Monday News: The Historical Resource Edition
Relive the Battle of Waterloo With These Astonishing Portraits of War Reenactors – Photographer Sam Faulkner’s new book, Unseen Waterloo: The Conflict Revisited, uses war re-enactors to give people a chance to see beyond Napoleon and Wellington to the actual soldiers who fought in the battle. This interview with Faulkner offers up some of his images, but it also reveals some valuable insights about how we remember different military conflicts without the benefit of photography. By the way, did you know that Mills and Boon has a web page on “10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Battle of Waterloo”?
What is the new understanding you hope people gain from seeing these images?
Waterloo, certainly much more than later conflicts, is so much characterized as the battle between Wellington and Napoleon. It’s very much framed as a battle between two of the greatest generals that ever lived, whereas if you look at for example, 100 later at the First World War, the generals in that war were very much disregarded. You know, history has been very unkind to the generals of that war. It’s all about the brave men who fought there.
I think something changed over that period. And one of the things that happened is the invention of photography—so instead of forgetting about the men that died because we no longer have pictures of them, the men of the First World War are remembered. Maybe there’s a pin box in some attic of your great-great grandfather who fought in that war. It’s much easier to remember the individual men that fought because we have those photographs.
One of the things I was trying to do was make people think about it in more democratic terms—in terms of the individuals that were fighting rather than just Napoleon and Wellington, because they are not included in the work.
I made a point of the work being about unnamed soldiers, as opposed to the ones who we already know. –Smithsonian Magazine
Fascinating, haunting photos of Alaska from the 1880s shared in new book – Steaming to the North is a chronicle of the 1886 voyage of the Revenue Marine Cutter Bear, which originated in San Francisco and was bound for Alaska and the coast of Russia. The photographs from the expedition were found in a box in the 1970s, and they are among the earliest photographs from the Alaskan territory, and of the indigenous peoples who populated the region before Westerners began streaming into Alaska looking for gold.
The mission of the Bear is famous for a couple of reasons. For one it brought the presence of the U.S. government to the shores of the country’s recent acquisition. At that point Alaska had yet to attain territorial status and Americans — mostly whalers — were only beginning to push into the region to discover what was there. What wasn’t there was any semblance of legal authority, so the arrival of the Bear marked the initial effort of the government at asserting itself. It remains an important waypoint of Alaska history.
Also of note was the Bear’s commander. Captain Michael Healy was the mixed-race son of a slave and a plantation owner who rose through the ranks of the U.S. Revenue Marine Division — precursor to today’s Coast Guard — at a time when placing a man with African-American ancestry in charge of a white crew was all but unheard of. Healy was a highly skilled captain comfortable with the challenging conditions of the Arctic. He was also mercurial and a heavy drinker, traits that would cost him his command shortly after the Bear returned to California. In the far north, however, he’s known as Alaska’s first lawman. –Alaska Dispatch News
Beyond Black and White: The Forgotten History of Color in Silent Movies – One of my favorite historical Romance novels is Judy Cuevas/Judith Ivory’s Dance, in which the heroine is a very early filmmaker. I always thought there was so much potential there for more books, especially in that turn of the 20th century historical moment. Anyway, this piece on Fantasia of Color in Early Cinema, which traces the use of color in late 19th C and early 20th C films, is pretty cool.
Early color films, particularly fantasies, were widely screened in theaters during the silent era for both artistic and practical reasons. “Artistically, the fantasy genre was quite suited for elaborate coloring in that colorful costumes and special effects was widely associated with successful stage genres of the day,” says one of the book’s authors, Joshua Yumibe. Fantasy was also adapted early for film, beginning in the late 1890s by pioneering filmmaker Georges Méliès’s A Trip to the Moon (1902). For practical reasons, says Yumibe: “It was easier for audiences to accept color in fantasy films as the aniline dyes used were fairly bright and spectacular—like the colors associated with the féerie stage genre and also with fairground attractions: colors that were meant to grab and dazzle one’s eyes.” –The Atlantic
Download 100,000 Free Art Images in High-Resolution from The Getty – An amazing resource for authors…
In its current state (which promises further expansion still), the Getty’s Open Content Program offers images like Abandoned Dust Bowl Home (top image), Dorothea Lange’s vividly stark evocation of Depression-era American desolation, as well as other photographic time (and place) capsules, such as Kusakabe Kimbei’s hand-colored prints of life in late 19th- and early 20th-century Japan (Japanese Ladies pictured here); impressionist canvases like Édouard Manet’s 1878 The Rue Mosnier with Flags; and even views of Los Angeles itself, like Carleton Watkins’ shot of the city’s plaza circa 1880. –Open Culture