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Cat's Cradle Blog

Archive for the ‘History’ Category

The last Kodachrome roll: photography, history, progress?

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

A year ago the Kodak company ceased production of Kodachrome, that rich medium used in 35mm slide photography as well as in the creation of countless films.  The last 36-exposure roll went to Steve McCurry, whose haunting photograph of a green-eyed Afghan girl (1984) became a symbol of earlier conflict in Afghanistan.   What a task this final odyssey must have been, making decisions about what to include and how to compose and set the shot! 

In one way, the demise of Kodachrome is just a step along the path of photographic history.  The medium is young compared with the other visual arts, such as painting and sculpture.  The transformations photography has undergone are nothing short of amazing. 

Early French technical reference volume for photography

19th century French reference volume for photography

I wonder if early photographers saw the shifts from dauguerrotype to tintype to silver emulsion as nostalgically as this one.  I think rather not.  The early technology of photograph led to greater convenience and better results, generally.  The advent of smaller and smaller hand-held film cameras, especially in the twentieth century, democratized the medium and brought snapshot photography into the hands of Middle America.  Camera portability transformed journalism as well.  Instant Polaroids spoke to instant gratification, which some might say was one of the markers of the post-WWII era.  And the advent of color photography – including the recently departed Kodachrome – took the medium to new realms of possibilities. 

Digital photography, of course, was the next technological step.   Film photographers could be Luddites in the early years of digital development, but most have embraced the technology now.  Instead of film, we use a digital card holding hundreds of images.  Instead of a darkroom, there’s PhotoShop.  Instead of prints, we view images on a screen.  We delete the ones we don’t want (and there are many of those; not having to pay for processing leads us to shoot with great abandon).  The rest we save for printing…or for viewing in a digital picture frame.  The end result is a picture.  The process getting there is transformed forever.

I still have my Olympus OM-1 35mm SLR.  It takes great pictures.  But getting them developed is more and more problematic, especially if I want to shoot in black and white.  The OM-1 went with me to the Outer Banks one summer for some beach photography that I still think is some of my best.  It traveled with me to Britain, France, Italy, and Greece, and rewarded me with rich Kodachrome slides, some of which still send me back in place and time.  My daughter’s baby pictures were taken on the OM-1.  So, too, were the photographs I shot during my short but interesting career in print journalism: peanut farmers worried about drought, outsider artists and their work, historical sites, new businesses hopeful for success, concerts, and even a C-130 that landed at a small airstrip where I was living and working. 

Alfred Stieglitz at the Met

Metropolitan Museum of Art bulletin featuring the work of Alfred Stieglitz

There is a whole history in the heft of the camera in my hand, and in the way the macro lens feels as I balance it.  When I use it, I feel a connection to generations of photographers who have gone before me using different equipment and technologies. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I own digital equipment, and I love using it.  The Nikon D-5000 DSLR is a joy, and its new macro lens an absolute dream.   The palm-sized Fuji Finepix has amazing features for a tiny point-and-shoot.  

And yet, I wonder whether leaving the medium of emulsion film behind is not also leaving something creative behind that is different.  Maybe not better than digital, but different.  When I’m behind the lens, especially the lens of my old 35mm, I feel connected to generations of photographers who have gone before me.  I’m humbled by their superior talent and technical expertise.  But I keep on shooting and capturing anyway.

Savor the work of photographers through time and space in our photography catalog. 

Until next time….

Kathy Carter

Cat’s Cradle Books

Glenn R. Chavis, Our Roots, Our Branches, Our Fruit: High Point’s Black History, 1859-1960

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Chavis, Our Roots, Our Branches, Our Fruit 

I’m pleased to announce the release of a very special book by High Point, NC, native Glenn R. Chavis.  

In honor of the occasion, Cat’s Cradle Books has published its first print catalog, our current list of books related to African American life, history, literature, art, culture, and folklore.   For a copy of this catalog, contact us at info@catscradlebks.net.  

Glenn has written a compilation of information about the African American community of High Point, North Carolina from the incorporation of the town in 1859 to the sit-in era launched in 1960.  Glenn, born and raised in the black community during a time of segregation, has spent years researching the community’s history in government documents, city directories, newspapers, school records, and hundreds of other pieces of the past.  

His book contains 41 photographs of life in High Point’s black community, most of them never before published.  Our Roots, Our Branches, Our Fruit is a groundbreaking book; earlier focus on local history in this small New South city has been almost exclusively on the white community and on business and industrial leaders in particular.  

I was deeply honored to serve as editor of Glenn’s book.  The layout and design of the interior are also my work.   My editor’s preface, I hope, does the author justice.  Bob Brown, a High Point native and former White House adviser, contributed a foreword.  The High Point Historical Society is the publisher of record, and several local donors funded the cost of publication.  

Signed copies are available from the High Point Museum, which is presently the only outlet for this important book.  Future volumes in Glenn’s series are planned.  They include an upcoming sourcebook of information about segregated black schools in High Point, a study of black churches, and potentially several historical sourcebooks of land deeds held by High Point’s African Americans.   Glenn is also a storyteller, and many hope that he will eventually publish an anthology or two of  his well-researched personal essays and vignettes about High Point’s black history as well. 

Kathy Carter, Cat’s Cradle Books

Napoleon’s Conquest of Europe: The War of the Third Coalition

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Schneid, Napoleon's Conquest of Europe

In this book from Praeger Publishers, Frederick C. Schneid examines the War of the Third Coalition and its background of Napoleon’s diplomacy and alliance building.

It serves as an important addition to scholarship in Napoleonic Studies, as well as the larger fields of military and diplomatic history.

Napoleon’s Conquest of Europe is a volume in Praeger’s Studies in Military History and International Affairs Series (Jeremy Black, series editor).  Our copy is signed by the author on the half-title page.  

The book has been well received:

“Schneid increases his stature among the rising generation of U.S. historians of the Napoleonic Wars with this comprehensively researched and economically presented analysis of the War of the Third Coalition. Demonstrating command of a broad spectrum of sources, he smoothly integrates policy formation, diplomatic interaction, and military operations in a work meriting recognition as a standard introduction to the war that made Napoleon master of Europe.”   Dennis Showalter, Colorado College.

“An excellent synthesis, and unusual in that it deals in great detail with the factors leading to the formation of the Third Coalition against France (1803-1805) and the ensuing war. In some cases Schneid traces the diplomatic, economic, political, cultural and personal reasons leading to conflict back into the seventeenth century. The battles are crisply and accurately recounted – especially Austerliz – giving special attention to Napoleon’s enemies, which is lacking in most military histories.”   Owen Connelly, University of South Carolina.

About the author: Frederick C. Schneid is a Professor of History at High Point University in North Carolina.  He has spent a career investigating the leadership and actions of Napoleon Bonaparte both on and off the battlefield.