwest gate of the White House during a snowstorm. The photograph shows that it was currently snowing as it was taken. In the picture, we see snowflakes falling as well as sticking to the gate and the ground. This detail informs the viewer of the time/season it occurred, which captured a fragment in depicting reality. 

Another fragment is the tire marks on the ground. The tire marks are emphasizing that a car must have recently entire the White House before Solomon took this picture. Or Solomon could have intentionally had a car drive into the White House before she took the picture. This is another fragment that part takes in bringing the whole picture together.

Lastly, the darkness of the gate of the White House is a vital detail for the narrative. The strong negative of the photograph helps bring viewer attention to the gate and what surrounds the gate. Ultimately, through all these different elements and details, Solomon is portraying a form of a statement. 

The Thing Itself, The Frame, Time, Vantage Point

In The Photographer’s Eye, Szarkowski states that the first characteristic is the thing itself. The “thing itself” means that photography provides a representation of the real world. Photographers focus on divulging what already exists. In the White House Gate image, Rosalind Solomon emphasizes a place that already exists. Specifically,  that is very known to the US population and others around the world. But in the picture, she decided to center the image on the gate instead of the actual White House buildings itself. 

Next, the “frame” refers to the edge and the border between the elements of the real scene that the photographer decided to include, and what they decided not to include. Solomon chooses to focus the photograph on the frame, specifically on the White House gate when viewers first see the image. 

The fourth characteristic is “time” which provides the photographed location over time. Furthermore, the photographs can not directly represent the past or the future but can imply it. In The Photographer’s Eye, Szarkowski mentions two ways that time exposure produces images and insight. The first one is long time exposure and, the second one is a short time exposure. In the White House Gate image, we see time play a role with the snow falling and car tire marks in the snow. The snow informs us of what season it currently was when the picture was taken; which was winter and, the time the picture was taken it was snowing.

Finally, Szarkowski identifies the “vantage point.” The vantage point is when the photograph shows us the world from a variety of unusual angles and perspectives, which can alter our perspective of the world. Solomon portrays the image of the White House gate through a unique vantage point that can allow viewers to interpret the image in many different ways.

Sources

Biography. Rosalind Fox Solomon, Accessed March 22, 2021,  www.rosalindfoxsolomon.com/bio

Rosalind Fox Solomon. (2021, January 30). Accessed March 22, 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosalind_Fox_Solomon

White House Gate, Washington, D.C. (Getty Museum). (1977, January 01). Accessed April 04, 2021,  http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/128245/rosalind-solomon-white-house-gate-washington-dc-american-1977/

Szarkowski, John. The Photographer’s Eye. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2009. 

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About The Author: Laila Ali is a junior enrolled at Bryn Mawr College. Class of 2022.

Also posted in Affiliates, Architecture, Art, Blog, Cameras, commentary, Documentary, Film, Haverford College, History, Media, Photography, Politics, Popular Culture, Student Life

Katie Kerl: Thirty Seven – The Power of Enlightenment

 

Text by Katie Kerl, Copyright 2021

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Thirty Seven: The Power of Enlightenment

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Lying in bed recovering from a long birthday week in Miami. This year I took a different approach to the trip. I reserved two days for myself at Hotel Victor in South beach. Let me tell you what a hidden gem this 4.3 star Hotel and Spa is. I picked a pool side room that had two chaises, teak cabana out of my bedside door, and the breakfast to go with it. 

Upon arriving walking into the lobby, I immediately noticed some of the best musical talent lining the walls. Biggie Smalls, Madonna, Prince, Bob Marley, and one piece that said, “waiting for change”. That is exactly what we have been doing this year, and our entire lives. To say I was pleased was an understatement. The friendly welcoming staff was great. There were bikes to ride up and down Ocean Drive, MAC computer stations if you needed to work while there, gym, and spa.

The K’alma Spa which happens to be located on the bottom level of the hotel was quite the experience. I immediately went down to book a massage. I chose the 90-minute massage and meditation package. K’alma happened to be a crystal healing spa as well. Upon arrival you walk into a gemstone lined hallway and are asked to sit under one that spoke to you. I just so happened to choose the rose quartz which happened to mean eternal love. It purifies and opens the heart to promote healing and inner peace. I felt like I made the prefect decision. The massage melted the year filled with pandemic, cancer, and losses right off me. The meditation room and large lounge chairs and hanging bird cage seats as well.  The staff was so kind and informative. They have a second location in Chicago as well. I will absolutely be be headed back there.

