52 Chapters
  Title Author Publisher Format Buy Remix
Medium 9781574416565

The Family Album

Byrd M. Williams IV University of North Texas Press ePub

WALKING INTO THIS ARCHIVE is to walk among the dead. Many I knew and many I am just getting to know through their words and faces, but now I am one of the last remaining survivors in this Borgesian library of images. It was fiendishly comical when I noticed the irony of what has taken place: Middle class transubstantiation. Instead of bread and wine turning into the body and blood of Christ, four generations of my forebears’ bodies and blood have turned into paper and silver.

For me, photography is about death. It didn't used to be, but I'm sixty-four and everybody in the room is dead and I can't remember why I was so obsessed with saving their lives in two-dimensional facsimile. Perhaps all these years I have been trying to nail down what Ian McEwen refers to as our brief spark of consciousness.

It was never about the money; I could have done better mowing lawns. There was always this urgency about it: save all historic buildings, remember all the faces, stand on all the street corners, save everybody's toilet, share my experience with posterity, I was alive goddammit.

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Medium 9780253353627

2: Order ~ Focused Light

Henry Plummer Indiana University Press ePub

2

ORDER ~ FOCUSED LIGHT

Window above Stair to Roof Center Family Dwelling House Pleasant Hill, Kentucky

MESMERIZING WINDOW

The Shaker striving for order and calm gave a prominent visual role to the window, which often appears as the seminal force around which a room is developed. This centering power is magnified by simple geometry, symmetric placement, empty walls, and a halo-like frame, which are all further strengthened by a radiating pattern of light from a still source.

Ministry Hall Meetinghouse (1794) Sabbathday Lake, Maine

Window Triptych Center Family Dwelling House (1822–33) South Union, Kentucky

Window Diptych Center Family Dwelling House Pleasant Hill, Kentucky

Meetingroom Church Family Dwelling House Hancock, Massachusetts

INCANTATION

The repetition of standardized elements in Shaker architecture served basic needs of economy and order, while ensuring anonymity and plainness, but also gave to every room a calming rhythm that served the spirit. This reverberation, suggestive of the rise and fall of a fugue or chant, is especially pronounced in the Shaker meetinghouse, whose windows shed a mesmerizing pulse of energy. Alternating rays of light echo into broad stripes of white plaster, divided by lines of blue paint on wooden beams, knee braces, and peg rails. As a result, tremulous patterns of light and dark envelop the entire worship space, and its sacred dance, in a visual incantation, whose simple waves could instantly soothe mind and soul, and invoke a faintly mystical spell.

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Medium 9781603442015

Springing to Life Keeping the Waters Flowing

Ken W Kramer Texas A&M University Press ePub

Dianne Wassenich

SPRINGS seem miraculous to me. Water pouring from the ground! The sight of it reminds me of the nature books I read as a child, like Gene Stratton-Porter’s Freckles and A Girl of the Limberlost and the fairy tales that told of spring water having magical properties.

Go stand on the lowest porch of the Texas Rivers Center in San Marcos and look at one of the springs that feed the San Marcos River flowing into Spring Lake. It is a strong flow, strong enough to ripple the surface in a rainy year when water is plentiful. But even in the dry years, when the sight may be different, I’m drawn again and again to this deep blue spring. I think of the countless people who have admired the flowing water at this spot, one of the oldest continually inhabited sites in North America.

Central Texas can be dry, with predictable droughtlike stretches in summer for at least a few hot months. Though the archeological records include longer and far worse drought periods, the local yardstick remains the great drought of the 1950s, when nearby Comal Springs stopped flowing and San Marcos Springs slowed to a trickle.

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Medium 9780253019561

17 Where Are the German PWs?

Malcolm L. Fleming Indiana University Press ePub

Huge PW enclosure. Some 2,600 are being held here. Their two meals a day come from a supply of regular German Army rations captured in a nearby warehouse.

On Leipzig-Frankfurt Autobahn—16 May ’45

GIs make civilian prisoners clear them a ballfield. The Germans and Poles were caught stealing cigarettes and other rations. MG had them locked up till this better use was found for their time.

Neuhaldensleben, Ger—21 May ’45

“MG” means Military Government.

German PWs sweep the street in front of the new 102 Inf Div CP. The modern building was a German Finanzamt or Fiscal Office.

