Saturday, March 28, 2015
Why bother to take photos?In 1934, a photo of my mother won honorable mention in a contest at Sanger Brothers in Dallas, a contest her mother had entered. That photo became even more valuable to my mom when her mother died at age 26.
And then there's me.
My love affair with photographs began when as a child I would look through the giant photo album my mother had purchased from a professional photographer. This purchase included a few sittings to produce studio quality portraits. A picture of me before my first birthday was on page one.
My mother was making a values statement. She valued photos. She wanted to tell her story. She sought to preserve memories.
How important are photos to you?
This is part of my story too. I took pictures long before I had a camera. And long before I knew anything about photography.
Pictures tell stories. And I'm fascinated both by the images and the stories pictures represent. A camera gives me permission to be involved and curious about other people's stories. And I like that.
|Besides 4 years spent at Amarillo College studying photography, I operated this business for 5 years.|
A Brief History of PhotographyThe first camera obscurra or pin-hole camera appeared c. 1500. The next leap in photography came with the daguerrotype around 1840.
Nearly 50 years passed before George Eastman founded Kodak and introduced a roll-film camera. In 1900, the Kodak Brownie was the first mass-marketed camera.
Throughout the 20th century, color film, 35mm cameras, slide film (Kodachrome), the Polaroid camera (first with B&W film and later color), Hasselblad's medium format camera (a square negative, bigger than 35mm), these cameras and the film medium dominated photography and dictated its course.
But in 1981, the first digital camera was introduced and Kodak in 1991 was first to make a professional digital camera. Ironic, since the digital revolution ultimately led to Kodak's demise.
Sharp made the first camera phone in 2000. And in 2001 Polaroid went bankrupt and in 2004, Kodak quit making film.
Drum roll … the iPhone came out in June, 2007.
Why the dates?
We've come a long way, baby. In a relatively short time. I guess.
What's Next?What do we have to show for all the camera clicks? Where are most of the pictures we take? In shoe boxes, crates or on Facebook? Today, who has time to let pictures tell their story?
Considered the father of modern photojournalism, Henri Cartier-Bresson said, "Photographs deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again."
But in fact, a photograph reminds us of those moments and the people who make moments and places worth remembering.
An art for the heart, I like what Cartier-Bresson said about portraits, "You have to try and put your camera between the skin of a person and his shirt."
That idea helps explain why I take so many pictures. Like a hunter on safari, I try to capture that one image to represent my subject in the best light possible.
Photography means "painting with light." Light and shadow are what give a picture its life and dimension. Without the subtlety of shading, detail in both highlights and shadows, a photo remains as flat as the paper it's printed on.
What follows are a few tips to help you take better photos and then too encouragement to preserve the best of your photos.
|Something my photography instructor taught|
Monday, October 13, 2014
Awards and rewardsWhen I was 16, I read Gone With the Wind for the first time. I imagined myself in scenes, and as a high school senior I extracted a scene from the book, memorized and performed it for my drama class assignment.
Next I competed against 35 girls who represented 23 schools in the Dallas area UIL speech tournament. The scene where Mammy helps Scarlett get dressed for the barbeque at Twelve Oaks––I played both parts––won me a first place trophy.
Seated near the back of the high school auditorium, stage right under a balcony, when the announcer called my name, I was as overwhelmed and mystified as any Academy Award winner.
Breathless and speechless by the time I got to the stage, I accepted that award. But afterwards, in the picture taken for our school newspaper, I look askance, nervous, self-conscious, wearing a dress I had made, back when dresses were all a girl could wear to school.
Hide and SeekAt this stage of life, I know that most actors hide behind the characters they play, and when they must come out from behind the camera or the footlights, their insecurities pop out like a red-head's freckles after a day in the sun.
Still, I remain fascinated by drama in its many forms. Whole worlds get compressed between the pages of books and during the screen hours of a movie. And there, the reader or watcher loses himself.
And if he or she is lucky, they might find themselves too.