I walked Ocean drive and met lots of new people who were likeminded about life. I ate at Café Americano located in the hotel. They offered 20 % off for their guests. I thought this was going to be basic being they were handing out discounts. I stood corrected; I highly suggest it with all the gimmicky spots on Ocean Drive. I had the snapper, and the whole fish the next night with complimenting blueberry lemon drops; which my waiter kept flowing. 

Joia Beach is my absolute new favorite beach club. All bamboo, rattan, live edge seating/tables lining Parrot jungle. The servers are all nice and gorgeous. The cocktails were amazing, and their happy hour is 4-6 Mon-Fri. We had the hummus and a few orders of the grilled octopus. Filled with the who’s who of Miami. Friday nights if your lucky to get a dinner table they have a DJ, fire throwers, and little boutique shops straight out of boho heaven.

We checked out Papi Steak as well. It is a part of Groot Hospitality. We had a surf and turf meal. Aged rib eye, lobster tail, branzino, truffle butter, the asparagus and mushrooms. They brought out a real gold flecked cherry cheesecake at the end that said Happy Birthday. Papi Steak also shows an Alec Monopoly piece located in the middle of the dining room; Alec is a famous graffiti artist. The restaurant Is family friendly and saw many happy kids. The cocktails were even better. While the waiters boasted double breasted jackets; the dress code vibe was Miami luxury streetstyle. I would absolutely go back there.

This really made me appreciate how far I have come this year. Everything I did by myself went seamlessly and better than my expectations. No one next to me on my flights, barley spent any money in certain places, getting let into table only events, and sliding into Dance floor at Space Park that we just so happened to be guest listed on; thanks to a friend. 

We also hit Tree House and Space Miami for Solomun. One of my favorite techno DJ’s. 

This week also happened to be one of the girls 40th as well. 

Let me tell you; life is a trip with how this week ended.

 The Airbnb they rented was made for a party house. All Miami themed rooms, outdoor graffiti art, and pool table which ended up being the DJ set up instead. 

Thirty-three people, three tables, and $9700 later Space music never disappoints.

 Although, when you find yourself at these events there is always the one completely out of control person who just never seemed to grow up mentally. Now, I’m standing there realizing this in a night club and thinking to myself, “thank you god I do not solve my problems by partying anymore.” It made a friend look so ugly to me. I had it with the weirdness and popped up on the raised area and shook it off dancing for a bit realizing I made every right decision for myself this year. A week in Miami was not going to change that. I got to see a few people I had not in years who ended up being even nicer the more I talked to them.

The last day kind of just made me feel sorry for the person who upset almost 30 people being selfish and not dealing with their real-life issues. Letting someone know their actions were inexcusable was one of the most eye opening, and sad things I have had to do in a long time. We all go though it. It is the effort it takes to put your bruised ego aside and save your friendships before you have none left. Another point I tried to make before leaving; own you mistakes to keep people in your life. 

If there is a consistency to your issues and multiple people have brought it to your attention. 

It is you, not everyone else.

When do you decide to do the work and become self-aware?  

All in all, outside of a few strange hours I had an amazing week of self-discovery. 

I am coming home for a Photo shoot for my latest interview. 

It is about empowering women entrepreneurs who are doing alternative things, while still having it all. 

I hope to do many more of these with the laundry list of things that stop women from starting. 

Crypto is up from my latest piece. I am overjoyed I took the leap and jumped in. Now I am looking into NFT’s which is art built on digital block chain on the Ethereum network. As of 3:33am march 31st Ethereum is at $1851. I also picked up cardano, polka dot, chainlink , Vechain, cosmos, and uniswap. This is by no means financial advice, but everyone needs to be waking up to the bigger picture. Financially, cultural equality, environmental changes, and the way we interact with people. 

This weekend case in point. 

We have all been through enough this year. 

It is time to take a step back and all become better in order to be happy. 

You are not finding that in a club or sitting doing the same bullshit you have been for decades. 

Once you realize your true potential and power no one can say anything to you. 

You have fuck you power. Which hopefully follows with fuck you money.

Men have been saying fuck bitches get money for decades. 

Now we are just taking your advice. 

Thanks fellas!!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Katie Kerl was raised in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania. She is currently living  in Northern Liberties, Philadelphia. Katie has a background in Psychology from Drexel University. She is a manager in the commercial/residential design field . Katie can be reached  on Instagram @kerlupwithkate 

For collaboration e-mail: Kate.kerl32@gmail.com

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Photographs of Katie Kerl by Frank Siegel, Copyright 2021

Email: fsiegel@comcast.net

Instagram: nikonfrank2807

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To access additional article by Katie Kerl, click herehttps://tonyward.com/katie-kerl-the-ascension/

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Sharon Wang: Love is a Decision

Photography by Sharon Wang, Copyright 2021

Photography and Text by Sharon Wang, Copyright 2021

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Love is a Decision

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“Ah, Moon – and Star!