Gotha, Ger—2 June ’45

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Medium 9781603442015

Texas Rivers and Tributaries

Ken W Kramer Texas A&M University Press ePub

I HAVE photographed the living waters of Texas for over twenty years, but at the beginning of my photography career I was more interested in places like the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and the mysterious slot canyons of southeastern Utah. I took pictures in Texas only when I stopped to rest during the long trips out west. But as the good images piled up, I found the streams and springs of my home state, from the West Fork of the Frio River or the wetlands of Aransas Wildlife Refuge to the Neches River bottomlands and the watery canyons of Big Bend Ranch State Park, to be the most extraordinary places of all. And I know there is much more to be found on private land, like a waterfall I have seen in deep East Texas that has never been photographed and doesn’t even have a name.

Yet just as Edward Curtis photographed the “vanishing Indians” one hundred years ago, I sense that I am photographing the vanishing waters of Texas. The Rio Grande in Big Bend is now more like the “Rio Poco,” the Middle Fork of the Pease River has dried up, and Jacob’s Well in the Hill Country stopped flowing for the first time in 2000. Larry McKinney, in his 1973 essay “Troubled Water,” states that “of the original 31 large springs (in Texas), only 17 remain. None of those springs stopped flowing because of natural causes.”

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Photographs

Byrd M. Williams IV University of North Texas Press ePub

WALKING INTO THIS ARCHIVE is to walk among the dead. Many I knew and many I am just getting to know through their words and faces, but now I am one of the last remaining survivors in this Borgesian library of images. It was fiendishly comical when I noticed the irony of what has taken place: Middle class transubstantiation. Instead of bread and wine turning into the body and blood of Christ, four generations of my forebears’ bodies and blood have turned into paper and silver.

For me, photography is about death. It didn't used to be, but I'm sixty-four and everybody in the room is dead and I can't remember why I was so obsessed with saving their lives in two-dimensional facsimile. Perhaps all these years I have been trying to nail down what Ian McEwen refers to as our brief spark of consciousness.

It was never about the money; I could have done better mowing lawns. There was always this urgency about it: save all historic buildings, remember all the faces, stand on all the street corners, save everybody's toilet, share my experience with posterity, I was alive goddammit.

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Medium 9781603442015

A Taste of the Marsh

Ken W Kramer Texas A&M University Press ePub

Susan Raleigh Kaderka

AS we walked down to the saltmarsh near the observation tower on Mad Island Marsh Preserve, Cathy Porter bent over and broke off a sprig of saltwort, a spiky succulent that grows in clumps by the water’s edge. “Taste it,” she said, offering me a piece and putting a bit into her own mouth. It was an idle gesture, something she’s probably done countless times leading groups of schoolchildren on tours of this 7,000-acre Nature Conservancy preserve. She had been naming off the various species of marsh vegetation for me—seablight, Gulf cordgrass, saltmarsh bulrush—and just come across one worth tasting.

True to its name, the plant tasted salty. As Porter no doubt points out to visiting students, it is well adapted to the conditions of the Texas Gulf Coast, thriving near salt water in a sandy soil. But as I chewed it, a different landscape suddenly came to mind. For a moment, I was back in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, where I lived up to the age of six.

Like most children growing up in the late 1950s, I spent almost all of my free time outdoors. This habit was not evidence of any special affinity for nature. It did not prefigure my later work in wildlife conservation. It was not unique to me at all; it was what everyone did. Childhood pretty much took place out of doors. If you were indoors, it meant it was raining, or nighttime, or, later, that you were in school. Even in winter we played outdoors, bundled up in hooded snowsuits, rubber boots, and mittens. Snapshots of my sister and me in the snowy field opposite our house show us smiling out at the camera from jackets so thick our arms stuck out from our sides. But unquestionably we were outside.

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Medium 9781574416565

People

Byrd M. Williams IV University of North Texas Press ePub

Title page to Byrd III photograph album

THE FACES THAT INHABIT ONE'S LIFE are also connected to a mutually shared experience, whether it is an insider that occupies the fabric of your reality or a transient in and out of your orbit like a waiter in a restaurant, never to be seen again.

All of the Byrd Williamses made portraits for a variety of reasons. Sometimes as a hired hand for vanity, sometimes for editorial information, but much of the time it was for nothing. For lack of a better term, it was for art.

