Thursday, September 29, 2011

Arthur Rothstein Photograph Collection To Be Auctioned By Doyle New York In October

Note:  Coming across this press release from Doyle New York yesterday, I felt compelled to share it.  I first "consciously" discovered Arthur Rothstein's photographs over the last couple of years on  Tom Clark's Beyond The Pale blog, which has featured a remarkable history of the Great Depression literally seen through the lenses of the great photographers who were employed by various federal agencies during the period and charged with recording contemporary American history. 

I say "consciously"  discovered because, like many of these photographers, one couldn't grow up during the later 20th century in the United States without having seen a good deal of Rothstein's photojournalism.  I will try to attend the auction.  The prices look to be within reach of interested collectors and very modest for works of this quality and provenance.

Arthur Rothstein at work


Doyle New York to auction the Arthur Rothstein Photograph Collection on Thursday, October 13, 2011 at 10am. The auction offers almost two thousand prints, vintage through 1980s, from the collection of his wife, Grace Rothstein. The images span Rothstein's long career as an award-winning photojournalist, and feature iconic Depression-era images including his iconic Dust storm, Cimarron County, Oklahoma; as well as photographs of African-Americans in the rural South, England after the Blitz, Jewish refugees in Shangai, and stark images of rural China.

The Tennessee Valley Authority brings power to the South, Alabama, 1942


        Arthur Rothstein was born in New York City in 1915 and became one of the most prolific and influential photographers of the 20th century. The broad scope of his work parallels that of American life from the Great Depression through the Reagan years, as well as international events from post-War famine in China to May Day in Moscow’s Red Square at the height of the Cold War. From Welsh coal miners to the Reichstag in ruins, to the unique documentation of the Jewish refugee population in Shanghai after World War II, it was said of Arthur Rothstein that he went everywhere, saw everything and brought his camera.

        The images in the Arthur Rothstein Photograph Collection range from the historical events that touched us all – Roosevelt meets with Churchill, President Kennedy’s funeral procession – to images equally profound, if on a smaller scale. We see, in contrast to the national display of mourning for President Kennedy, the devastation of an anonymous personal loss as a father places his emaciated son, stricken by famine, in a grave in rural China in the forties. Who will bear witness to this tragedy, the photographer seems to say rhetorically. His answer: Now we all will.

Night view, downtown Dallas, January 1942

          And similarly, there is the power of the iconic Dust Storm, Cimarron County image, widely regarded as one of the most ubiquitous images of the 20th century. We also see dignity in the face of the unemployed black man in Alabama during the Depression, adjusting his tie in the mirror, getting ready for Saturday night. And the regal face of a young girl in the window of a mud shack in Gee’s Bend. But there is a subtle humor as well. Arthur Rothstein was a pioneer in the use of what he called the “third effect”, a message that emerges when an image contains the wry juxtaposition of the written word. A shoe shine man in New York City sits under a sign quoting Disraeli on the importance of being in the right place when opportunity knocks. And then there is the display of dazzling technical expertise as pitcher Eddie Lopat delivers a fastball, his arm moving faster than the shutter speed. The Arthur Rothstein Photograph Collection is stunning in its power, scope, technical prowess and beauty.

         Arthur Rothstein was a gifted student, graduating from Stuyvesant High School and enrolling in Columbia College at age sixteen as a chemistry major. He developed an interest in photography from the technical side, working with film development techniques and eventually becoming a founding member of the camera club at Columbia. Upon graduation he was offered a job by Columbia economist Roy Stryker. Stryker had been asked by colleagues in the Roosevelt administration to form a group of documentary photographers to work within what eventually became known as the Farm Security Administration. In addition to Arthur Rothstein, the FSA photographers included Dorothea Lange, Ben Shahn, Walker Evans, Gordon Parks, Russell Lee, Carl Mydans, John Vachon and Marion Post Walcott, among others. Together they produced some of the defining images of the 20th century. Many of the works in this collection are among them.