You are very far – 

But were no one

Farther than you –

Do you think I’d stop

For a firmament

Or a Cubit – or so?”

The decision to love is never an easy one to make. It is a mutual commitment from each person that chooses to be in love. The story in this series exhibits a girl who is deeply in love. The setting is my room, where all my emotions are witnessed. 

Just by looking at the Polaroids on the wall saturates the room with the smell of sweets, the sound of laughter and the sensation of rising adrenaline. Love offers us the highest highs and it is the energy that gets people through the tedious work. It is the happy annoyance of choosing what to wear for a date. However, love is also a poison.

There is no way for two individuals to share the completely same emotions, and that is when miscommunication and disconnection comes into play. The sadness and disappointment that accompanies the fact that some of our love is not being echoed compels the individual to do silly things — like talking to stuffed animals, wondering what they are thinking, or using substances. Love sometimes loops us into despair. However, the only antidote of love is love itself. It is a touch, a kiss and being in the vicinity of the person on your mind.

After all, love is a decision that we make. It is a fancy trap that lures everyone that falls for it to enter the swirl of every possible feeling, but hey, it is love.

“But, Moon, and Star,

Though you’re very far –

There is one – farther than you – 

He – is more than firmament – from Me – 

So I can never go!”

— Poem by Emily Dickson, #240

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About The Author:  Sharon Wang is a sophomore enrolled at Haverford College, Haverford, Pa.

 

Also posted in Art, Blog, Cameras, Current Events, Environment, Erotica, Film, Haverford College, Health Care, lifestyle, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Student Life, Video, Women

An Exploration: Alabama Tenant Farmer’s Wife (Allie MaeBurroughs)

Photo: Walker Evans

 

Text by Aaron Graybill, Copyright 2021

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An Exploration: Alabama Tenant Farmer’s Wife (Allie MaeBurroughs)

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This report will explore one of Walker Evans’s most famous works, Alabama Tenant Farmer’s Wife (Allie Mae Burroughs) through historical and analytical lenses to uncover why the photograph is so powerful and timeless. I will begin with a brief biographical sketch of Walker Evans and the historical context behind Allie Mae Burroughs. Next, I will discuss how the medium and presentation of the photograph affect its impression on the viewer. I will then argue that this photograph is best viewed through the lens of “detail” as defined in John Szarkowski’s The Photographer’s Eye. Finally, I will then discuss how the other four lenses in The Photographer’s Eye come together to make this photograph as significant and emotive as it is.

Walker Evans: Biographical and Historical Context

Walker Evans was able to fuse the realism and rawness of the American experience with sophisticated and thoughtful photographic techniques that let the meaning of the images shine through. Walker was born in Saint Louis in 1903 and was interested in art in multiple forms for his entire life. Eventually, Evans turned to photography and found success working with the Resettlement Administration (RA)/Farm Security Administration (FSA). But to understand the significance of this work, it is important to first discuss why a government agency hired Walker Evans to document rural American lives.

The Great Depression left rural farmers particularly vulnerable, and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration sought to relocate farmers to areas where they could be more productive (which helped both the farmers and the economy at large). To incentivize these moves, the Resettlement Administration and later the Farm Security Administration hired photographers like Walker Evans, Dortohea Lange, and Marion Post Walcott to highlight the opportunities that were available to those who chose to move. Whether or not Evans and others followed the wishes of the RA/FSA, is dubious, nevertheless the situations the FSA contracts provided Evans were unique and historically important giving rise to Allie Mae Burroughs and other photographs like it.

A final note about the subject of the photograph. Allie Mae Burroughs was the wife of a tenant farmer. A tenant farmer, for context, was a farmer who farmed rented land and left some of the profits for the landlord. These farmers faced the challenge of not having property to fall back on during the Great Depression, so they were targeted by the RA/FSA because they were hit harder than most during the Great Depression.