That's what happened to me back when I picked up the 1,037 pages of Margaret Mitchell's story of the Old South. I found myself in Scarlett O'Hara's character, enough to know that I didn't want to be like her, or rather, end up like her.
In a way, Scarlett set me on a course, a trajectory pointed away from innate selfishness.
Even author Margaret Mitchell said of "my poor Scarlett" that being compared to her was not a compliment. "Scarlett was a hussy and I am not."
Fact and Fiction: Mirrors of selfWhen I read any book worth reading, I expect resonance.
I expect, because I am a human being, to see some aspect of myself revealed––good or bad. Most often, both. I expect that what the writer took the time and care to capture in words will be worth the reader's time to follow.
I expect a carrot or a stick. A reward or a reminder. A good book will show me something about life.
Because each of us is the main character in our own story, you and I are interested in ourselves and how our story will turn out.
And we are never more interesting to ourselves––or more human––than when we can recognize ourselves in the mirror of another person's life.
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
We are familyThe talk I gave last week for "Apples of Gold," a mentoring program for younger women, was about loving your children. I focused on wisdom as an aspect of loving your children because all 4 of my children are grown and now have children of their own to raise. We all need wisdom.
|James and me in Budapest, Hungary|
|My 4 kids on the first day of school, 1989|
But where can wisdom be found? Where does understanding dwell?
I thought, ‘Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom.’
Only I didn't want to speak on this subject because, well, I'm not that old. And I'm not that wise.
But with 10 grandchildren and number 11 on the way, I accepted this assignment––my own misgivings aside for telling other people how to raise their kids. Because anyone can be a parent, but not everyone knows how to parent.
Each parent must work out his/her own salvation with fear and trembling, I'm afraid. Yet some principles abide, enduring time's testing and cultural distinctions.
So in the end, I came up with my own contemporary 10 commandments to guide parents who truly love their children.
10 Commandments for loving your children
Thou shalt not idolize your children.
Thou shalt not treat children as little adults.
Thou shalt not cover up mistakes your children make or make excuses for their failures.
Thou shalt discipline your own children when they overstep boundaries.
Thou shalt teach your children to work.
Thou shalt teach your children to tell the truth.
Thou shalt teach your children to respect themselves and others.
Thou shalt teach your children good manners.
Thou shalt read to your children early and often, starting with the Bible.
Thou shalt not text and drive.
While there's a story behind each of these opinions strongly held by yours truly, I shall spare you those explanations.
Here are 10 reasons I believe Thou shalt not text and drive should be a commandment.
|Beau and Beck|
|cousins Ava and Rachel|
|1st grandchild, Kate|
|fun when cousins get together|
By the way, it's against the law in California to text and drive.
Here's to parents and grandparents everywhere who are doing the best they can to love their children.
Monday, September 22, 2014
Clark Gable is Rhett Butler
Never any doubt in the minds of the reading public that Clark Gable should play Rhett Butler, only Gable himself needed convincing. And so did Louis B. Mayer, Selznick’s father-in-law, who had Gable under contract to MGM.
Although Selznick considered others, actors he had under contract, he wanted Clark Gable as much as anyone.
This letter to DOS captures the spirit of all those who felt sure nobody but Gable should play Rhett:
|"This is Rhett Butler, or else, 10,000,000 broken hearts."|
The readers of GWTW assumed too that Margaret Mitchell had Clark Gable in mind as she wrote her book, only at the time Gable still worked in the Oklahoma oilfield, earning $12. a day.
No, Mitchell insisted. “I was thinking of Groucho Marx.” She loved the Marx Brothers.
All the more to wonder at the astonishing outcome when at the Atlanta premiere, December 15, 1939, Margaret Mitchell praised Selznick for his “perfect cast” and his obstinacy to secure it.
|from the Motion Picture Edition, picture taken with my iPhone|
Frankly, my dear …
David O. Selznick added the “frankly” to the line that in the movie almost had to be cut. But frankly, frankly wasn’t the problem.
As Margaret Mitchell had written the end of her story, Rhett Butler’s answer to Scarlett’s question “… If you go, what shall I do?” reads, “My dear, I don’t give a damn.”