Girlie show at carnival, Bozeman, Montana, Summer 1939

      One of the most extraordinary things about Arthur Rothstein was that he excelled in so many different photographic disciplines. He was not at all satisfied to be a documentary photographer alone, although he was a great one. He also excelled as a news photographer, a contract assignment photographer, a food photographer (often working with the food stylist Sylvia Schur), a commercial advertising photographer, and, of course, a pure visual artist, evidence of which is abundant throughout this collection. When asked what he felt his greatest strength was as a photographer, he invariably replied with one word: versatility.

      Arthur Rothstein served during World War II in the Army Signal Corps and was stationed primarily in what is now known as Myanmar, formerly Burma. After the war, he resumed his career at Look magazine, in the position of Technical Director of Photography, a title he held until Look ceased publication in 1970. In that capacity he continued to travel the world on assignment, often bringing his wife Grace, an accomplished portrait photographer in her own right, with him to assist. He placed particular emphasis on the word “technical” as it appeared in his title with his name on the Look masthead. This was a part of his personality that permeated his life: he was an extraordinarily self-assured and competent person and wanted to emphasize that at the core of his craft was a comprehensive technical knowledge. This technical emphasis, a vestige of his earliest interest in photography as a chemistry student at Columbia, never left him. He continued to explore and develop new photographic techniques, including the Xograph three dimensional photo system. Arthur Rothstein was renowned for his technical expertise, and film and camera manufacturers, including Leica, Hasselblad, Kodak and Polaroid, would often send him prototypes as a routine part of their R&D process. He authored numerous published books, some of which were compilations of his documentary and other photographs, but several of his books were of a purely technical nature.

Administering the Darrow photopolygraph test, Narcotic Farm, Kentucky 1930

        But beyond all of this expertise, or perhaps because of it, we can see in this collection the profound gifts of an extremely intelligent communicator. On a personal note, I can say unequivocally that Arthur Rothstein had the rare ability to speak in complete, fully formed paragraphs. If you asked him question, the response would start with a topic sentence, followed by a declarative exposition, and finally, a recapitulating conclusion. This, it seems, was a skill cultivated more in the education of people born a hundred years ago than it is today. It was the ability to improvise and compose simultaneously for the purpose of enhancing communication. We see this expressed in his craft, analogous to a great jazz solo: extemporaneous and visceral, but elegantly structured. Moments in time, fully formed.

Syringes seized from patients admitted to Narcotic Farm, Kentucky. 1930

        Throughout his life Arthur Rothstein sought to combine his prodigious technical and compositional skills in the service of compelling visual communication. He frequently referred to a quote from one of his influences, the photographer Lewis Hine, that the purpose of a photograph is “to show what needs to be appreciated and to show what needs to be changed.” The Arthur Rothstein Photograph Collection is evidence of his abundant success in advancing that ideal.

        "Because powerful images are fixed in the mind more readily than words, the photographer needs no interpreter. A photograph means the same thing all over the world and no translator is required. Photography is truly a universal language, transcending all boundaries of race, politics and nationality." -- Arthur Rothstein 

Migratory worker, Robstown, Texas, January 1942

Something "Wrong"; Something "Right"

        It was, indeed, as though this, the very first of the strange scenes I was to witness in the land of Moribundia, had been specially prepared for me – so arranged that the members of the community were spread out before me, for my benefit, as it were, in a state of absolute naturalness and unself-consciousness, and so absorbed in their own rites that a stranger could move among them with less conspicuousness than a ghost.

        I knew at once that I must seize this moment – drink in these unspoiled impressions while I could and keeping close to the trees, I began to circle slowly, but without stealth in the direction of the pavilion.  

          It was not until I passed the second or third group of boys lying sprawled across the grass that I became aware that something was ‘wrong’ – had my first intimation, in other words, that this world  into which I had come had certain physical characteristics and peculiarities which differed, however faintly, from those in the world from which I had come.   There was, in fact, something ‘wrong’ about these boys  themselves.  And this something ‘wrong’ derived from the fact that there was something much too ‘right’ about them. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I Made This (From

NOTE:  I saw the following, quietly gripping story on this morning and felt compelled to re-post and share it, supplementing it with additional illustrations from other news sources. This is about the closest I'm likely to get to Mexico, a place I love, in the near future (see the many recent "ghastly crimes" news stories and Here for the reason), but once you read this, you'll know why I delved to this news here.  Three adults and a child, presumably an ancient cave dwelling family in the Valle de Ahuatos -- amazing.  