Medium and Presentation

The photograph as displayed in the Lutnick fine arts center at Haverford College is a gelatin silver print that is 9.1”x7.1”. The gelatin silver print offers the print longevity and adequate gloss to accentuate the lowlights in the print. This medium is important because the texture on the background wall and patterns in the subject’s shirt benefit from the additional pop that the glossy gelatin provides. The print is also over matted with a beveled edge on the window which subtly draws the viewer’s eye in towards the subject while the large over mat gives the viewer plenty of space to see the print in isolation. The size of the print is worth noting as well. 9.1”x7.1” is not particularly large but still leaves enough room for the background to be seen in isolation. Additionally, the size is not so large that the totality of the image is hard to view.

The final component of the medium and presentation is the quality of the print itself. The print has strong contrast without making the subject or background seem unnatural. Without access to the negative, it is hard to say how the qualities of the print were achieved. However, the print may be burned in some areas (particularly around the subject) to make the subject stand out from the wall behind her.

“The Detail” in Alabama Tenant Farmer’s Wife

In John Szarkowski’s The Photographers Eye, he acknowledges that the photographer is limited in ways that other artists are not. Photographers are restricted to represent what they see, not what they wish to see. Sometimes, the setting that the photographer finds themselves in is scattered and inconsistent. The photographer is a curator and must decide which elements of the setting are worth including in the frame and which are not. Szarkowski writes about the photographer: “From reality before him he could only choose the part that seemed relevant or consistent, and that would fill his plate” (Szarkowski 2009, 42). Working for the FSA documenting the entirety of the American experience, “the detail” is immensely important. The world that Evans documented was inconsistent and fragmented, so selecting the parts that held together made for powerful photographs.

Alabama Tenant Farmer’s Wife provides little in the way of context which is why it is well suited to be analyzed through “the detail”. The subject is dressed plainly and is photographed directly against a wooden wall. The photograph does not provide any recognizable information about where the photograph was taken geographically. Furthermore, it does not provide any information about where the photograph was taken even on a local scale. The subject’s proximity to their background makes it unclear whether or not the subject is photographed at their place of residence, work (which was likely the same for a farmer), or worship. This creates an ambiguity in the image that allows the viewer to analyze the nuances of the subject and the background without analyzing its political and social contexts. However, the ambiguity creates universality and relatability. The background could be at anyone’s house and the enigmatic expression on the subject makes the photo both universal and timeless. The Met Museum describes the subject’s expression as having the “psychological ambiguity of a Mona Lisa” ( Metropolitan Museum of Art). In addition, the subject’s hair is somewhat unkempt, which heightens the organicness and relatability of the photograph.

Another component that heightens the effect of “the detail” in this shot is the use of depth of field. Both the subject and the background are in focus which allows all of the areas of the image to be viewed in isolation. The depth of field brings out the subtleties in the texture of the wood and the subject’s clothes. The viewer’s eye is not forced to a certain in-focus area and can peruse the details of the image at its own pace.

All of these components come together to make the image an experience that is meant to be felt, not dissected and make “the detail” the dominant characteristic of this photograph.

Szarkowski’s Other Four Characteristics

Now I will more briefly discuss how the other characteristics in The Photographer’s Eye can be applied to this photograph for a richer understanding of its impact. First and foremost is “the thing itself” which Szarkowski describes as the relationship between that which is actual and seen versus that which is captured in the photograph. The photographer must filter out certain things and accept that certain potentially unwanted things might be in the frame to capture other elements. Walker Evans, as previously mentioned keeps the subject close to his background leaving little room for external distractions in the image. Yet in the image, Walker is also forced to tell only one piece of the subject’s life. The subject is expression, physique, and clothing are what we have to go on, so Walker’s selection of this print must encapsulate some meaningful component of the subject’s life.

We already discussed “the detail”, so the next topic is “the frame.” The frame of this image does not draw too much attention to itself and the way the shot is laid out seems to suggest that the wooden wall continues for many feet in all directions outside of the frame’s boundary. I believe that this has the effect of making the subject feel like a small part of the scene and the world as a whole. However, the crisp portraiture allows for the details in the subject to show while using the frame to accentuate that there is nuance even in the unseen.

Szarkowski’s fourth category is “time” which I think is quite present in this photograph, albeit not in the usual way. Usually, images evoking a sense of time use movement and blur to show evolution over time. This image takes almost the opposite approach. Even without close inspection, this feels like an image from the Great Depression. The image captures a moment in time felt by all Americans, instead of the movement of one. In many ways, the Great Depression was a period where time stood still, and this moment, frozen in time captures that feeling in an ineffable way.

Finally, Szarkowski discusses “vantage point”. Usually, this is taken quite literally, as in when a photographer takes a picture from a physical place that is outside of the usual context we view the world. Vantage point manifests itself in two ways for me in this image. First, the RA/FSA put Walker Evans into situations where he was essentially foreign and saw the world from a very different perspective to those who lived there. This gave Walker Evans a unique vantage point for each of the photographs he took, even when shooting unadorned portraiture.

