We recently acquired a shell covered Lighthouse. Yes, a shell covered lighthouse. This delicate construction is of particular interest to us because it contains a daguerreotype inset at the bottom of the tower. The daguerreotype displays three women and a young girl – we believe the image to be circa 1850, while the lighthouse was likely built in the 1920′s.
Alison Nordström our senior curator of photographs explains,
“we welcome the opportunity to exhibit a piece with such visual appeal. The Lighthouse is an example of how we can provide an accessible point of entry for a more serious consideration of our daguerreotype holdings. It also adds value to our collection of similar objects, such as the Ansel Adams coffee tin and the deer leg lamp with photographic lampshade.”
This interesting and admittedly, different piece was carefully examined and cleaned and can be seen currently in the Ideas in Things exhibit.
We are excited to present the regional premiere of the Lost Bird Project at the Dryden Theatre Saturday, July 28, 8 p.m. & Sunday, July 29, 2 p.m. A panel discussion will follow the film, followed by a walk through the gardens to view the exhibit, all five bird sculptures. Use the map and explore all five lost bird sculptures on the property and in the gardens. Advance tickets available now.
A Few Minutes with Sculptor, Todd McGrain
The passenger pigeon, Carolina parakeet, Labrador duck, great auk, and the heath hen — diverse species of North American birds with one thing in common — modern extinction.
Sculptor Todd McGrain has memorialized these birds in a series of large-scale bronze sculptures that will be on view in the Eastman House gardens July 3 through September 30. We recently talked with McGrain about the project and its import. How did you come to do this project?
Reaching into a bucket of clay and forming the shape of a small preening duck was the beginning moment of this project. While I was working on this first sculpture, I came across Chris Cokinos’ book Hope Is the Thing with Feathers. Chris thoughtfully tells the stories, describing the decline of extinct North American birds — and the sculpture took on new meaning. It became a memorial.
How did you select which birds to memorialize?
The birds memorialized in this project were driven to extinction in modern times. I became interested in these particular birds because of the beauty of their form. However, their stories of habitat loss and overhunting, bringing once abundant species to an end, propelled the project and gave it meaning. I found each of these birds and their individual stories thoroughly compelling.
What is the goal for the project?
By keeping the memory of these birds alive, we hope to contribute to the efforts by naturalists, scientists, ornithologists, environmentalists, teachers, and others attempting to raise awareness
about the current loss of plant and animal species. Our deteriorating environment puts fragile species under stress.
How did you decide on scale and use of materials for the sculptures?
The sculptures are as large as humans and that parity encourages a sympathy as people approach them — they are undeniable. The sculptures were created to be displayed in the birds’ natural
habitats, which demanded bronze for durability. The tactility of bronze makes people wish to touch them, deepening the viewer’s sympathy for, and understanding of, the birds’ loss.
This project is the subject of a documentary film. How did the film evolve?
Andy Stern, the producer, and I began researching possibilities for placing the sculptures in locations most closely related to each bird’s decline. We soon realized that the people and places
we were finding would be invaluable in telling the story of each bird and approached Middlemarch Films to join forces to produce the documentary. Through the generosity of the entire
Middlemarch crew, we were welcomed into the world of documentary filmmaking. We are particularly grateful to director Deborah Dickson for her talent and persistent vision.
Saturday, July 28, 8 p.m. & Sunday, July 29, 2 p.m.(Deborah Dickson, US 2012, 60 min., Digital Projection)
Following the July 28 screening, join us for a panel discussion with director Deborah Dickson, sculptor Todd McGrain, producer Muffie Meyer, cinematographer Scott Anger, and executive producer Andy
Stern. Following the July 29 screening join sculptor Todd McGrain for a walking tour of the grounds to discuss his work. Advance tickets available now.
Street hawkers "selling" Huckleberry Finn outside the Coronado Theatre in 1931.
Dazzling marquees, large cut-outs of stars, eye-catching posters greeting passersby, street hawkers, parades, and star appearances (or look-alike contests) — just a few ways Hollywood studios encouraged movie-theater owners to create a buzz in towns and cities to “sell” movies during the Golden Age of cinema.
Ballyhoo: The Art of Selling the Movies, an exhibition on view now at George Eastman House, highlights the innovative lobby displays, outdoor advertising, and merchant tie-ins that were a hallmark of film exhibition during the era of the corporate studio system, which was at its peak between 1925 and 1950. The featured images are drawn primarily from the publicity stills and photographs collected by Ray Rueby Sr., and the studio publicity departments of Warner Bros. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
During the 25 years that are the focus of this exhibition, studios devised bigger, brassier, and glitzier productions to entice patrons facing the Great Depression and a world war. The publicity efforts that accompanied the films are, in this exhibition, the star of the show.
Attention-grabbing signs for "Private Hargrove" at the Astor Theatre in 1944.