The cave painting at bottom makes a startling and moving connection.  When I first saw it, I thought immediately of the Ten Thirteen Productions voice-over identification that concludes episodes of The X-Files:

"I Made This."

Specialists from INAH discovered in the Tarahumara Sierra five footprints made by humans some 25,000 years ago. Photo: José Concepción Jiménez/INAH.  

Mexican Archaeologists Find Human Footprints In Chihuahua That May Be 25,000 Years Old


          Five footprints from human feet, calculated to be between 4,500 and 25,000 years old, were discovered in the Sierra Tarahumara, in Chihuahua. Specialists from Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) said that the foot prints could belong to the first men who lived in this region that is today known as northern Mexico.

          These are the first human footprints that have been found in Chihuahua and once their age has been found out, they will be added to the few footprints from the first people that lived in the American continent that are preserved in Mexico, particularly in Cuatro Ciénegas, Coahuila and in a ranch in Sonora.

Cave wall paintings feature circles and lines. Photo: José Concepción Jiménez/INAH.

          The footprints correspond to three adults and a child that probably lived in the caves that are located in the sierra, in the Valle de Ahuatos, eight kilometers from the town of Creel, in Chihuahua.

          According to morphoscopic analysis, Footprint 1, by its longitude of 26 centimeters, corresponds to the right foot of a male adult, while Footprint 2 belongs to the left foot of another adult, but it being the less defined it has been difficult to identify the sex of the person that made it. Footprint  3 was made by an infant 3 or 4 years old and corresponds to the right foot with a longitude of 17 centimeters.

Chihuahua footprint and measuring instrument/INAH 

     Footprints 4 and 5 are from another adult and represent the only pair that corresponds to the same person, which was found two meters away from Footprint 1; the left foot print (Footprint 4) has a longitude of 23.7 centimeters, while the right (Footprint 5) measures 24.5 centimeters.  These footprints are significant as they have six toes, which may be due a malformation.

Chihuahua footprints, another view/INAH

          Anthropologist José Concepción Jiménez said that the finding of the human footprints was made by an email that a citizen from Chihuahua sent to the Seminario del Hombre Temprano in Mexico, telling about the existence of ancient human fooprints in the Valle de Ahuatos, in the municipality of Bocoyna.

          “We explored the surface to verify the information and we couldn´t find the footprints, it was very hard to find them because they are not easy to identify.

Handout photograph made available on 26 September 2011, shows a cave painting found by specialists of National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), in Sierra Tarahumara, Chihuahua, Mexico. The footprints, that could be 4.500 to 25.000 years old, four are from adults and one from a child. EPA/Jose Concepcion Jimenez / INAH 

Situation Vacant (Feral Cats Needed ASAP)

     In Tuxedo for the last 10 summers or so, we have grown vegetables very successfully in large terracotta pots on our fenced-in back terrace.

Terrace with terracotta pots

     We’ve been exceptionally lucky with tomatoes (including the Sweet 100 variety of cherry tomatoes, which are an essential component of one our favorite summer recipes [1], corn (see Christmas photo from a few years ago below showing Jane with banged-up skating ankles proudly presenting her corn plants), sweet and hot peppers, okra (!), squashes and, recently,  cantaloupe, watermelon, and “pickling” cucumbers.

Jane with corn and Prince (please click to enlarge girl, corn and cat)

     Because our iron railings are closely-spaced and the elevation of the terrace is fairly high, our “crops” experience very few “pest” problems, our strawberries being the major exception.  The birds find them irresistible and are always one step ahead of us when they ripen.


     Everything changed this summer, however.

Pickling cucumber

     Our cherry tomatoes all began disappearing the moment their green started turning red.  Corn vaporized also. 

Cherry tomatoes Before


Cherry tomatoes After

     Our village is “triple insulated” from reality because it is in deep woods, no one lives there and, especially, because we have a police gate requiring anyone wanting to see me to make an appointment.  (Before you laugh, recoil, or recoil with laughter, please note that no one wants to see me.  Jane, who just read Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, described herself last week as my “paid companion.”  Harsh.