The other component of vantage point that I see is even more general. Walker Evans’s body of work for the RA/FSA gave other Americans a vantage point into the diversity of experience that their country held and still holds. The modern accessibility of photography both amateur and professional understates the power that Evans’s work held when it was first released. These photographs were some people’s only contact with rural America. His work captured a fleeting moment in time still sends a powerful message even 80 years on.

Citations:

Szarkowski, John, “The Photographer’s Eye,” The Museum of Modern Art, 2009

Wikipedia contributors, “Resettlement Administration,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,

https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Resettlement_Administration&oldid=101005462 4 (accessed March 20, 2021).

Author unknown, “Walker Evans (1903–1975),” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/evan/hd_evan.htm (accessed March 20, 2021).

Author unknown, “Alabama Tenant Farmer Wife,” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/284685 (accessed March 20, 2021).

Wikipedia contributors, “Farm Security Administration,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,

https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Farm_Security_Administration&oldid=10044463 12 (accessed March 20, 2021).

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About The Author: Aaron Graybill is a junior enrolled at Haverford College, Haverford, Pennsylvania. Majoring in Economics.

Also posted in Affiliates, Art, Blog, Cameras, commentary, Documentary, Environment, Film, Haverford College, History, lifestyle, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Student Life, Women

Bob Shell: Cosmic Dance

Bob Shell: Cosmic Dance

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2021

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Cosmic Dance

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The great writer John Steinbeck wrote, “To my certain knowledge, many people conceal experiences for fear of ridicule. How many people have heard or felt something that so outraged their sense of what should be that the whole thing was brushed quickly away, like dirt under a rug?” Steinbeck intuitively knew that the universe is far stranger than the average person realizes, as did Charles Fort before him, and that many strange events happen in this world of ours. They shouldn’t frighten informed people the way they would have in the past. 

That fine Welsh writer Arthur Machen had an otherworldly experience that profoundly changed him, and incorporated that magic in his works, particularly in his last novel ‘The Green Round.’ 

But still, the average person today lives mentally in a Newtonian universe, while the reality is that the universe is strongly non-Newtonian. Our whole society is structured on an antiquated, Newtonian notion of how things work. Our sciences, aside from physics, operate on strongly Newtonian ideas, particularly medicine and biology. This is not just wrong, it is profoundly dangerous. 

A person today may realize that solid matter is an illusion, hiding the quantum dance of uncertainty, at an intellectual level, but in day to day life treats ‘solid’ matter as something to knock up against. The eastern mystics long ago realized the truth, that what we perceive with our multiple senses is an illusion – Maya – not reality, and worked on ways to pierce the veil and perceive the cosmic dance as it really is. 

Western science denied this truth until Einstein, Bohr, Schrodinger, Planck and others saw glimpses of the other, hidden reality, and laid the foundations of quantum mechanics, how the Universe really works. It is no accident that many of them looked to eastern mysticism for answers. 

The door into this strange, wonderful, and sometimes frightening, reality was first opened for me by my old friend Robert Anton Wilson, in my opinion one of the most profound thinkers of the 20th Century. RAW, as I call him in shorthand, understood quantum reality in an intuitive, magical way, and incorporated that understanding in his writings. In a virtual way, he took my hand and led me through that door, approaching and reaching that brave new world through humor. As he said, “The music of the spheres contains a loony laugh.” 

My little book COSMIC DANCE is, in many ways, a tribute to RAW, and my attempt to carry forward his work that was cut short by his untimely death. 

I’ve done my best to live in the real world, the magical world of quantum physics, which seems so counterintuitive and illogical to our normal ways of thinking. But this is how things really work. Much of our advanced technology only works because quantum physics is the way the Universe works behind the veil. The quantum computers now being developed will change science in radical ways. 

I firmly believe that human progress will depend on each of us coming to grips with quantum reality and changing our thought processes to admit the Magic of quantum reality. It’s fast approaching, whether we’re ready or not. Elon Musk and other advanced thinkers are warning us of the dire consequences of not being on board the quantum train.

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About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models.  He is serving the 13th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read Bob Shell’s, first essay on civil war, click here: https://tonyward.com/bob-shell-in-praise-of-reality/

Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on Amazon.com . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on Amazon.com.

Also posted in Blog, commentary, Engineering, Friends of TWS, History, Popular Culture, Science