Shortly after arriving in Gainesville, Texas, my great-grandfather set about photographing people he encountered. An untrained but enthusiastic amateur, his work included carefully executed records of local acquaintances, an endeavor common to the new “roll film” era photography was entering.

By 1885, Granddad had taken up the hobby and was encouraged by earning extra money shooting portraits of locals across the range of hamlets between Fort Worth and the Red River. Small communities within wagon distance of Gainesville that featured churches and the occasional town square such as Myra, Era, Muenster, Henrietta, Sanger, Bowie, and Whitesboro. Wherever he lived, my grandfather continued making two-dimensional replicas of people's faces for the rest of his life.

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Medium 9781603442015

Where the First Raindrop Falls

Ken W Kramer Texas A&M University Press ePub

David K. Langford

BEFORE Lyndon B. Johnson was a politician, he was a child of the land. Growing up in the Texas Hill Country amid grazing sheep, cattle, and sparkling, clear springs, he inherently understood the relationship among sky, land, and water. Like most Texans, LBJ felt a strong kinship to the land because, since the days of the Republic, our lives and our livelihoods have been shaped by the diverse landscape that characterizes our home.

Although the former president was not part of my biological family, he was part of a large extended family of clannish, pioneering souls determined to eke a living from the Hill Country’s rock-strewn terrain. We were not kin by blood, but we were bound by shared experiences.

My biological family is like the ancient live oaks that dot the Texas Hill Country. For as long as there are memories, we have sunk our roots into the shallow soil and battled to survive in a place whose beauty belies its harshness.

Seven generations of my family have called Gillespie County and Kendall County home. From the beginning, my family has had a love affair, for lack of a better phrase, with water. The Hill Country can be unforgiving when you’re trying to coax a living from the soil. Water was the one thing that made the land hospitable—and offered the promise of a future.

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Medium 9780253353627

4: Equality ~ Shared Light

Henry Plummer Indiana University Press ePub

4

EQUALITY ~ SHARED LIGHT

Transom over Dining Room Doors Church Family Dwelling House Hancock, Massachusetts

TRANSOM WINDOW

Transom windows, frequently placed by Shakers above inner as well as outer doors, provide a means to increase the light shared between neighboring rooms, and maintain this flow even when doors are fully closed. Interior transoms are typically set over doors connecting dark corridors and well-lit perimeter rooms, and take shapes ranging from multi-paned rectangles to arched or semicircular fanlights.

Fanlight between Kitchen and Dining Room Center Family Dwelling House Pleasant Hill, Kentucky

Arched Transom over Infirmary Door Center Family Dwelling House Pleasant Hill, Kentucky

INTERIOR WINDOW

The stretching of light, and the open feeling, afforded by an interior window are especially impressive when able to transform an utterly mundane space, such as a back stair or closet. An ingenious device to siphon daylight deeply into a building, this glazed opening serves also to share illumination between rooms demanding acoustic separation, so as to spread light in a peaceful way, free of disrupting noise.

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Texas Water Politics Forty Years of Going with the Flow

Ken W Kramer Texas A&M University Press ePub

Ken Kramer

EVEN after forty years I can still visualize it. The “it” is the cover of the first issue of the biweekly Texas Observer I had ever seen. The year was 1969, and I had just embarked on my first graduate school experience—starting work on a master’s degree in political science at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches in East Texas. The professor in one of my classes had offered his students the opportunity to participate in a class subscription to the Observer, a liberal journal of opinion that provided exceptional coverage of Texas politics and government (and still does). Although I was a Republican at the time, I was extremely interested in politics, and, political philosophy aside, the Observer was touted as a good source of information about the state’s political comings and goings; so I signed up to receive one of the copies twice a month.

As it turns out, that was a momentous decision in my life—although not perhaps recognizable as such at the time. The first issue of the Observer I saw was devoted in its entirety to something called the “Texas Water Plan”—about which I knew nothing although I was already interested in environmental issues. The cover, which struck me so profoundly, showed a cartoon of several leading state officials, including then former governor John Connally and then governor Preston Smith, waterskiing or otherwise frolicking in or around some body of water. These folks were promoting this thing called the Texas Water Plan.

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Medium 9780253019561

15 Reminders of the Past

Malcolm L. Fleming Indiana University Press ePub

Outside of the Adolf Hitler Sportsplatz looking rather bare without the great gilt swastika framed in oak leaves that topped its center.