Tuxedo Park ca. 1895


     Human vegetable poaching, obviously, isn’t the issue.   It’s the squirrels, chipmunks, groundhogs, foxes and occasional bears.  But why this year and not previously?

Japanese wooden guardian figure depicting Ungyo, the east Nio (Guardian King) and Guardian of the Night.  From Horyu-ji Temple, Nara Prefecture, Japan, 7th century AD.

     We finally realized it’s because Prince, Pinch and Pitch, the last of our feral cat guardians, who lived on and protected our terrace and property, are no longer with us.   They were part of our family for years.  In good, slightly inclement, and merely terrible weather, they all lived in the insulated, kitted-out Orvis dog houses we bought for them. During severe winter conditions they moved into our garage, which they entered through the cat door Dick Murphy built for them, and settled in their several beds.

My Paid Companion and I

      Unlike our other ferals, who all live indoors with us still, these guys – all of them big, handsome, noble bruisers – insisted on maintaining their outdoor independence.   Regular meals, association, love and duty were the things they craved; there was never any doubt that they were contributing family members; conventionally speaking, Robertses.

          This was everyday apparent in their facial expressions, body language and the way they discharged their responsibilities as Feline Terrace Guardian Figures.  When they all eventually grew old and passed on, they chose to do so in our garage, their home and hospice, peacefully.   Each loss was and is heartbreaking.   Now, they all sleep out back with U and Santa.

Making his official debut in these pages -- KingKing

     But, as you can see, we have a Problem and I’m turning to all of you for help:

Situation VacantTuxedo Park, New York – Feral Cat(s) Needed For Companionship and Guard Duties.  Pleasant Location.  Benefits Exceptional.  Inquire PO Box 518, Tuxedo Park, NY, USA, World, Universe 10987

Tuxedo Lake in summer

[1] Linguine With Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette
(From Chez Panisse Pasta, Pizza and Calzone)

5 cups cherry tomatoes, preferably Sweet 100s

1 cup virgin olive oil

Red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper

1 ½ cups fresh bread crumbs

A handful fresh basil leaves

Linguine for 4

The quality of this simple pasta depends on the excellence of the tomatoes.  (Sweet 100 is a varietal name; they are very small and intensely sweet.)  Cut the tomatoes in half and marinate them in olive oil, red wine vinegar to taste, salt and pepper.  Toast the fresh bread crumbs in the oven until dry and lightly browned.  Take these from the oven and toss with olive oil while still warm.   Cut the basil leaves into tiny ribbons.   Cook the pasta and while it is boiling, put the tomatoes in the pan and warm them.  Add the pasta to the pan, toss together with the tomatoes and serve. Garnish the dish with the bread crumbs and the basil chiffonade.

Spirit Portrait, Tuxedo Park

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dover Sole Exceptionalism: Lunching Large In Hard Times

Dover sole, "super-fish"

           "On the day that Obama is to deliver his jobs speech to Congress, Bret Baier attends a secret White House meeting. Over Dover sole in the Red Room, the president tries to sell his $450 billion plan to a handful of anchors. The earnest, square-jawed Baier is animated upon returning, briefing two news executives in the hallway.

          Obama “painted a picture of a double-dip recession” and said if the bill “does not get through, I will blame Republicans” for their “irresponsible position,” Baier says, reading from his scribbled notes. Although the two men clashed during an interview last year in which Baier repeatedly interrupted the president, Obama made a point of praising the previous Fox debate, telling Baier: “By the way, you guys did a great job in Iowa.”

From "Roger's Reality Show," by Howard Kurtz
Newsweek, September 25, 2011

Dutch beam trawler dragging for Dover sole near Dogger Bank, North Sea.  Dogger Bank has been suggested as the possible submerged location for the "lost continent" of Atlantis.  In 1931, the largest earthquake ever recorded in the United Kingdom took place below the bank, measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale.

NOTE:  It has been ages since I've enjoyed a dinner (never mind a lunch) of Dover sole.  As Alan Davidson, the 20th century's leading writer on fish cookery, once observed, it is "the best fish," and ruinously expensive, always a "top of the menu" item, food literally fit for a king. (Please click on link above to be directed to the current Dover sole price guide for New York City restaurants.)