The preview audience heard the line as, “My dear, I don’t care.” Uh-hmm. Gag. Choke. Spit out that line.
To use the line as written in the script, Selznick had to do battle. Following written appeals by Selznick, citing the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of damn, a vulgarism rather than an oath or a curse, as well as popular magazines’ use of the word, those who fought against this iconic bit of dialogue surrendered. Waiving the profanity clause for Selznick, the Motion Pictures Production Code was later rewritten.
But just in case appeals were lost, other options considered were “Frankly, my dear:
· it leaves me cold.”
· it has become of no concern to me.”
· I don’t give a Continental.” [whatever that means]
· I’m not even indifferent. I just don’t care.”
· I’ve withdrawn from the battle.”
· the whole thing is a stench in my nostrils.”
· it makes my gorge rise.”
Whatever a gorge referred to, any tampering would have removed the unforgettable parting shot Rhett gave Scarlett.
For those who like to skip to the end:
“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” left just the right taste in Rhett Butler's mouth.
Still, Selznick, true to Margaret Mitchell's novel, didn’t leave Scarlett in a puddle of tears. She’d go home to Tara. She’d think of some way to get Rhett back. She’d think about that tomorrow.
“After all, tomorrow is another day.”
The camera pulls back, the music rises and Scarlett once more shows her gumption. After all she has been through, not to mention all the trouble she has caused, Scarlett’s face brightens at the thought of Tara.
Margaret Mitchell had said that the theme of her story was survival. She had wondered how some folks have what she called, “gumption,” the ability to endure and survive the most tragic, confounding circumstances while others simply do not.
But when people went so far as to compare Margaret Mitchell to her literary heroine, she protested. “Scarlett was a hussy and I am not.”
The story of how Mitchell’s 1,037-page novel came to be published in the first place displays the author’s gumption. When one of Margaret's writer friends said, "You don't have what it takes to be a serious writer,” going so far as to challenge her for never having been rejected by a publisher, Mitchell gathered up her incomplete manuscript––what amounted to a suitcase full of manila envelopes with chapters of the book she had written over the course of 10 years.
Still fuming from the insult, Margaret gave to Harold Latham, associate editor at Macmillan, who had come to Atlanta as part of a 3 month search for new talent, what she had never intended to submit for publication.
Her disorganized manuscript had no opening chapter. In fact, Margaret Mitchell had written the last chapter first. She had duplicate versions of some chapters. Penciled revisions and corrections, typed on yellowed paper, she felt embarrassed by the condition of her manuscript and sought its return as soon as she calmed down.
Instead, Macmillan publishers refused and sent her a check for $5,000.
With the book's publication, a series of events transpired that made Margaret Mitchell's real life almost as dramatic as her novel.
Drama Behind the Screen
On display as part of the Ransom Center exhibit in a letter from DOS to Harry Warner, head of Warner Brothers Pictures, Selznick confronts WB for capitalizing on the publicity surrounding GWTW.
|"May I remind you that the rights to 'Jezebel' were repeatedly turned don … until …"|
No studio wanted to film Jezebel until after GWTW made its literary splash and Selznick had secured film rights. Jealousy erupted among studios and Warner Brothers made a shameless imitation.
By comparison, shot in less than 8 weeks, Jezebel was a Civil War lightweight. Yet because Bette Davis won the 1938 Best Actress Academy Award for her role in Jezebel, a wave of support for her to play Scarlett O'Hara crested. Selznick went as far as to consider her for the role with Errol Flynn to play Rhett, but Davis refused to play opposite Flynn.
Circles inside circles: Guess who owns the film rights to Gone With the Wind today?
In 1995, Ted Turner (TCM) sold the rights he had purchased to Time-Warner. In an ironic twist, Warner Brothers now owns the movie Selznick originally produced, the film WB tried to overshadow with its copy.