Nürnberg, Ger—8 July ’45

One side of the huge open amphitheater that was one of the foremost prewar Nazi Party meeting places. Now renamed Soldiers Field and used for the GI Olympics and 3d Army baseball finals.

Nürnberg, Ger—8 July ’45

GIs relax in courtyard of the castle Wachsenburg. Though originally built in 933 AD by monks, this castle has been restored several times and is now the official Museum of German Wars—1600 thru World War I.

Near Gotha, Ger—9 June ’45

Strictly candid. I’m perched on the wall of a tower getting a nice all-over shot of castle towers. ’Twas one of the Drei Gleichen. Lt. Rosenmann is holding the tripod in place. Another guy was holding me for awhile.

Near Gotha, Ger—9 June ’45

Lt. Rosenmann and me view the ruins of Burg Gleichen from atop one of its towers. This castle was built in the 1000s. The best preserved part is the eerie network of underground passages and dungeons.

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Studio

Byrd M. Williams IV University of North Texas Press ePub

Dad's Westcliff Studio

DAD WORKED HIMSELF TO DEATH for 50 years in a Mom and Pop style photographic business. I was there for 30 of them. Our family was of the secular variety whose devotional piety was not directed toward any religious enterprise but rather to that postwar American work ethic that drove the entrepreneurial mental prison of the 1950s. We were in the evidence business. A wedding happened and for $59.95 you could buy the artifact proof from us. Indeed, participant testimony was piffle compared to full-color documents filled with aunts and uncles and in-laws and drunks. Same with the portrayal of family happiness. Stiff topographical maps of faces with awkward smirks in bad suits that displayed, however sterile, the family unit intact. One wonders what posterity will think of our culture 500 years hence. All 300,000,000 of us in the same J. C. Penney's uniform, the same sneer, the same phony grouping of eternal oneness. It may be a good thing that the Egyptians, Greeks, or Romans had no Olin Mills. These records of our appearance, our existence, even our sentience will become our headstones.

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Medium 9781574412154

Toxicological Myths

Photographs by Tammy Cromer-Campbell. Essays by Phyllis Glazer, Roy Flukinger, Eugene Hargrove, and Marvin Legator University of North Texas Press PDF

Toxicological Myths

Dr. Marvin Legator

In the never-ending battle to clean up our environment and make our world safer for humanity, individuals and organizations that profit from polluting the environment have developed a series of scenarios to obfuscate the human effects of exposure to toxic substances. The underlying assumption of toxic waste facilities, and frequently state and federal agencies, is that they know more about the technical aspects of toxicology than the victims of chemical exposure. This arrogance is often manifested in the unnecessary use of technical jargon and misleading or confusing factual information. Informed residents who are knowledgeable as to the adverse health effects of chemical exposure have repeatedly challenged the toxic waste facilities and frequently persevered in obtaining necessary remedial action. The informed citizens of Winona, Texas, are outstanding examples of how to fight for environmental justice and challenge the questionable assertions of the toxic waste facility as well as state and federal agencies. In 1997, moses (Mothers Organized to Stop Environmental Sins), under the leadership of one of our present-day environmental heroines, Phyllis Glazer, was instrumental in shutting down the major polluting facility in the community of Winona.

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Non-People

Byrd M. Williams IV University of North Texas Press ePub

Ancient Egyptian bar vs. modern French Bar

I LOVE THE PUBLIC AND PRIVATE ENCLOSURES that humans occupy. The places where they sleep, eat, and work say more about humanity than a facial portrait can. For decades I have found comfort in mapping these interior spaces for commissions and curiosity. The preponderance of this large body of work is mostly personal images that are less art than artifact. More like utilitarian stamp collecting.

I started photographing my grade school friends’ rooms in the 1950s, and this subject matter is still my main work today. All three of my photographic ancestors made time exposures of the rooms and spaces they encountered, one of the first being a hardware store in Gainesville, Texas, in the late 1880s.

Sometimes there are people in them, both blurry and sharp, and sometimes they are devoid of life. I tend to like the lifeless ones best because then the room gets to speak for itself. These enclosures often live longer than the people who worked and lived in them and sometimes the photographs live longer than either, as stated by art critic Janet Tyson:

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