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Portraits and Interviews
In 1989 Susan Johann was hired to photograph Christopher Durang for a magazine article about his play Naomi in Her Living Room. The playwright was known for his outrageous comedy, so Johann anticipated a session with a rather wild, young eccentric. To her surprise, the man who came to her studio was mild mannered and buttoned down. Johann found this twist captivating, and it was then that this project was born. Over the ensuing twenty-year period, she photographed more than ninety playwrights, including many winners of the Pulitzer Prize and other prestigious awards. Johann photographed Wendy Wasserstein, Anna Deavere Smith, August Wilson, and Nilo Cruz in the weeks after they won the Pulitzer. Tony Kushner sat for his portrait between the productions of part 1 and part 2 of Angels in America. Eve Ensler came to Johann’s studio during the week she was previewing her famous one-woman show, The Vagina Monologues, and George C. Wolfe sat for her the morning after his play Spunk opened at the Public Theater. Each playwright was photographed in Johann’s studio using the same film, a single light, and a plain backdrop, creating a portrait that captures and distills something essential—an intimate view. Her interviews explore the writers’ personal and creative journeys including their inspirations, roadblocks, and obsessions, which influenced their work on paper and on the stage. Even those who know Edward Albee’s plays intimately, for example, may be surprised by his incisive wit and inimitable voice as revealed in his interview with Johann. Beyond the book, Focus on Playwrights is also a live, multimedia presentation in which Johann narrates an inside look at creativity—the theater and photography. It has been given at such venues as the New Dramatists in New York, the Eugene O’Neill Theater, the Tryon Fine Arts Center and at the Photo Expo in New York.
A GI's Experience
As an Official Army Photographer, "Mac" Fleming’s assignment was to take motion pictures of significant wartime events for the US Army. In the pouch intended to carry his first-aid kit on his belt, he instead carried a small personal camera, which he used to take pictures of the people and places that interested him, capturing in his field notes details of the life he observed. From these records, Fleming has assembled this absorbing private chronicle of war and peace. Assigned to the European Theater in February 1945, he filmed the action from the battle for the Remagen Bridge across the Rhine, to the fighting in the Hartz Mountains, on to the linkup with the Russian forces at the Elbe River. After the armistice, Fleming helped document how the Allied Expeditionary Force established a military government in Germany to cope with masses of POWs, establish control of the country, deal with the atrocities committed by the German army, and help thousands of newly released slave laborers return home to Poland, France, and Russia. He also recorded how the army provided rest, recreation, and rehabilitation to the remaining US soldiers and sent them home by truck, train, and ship. Awaiting shipment home, Fleming explored postwar German town and country life and toured some famous castles and historic spots. The foreword by historian James H. Madison describes the important role of photography in war and the special contribution of Fleming’s photographic diary.
Environmental Justice in East Texas
In 1982, a toxic waste facility opened in the Piney Woods in Winona, Texas. The residents were told that the company would plant fruit trees on the land left over from its ostensible salt-water injection well. Soon after the plant opened, however, residents started noticing huge orange clouds rising from the facility and an increase in rates of cancer and birth defects in both humans and animals. The company dismissed their concerns, and confusion about what chemicals it accepted made investigations difficult. Outraged by what she saw, Phyllis Glazer founded Mothers Organized to Stop Environmental Sins (MOSES) and worked tirelessly to publicize the problems in Winona. The story was featured in People , the Houston Chronicle magazine, and The Dallas Observer . The plant finally closed in 1998, citing the negative publicity generated by the group. This book originated in 1994 when Cromer-Campbell was asked by Phyllis Glazer to produce a photograph for a poster about the campaign. She was so touched by the people in the town that she set out to document their stories. Using a plastic Holga camera, she created hauntingly distorted images that are both works of art and testaments to the damage inflicted on the people of a small Texas town by one company’s greed. In the accompanying essays, Phyllis Glazer describes the history of Winona and the fight against the facility; Roy Flukinger discusses Cromer-Campbell's striking photographic technique; Eugene Hargrove explores issues of environmental justice; and Marvin Legator elaborates on how industry and government discourage victims of chemical exposure from seeking or obtaining relief.
Photographs from the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection
This portfolio of eighty-three photographs constitutes a stunning celebration of African American achievement in the twentieth century. Carl Van Vechten, a longtime patron of black writers and artists, took these photographs over the course of three decades—primarily as gifts to his subjects, such luminaries as W. E. B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Joe Louis, James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Ruby Dee, Lena Horne, and James Earl Jones.
The photographs Rudolph P. Byrd has selected for this volume come from the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection of Negro Arts and Letters, which Van Vechten established at Yale University. Byrd has arranged the images chronologically, according to the time at which each subject emerged as a vital presence in African American tradition.
Complementing the photographs are a substantial introduction by Byrd, biographical sketches of each subject, and poems by the noted writer Michael S. Harper. The result is a volume of beauty and power, a record of black excellence that will engage and inform new generations.
Life Below the Blue
Tamina, a Freedmen's Town
A Kite’s View of Wisconsin
This full-color book of photographs records Wisconsin from an unusual viewpoint: a camera suspended from a kite and controlled by photographer Craig M. Wilson from the ground. Taken from fifty to a few hundred feet in the air, Wilson’s photos capture natural and man-made views that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. The result is a vibrant collection that captures Wisconsin in all its shifting beauty in landscapes and cityscapes, festivals, Door County’s lighthouses, Milwaukee’s neighborhoods, and the crowd at a Badger football game. Captions are provided in English, Spanish, German, and Mandarin Chinese.
Four Seasons, Six Generations
Laura E. Smith unravels the compelling life story of Kiowa photographer Horace Poolaw (1906–84), one of the first professional Native American photographers. Born on the Kiowa reservation in Anadarko, Oklahoma, Poolaw bought his first camera at the age of fifteen and began taking photos of family, friends, and noted leaders in the Kiowa community, also capturing successive years of powwows and pageants at various fairs, expositions, and other events. Though Poolaw earned some income as a professional photographer, he farmed, raised livestock, and took other jobs to help fund his passion for documenting his community.
Smith examines the cultural and artistic significance of Poolaw’s life in professional photography from 1925 to 1945 in light of European and modernist discourses on photography, portraiture, the function of art, Native American identity, and American Indian religious and political activism. Rather than through the lens of Native peoples’ inevitable extinction or within a discourse of artistic modernism, Smith evaluates Poolaw’s photography within art history and Native American history, simultaneously questioning the category of “fine artist” in relation to the creative lives of Native peoples.
A tour de force of art and cultural history, Horace Poolaw, Photographer of American Indian Modernity illuminates the life of one of Native America’s most gifted, organic artists and documentarians and challenges readers to reevaluate the seamlessness between the creative arts and everyday life through its depiction of one man’s lifelong dedication to art and community.