Davidson notes in North Atlantic Seafood [1]:

           "The range of this super-fish is from the Mediterranean to the north of Scotland and the south of Norway.  It is not present in the Baltic, except around the mouth of that sea.  The best fishing grounds for it are in the North Sea and the Bay of Biscay.  Dover is not its home in any exclusive sense, but was the best source of supply to the London market of freshly caught soles.

          Everyone knows how good the sole is, and it is never better than when plainly grilled and served with a simple garnish of lemon wedges.  However, it is also very good when cooked a la meuniere; and the filets, which can be lifted off easily, may be used for a great variety of culinary feats.  Most of these involve poaching them in a court-bouillon or wine and then dressing them with a sauce.  Do so by all means, but do not complicate your fish unduly or risk masking the delicious flavour of the sole itself."

Dover sole on the sea floor

I wouldn't argue with a single word in Davidson's excellent description.  I would like to suggest, however, that serving Dover sole at an event such as a deliberately ostentatious, "over the top", State Dinner would seem more appropriate, and less likely to provoke objection, than offering it to a group of journalists at a working lunch during severely straitened economic times in the U.S. on the cusp of delivering a speech about severely straitened economic times affecting most (but clearly not all) of the American people and then allowing publication of the menu in Newsweek.

Brill, megrim, scaldfish, topknot, plaice, flounder, dab, or lemon sole (to name some lesser flatfish) simply wouldn't do.  Nor would the noble (and pricy) halibut or turbot -- it had to be solea solea, the true sole, whose name is derived from the Greek, "as the Greeks considered it would form a fit sandal for an ocean nymph." [2]

It forces one to ask, however, whether these people are crazy, stupid or both?  It certainly tells you everything you need to know about their grasp on reality and what they think of you.

SMS Blucher in the process of capsizing during the Battle of Dogger Bank.   This armoured German cruiser was sunk by the British Grand Fleet on April 24, 1915.

[1]  Alan Davidson, North Atlantic Seafood, London, 1979.

[2]  Francis Day, The Fishes of Great Britain and Ireland, Volumes I and II, London 1880-84.

Embossed colored and illustrated 1917 postcard showing two young girls in Connaught Park, Dover, surrounded by a Dover sole "frame."

9/27/11 Update:  It was fascinating to me to (tediously) review Newsweek's "comment sewer" just now and observe not a single reader remark concerning the White House's regal menu for reporters.  I guess providing $60-80 portions of Dover sole for luncheon guests is more common practice than I previously thought.  I really should get out more.  One wonders whether whole fish were deboned table-side or if the sole were  filleted in advance?  Also, which wine to serve?  Personally, my favorite was always the M. Chapoutier "Chante Alouette" Hermitage Blanc, which I would dearly love to enjoy again.   Shortly after completing this post today, I turned on the Morning "Limousine Liberal" Joe television program. They were discussing Howard Kurtz's article also and it wasn't a great surprise to find that the  3-star Michelin menu items went unnoticed at Domaine Lord Haw-Haw. Recessions and depressions go largely unnoticed among the fully-employed, I have found.    "Bless you, Uncle Son.  We won't forget you when the Revolution comes."  (R. D. Davies)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Small Deal Re Grand Bargain

I'll make you a small deal:

We identify on an ongoing basis all individuals who voluntarily (i.e., unprompted; not in in response to another person's question or remark) use the phrase "grand bargain."

Then we paint these people an indelible blue color, excuse them permanently from The Circle, and transport them to "Devil's Grand Bargain Island."

Thomas Friedman: "I cannot write an acceptable English sentence.  Not one."


Morning Joe:  Lord Haw-Haw's Got A Brand New Bag vol. 2



1958 Advertisement; Provenance Unknown (Australian, I think.)


Beer brewing bubbles 


Fernand Leger, Still Life With Beer Mug, 1921, The Tate Gallery, London


The Hymn to Ninkasi 
(aka Sumerian Ode To Beer, ca. 1900 BC)