Other circles inside circles:
Selznick managed to sign Clark Gable in a costly deal he made with his father-in-law Louis B. Mayer, head of MGM. Mayer convinced Gable that a hefty paycheck for starring in GWTW would induce his second wife, 17-years his senior, to grant him a divorce. During the filming of GWTW, March of 1939, 37-year-old Gable, married the love of his life, 30-year-old Carole Lombard.
Vivien Leigh was also married and had a 4-year-old daughter, as did actor Lawrence Olivier, with whom Leigh had had a lengthy affair. Both eventually divorced their respective spouses and married each other.
Leslie Howard was married but living with another woman who accompanied him to the set of GWTW. From the outset, the 45-year-old actor was disinterested in his role. Howard read the script only for the scenes in which he played the character Ashley Wilkes. To Selznick, the actor who played the part of Ashley was as important, if not more so than who played Scarlett. Selznick gave Howard a copy of the novel as a gift, but he still refused to read it.
Olivia de Haviland was not married but at the time of filming she was dating millionaire Howard Hughes, who later that year proposed to Olivia's sister, Joan Fontaine.
CostumesBefore the Academy Awards had a category for costume design, Walter Plunkett designed these and countless other exquisite costumes down to the petticoats.
When one of the actresses thought Mr. Selznick could save money, since no one would know authentic petticoats were there, he told her, "You will know it's there."
|Walter Plunkett, Costume Designer|
The dress Scarlett wore for her wedding to Charles was worn for filming almost as briefly as the on-screen marriage lasted.
Of the 5 costumes on display at The Ransom Center, the wedding dress is a recreation. The rest shown are restored originals. Yesterday's blog post shows pictures of the famous green curtain dress.
Pictured above, Vivien Leigh is wearing the dress that in the movie Scarlett wore to the barbeque at Twelve Oaks. This scene was shot 5 times. After Vivien Leigh had been given time to recover from 125 days of shooting that ended in July, she came back in October, refreshed and again youthful looking for a retake, wearing the white prayer dress.
Controversy and ArtControversy and censorship issues as well as personality conflicts behind the scenes reflect stories that are as much a part of the actual history of "The Making of Gone With the Wind" as the fictional telling of history both the novel and the film depict.
Whether words on a page or scenes on a screen, these artistic creations cannot be revised, nor should they, to fit cultural tastes of current readers and audiences. They can be revisited.
To think this story represents a revisionist history of the old South, think again. View artistic creations like paintings in an art gallery. Frame representations in their context. Accept what cannot be altered and admire the work of artists. For eventually, the artists themselves are Gone With the Wind.
The main thing to remember is "The movie did not disappoint the readers of the book." (DVD commentary)
And I say, "Fiddle-dee-dee." Enough already. There's no end of stories surrounding the making of Gone With the Wind. Trivia for the most part, perhaps, but what reading about the movie reminds me is that while the audience sees what gets shown on the screen, real people whose lives scarcely resemble the characters they portray work to create the timeless illusion.
Maybe the movie at 75 is showing its age. But the very existence of this classic film continues to teach me something about life.
The first audiences to view the film in 1939 had endured war and the Great Depression. These people were acquainted with hunger and starved for hope. This film showed them characters on both sides of a civil struggle who fought for what they believed.
If anything makes the movie seem archaic, maybe it's because people today don't believe in much, or else they don't know what they believe.
And nothing sinks a soul so deep as to believe in nothing.
For now, my cup runneth over with GWTW …
the story, the author of the book, the movie, the man who made the movie, the actors who portrayed characters that came to life in my imagination, the roles each person played in the making of Gone With the Wind.
Enchanted still by this epic film and stories that surround its making, I hope that generations of 16 year-old girls will like me continue to read the novel. And see the movie.
If not today, then think about it tomorrow.
"After all, tomorrow is another day."
See GWTW at the movies, Sunday Septmember 28 or Wednesday, October 1, 2014. Check local theater listings for showtimes of this special event.
Note: Relying on multiple sources results in variations on the same story, therefore editing for this post, I have used information, comments and ideas that reflect my own conclusions.
Thank you very much for your kind consideration.