Borne of the flowing water (...)
Tenderly cared for by the Ninhursag,
Borne of the flowing water (...)
Tenderly cared for by the Ninhursag,
Having founded your town by the sacred lake,
She finished its great walls for you,
Ninkasi, having founded your town by the sacred lake,
She finished its great walls for you
Your father is Enki, Lord Nidimmud,
Your mother is Ninti, the queen of the sacred lake,
Ninkasi, Your father is Enki, Lord Nidimmud,
Your mother is Ninti, the queen of the sacred lake.
You are the one who handles the dough,
[and] with a big shovel,
Mixing in a pit, the bappir with sweet aromatics,
Ninkasi, You are the one who handles
the dough, [and] with a big shovel,
Mixing in a pit, the bappir with [date]-honey.
You are the one who bakes the bappir
in the big oven,
Puts in order the piles of hulled grains,
Ninkasi, you are the one who bakes
the bappir in the big oven,
Puts in order the piles of hulled grains,
You are the one who waters the malt
set on the ground,
The noble dogs keep away even the potentates,
Ninkasi, you are the one who waters the malt
set on the ground,
The noble dogs keep away even the potentates.
You are the one who soaks the malt in a jar
The waves rise, the waves fall.
Ninkasi, you are the one who soaks
the malt in a jar
The waves rise, the waves fall.
You are the one who spreads the cooked
mash on large reed mats,
Coolness overcomes.
Ninkasi, you are the one who spreads
the cooked mash on large reed mats,
Coolness overcomes.
You are the one who holds with both hands
the great sweet wort,
Brewing [it] with honey and wine
(You the sweet wort to the vessel)
Ninkasi, (...)
(You the sweet wort to the vessel)
The filtering vat, which makes
a pleasant sound,
You place appropriately on [top of]
a large collector vat.
Ninkasi, the filtering vat,
which makes a pleasant sound,
You place appropriately on [top of]
a large collector vat.
When you pour out the filtered beer
of the collector vat,
It is [like] the onrush of
Tigris and Euphrates.
Ninkasi, you are the one who pours out the
filtered beer of the collector vat,
It is [like] the onrush of
Tigris and Euphrates.
Translation: Miguel Civil
Note:  They say that sometimes you discover things when you actually need them, as opposed to when you're expected to discover them. In my life, I can cite multiple instances where that has been the case. 
I didn't really discover The Smiths until I was in my 40s, long after the group had broken up.  When I did, they added immeasurably to my enjoyment and, to some degree, understanding of life, at a point where I was feeling "challenges" that listening to the band helped me to address.
And I didn't realize how much I liked beer until I was well past high school and college (where the beer flowed like. . . . beer) and deep into adulthood.    
I won't belabor this, but as the advertisement above says, it's really the "best allround drink," and one that is infinitely varied in style.
Like most people intrigued by the subject, I've tried beers from all over the world when they're made availalble to me, and taken great pleasure in drinking local brews when traveling.  When we were in China on our adoption trip, I tried the San Miguel beer that is brewed there and found that I prefered it to the native Phillipine version (which is also excellent).  I saw a member of our adoption group across the lobby of a Chinese government hotel drinking what appeared to be the tallest bottle of beer in the world and looking a lot more relaxed than I was, prompting the universal (I think), enduring (I hope), survival sentiment "I'll have what he's having."
Kalik, a light and refreshing beer you drink in the Bahamas, is really refined and exquisite and has a memorable logo that seems perfectly (and subtly) matched with the product and Bahama gestalt.  Singha from Thailand enlarges one's views and drinking Guinness at the Shelburne Hotel's Horseshoe Bar in Dublin, just a mile or so away from the brewery, passes you into bright, peaceful dimensions. 
I'll just leave it at that (feeling guilty about neglecting Edinburgh's Caledonian 80/-), except to offer for use by those traveling to Philadelphia that our local Yards and Victory breweries are exceptional.  So is Troeg Brothers in Harrisburg.  And for a larger, now verging on national brand, Stroudsburg's Yuengling beers are mostly excellent.
I've just commenced a one-beer-a-day diet discipline, which I think will actually be good for me mentally and physically and might lead to fewer middle-of-the-night posts. (Please note that this is intended to replace, rather than supplement, my current intake of spirits and wine.)   
I'll let you know -- during daytimes, I hope -- how this goes.  
Until then, "It is [like] the onrush of/Tigris and Euphrates."

Musical accompaniment:  
Johnny Cash -- Beer Drinking Songs