The motion picture industry was considered a wild and uncertain concern in its first two decades. By the early 1920s, as smaller concerns merged into fewer and larger corporations, the industry became stable enough to be considered a legitimate business by Wall Street investors. During these formative years, motion picture studios created a system of vertical integration that allowed them to control every aspect of the business — production, distribution, and exhibition. Corporate ownership of movie theatres and block booking ensured regular exhibition throughout the country.
“We sell tickets to theaters, not movies.”
- Marcus Loew, Loew’s Inc. (1920s)
Studios also provided pre-packaged publicity campaigns to their theatre chains to help fill theater seats in a highly competitive market. Much of the publicity was carried out at the site of exhibition, the theaters themselves. In the age of the “movie palace,” theaters could be alluring structures in their own right, but exhibitors continually refashioned their facades and lobbies to attract audiences week after week.
Theater managers adapted the studios’ strategies — provided to them in the form of pressbooks — to their own venues. Theater managers worked with local merchants on cooperative campaigns (tie-ins) to advertise films in shop windows, stage contests and giveaways, and display merchandise from stores in theatre lobbies. Upon entering the lobby itself, moviegoers encountered creative displays embellished with movie stills and even three-dimensional recreations of movie settings.
Ballyhoo is part of the See: Untold Stories exhibition, which showcases the Eastman House collections, on view through Sept. 16, 2012.
On April 12, 1861, at 4:30 am, Confederate forces attacked the US military installation at Fort Sumter in SouthCarolina. At the time, Fort Sumter was under construction and the Union troops inside were short of provisions. Whilethis date is used as the beginning of the war, the events hadalready been set in motion by the election of AbrahamLincoln as President of the United States in November 1860and by the secession of seven states from the United States tothe Confederate States of America.
Unidentified Photographer FORT SUMTER SHOWING THE EFFECTS OF THEBOMBARDMENT BY THE ARTILLERY OF THE ARMY & NAVY OF THE UNITED STATES WHILE OCCUPIEDBY THE REBELS FROM APRIL 1861 TO FEBRUARY 1865, ca. 1865, Albumen print
FORT SUMTER SHOWING THE EFFECTS OF THE BOMBARDMENT BY THE ARTILLERY OF THE ARMY & NAVY OF THE UNITED STATES WHILE OCCUPIED BY THE REBELS FROM APRIL 1861 TO FEBRUARY 1865, ca. 1865, Albumen print
The tale of the American Civil War has been told thousands of times. Historians, both academic and amateur, have delved into the past to understand just how the Confederate States of America decided to secede from the Union to form an independent country, and how, in response, the Union eventually quashed their attempts. Our current exhibition considers photography and its relationship to the War Between the States. The George Eastman House collection holds over 1,100 photographs related to the civil war, a modest number in relation to national standards. The strengths of this collection are some unique items, including a series of photographs found in a United States Postal Service dead letter office, several portraits of Confederate officers aboard the C.S.S. Alabama, and an album assembled to commemorate the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. In addition, items such as Alexander Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War provide extensive holdings of war-related scenes and landscapes. It is estimated that over 620,000 soldiers died during the American Civil War along with countless civilians. This remains the highest number of deaths for American soldiers in any war. Photography played an important role in bringing this sobering reality to the public as, for the first time in history, photographers showed the dead that remained on battlefields, and publishers had the ability to reproduce these images in quantity. In addition, images showing the destruction of cities, new American heroes, and arsenals of troops filled the pages of popular journals such as Harper’s Weekly and Humphrey’s Journal. Photography was still in the early stages of its invention. Therefore, many photographers were new to their craft and as the war raged on, photographic supplies were sometimes expensive and hard to come by. In addition, the existing processes could not capture the chaos of battle, with the cannons flaring and men fighting in combat. Now at the sesquicentennial of these events, the stillness of what remains in these photographed scenes resonates in American minds. Destruction, struggle, and loneliness are evoked by the haunting, empty scenes, but we may also perceive an impression of valor in a young face, a sense of patriotism for a chosen side, a feeling of dignity in the face of death.
From folding cameras to Brownies, antique cameras have been displayed for my viewing since my birth. My grandfather’s house introduced me to the history of the camera as well as early photographs of my family’s American heritage.
My grandfather along with his father, like many other Rochesterian men, worked for the Eastman Kodak Company. Throughout my grandfather’s time working at Kodak and exploring his photographic hobby, he collected an array of classic cameras. Each room in his house has several cameras resting on dressers, antique china cabinets, wooden tripods, and any other flat surface providing a home for a piece of his vintage collection. Antiquated photographs as well as stereographs can be seen accompanying the cameras that took them.
While walking through George Eastman House’s new exhibition, Between the States: Photographs of the American Civil War, nostalgia overcame me. Hanging a right after entering the exhibit doors and coming around the first wall brings you “front and center” with two authentic cameras used to shoot American Civil War photography. Just as in my grandfather’s house, I was brought face to face with pieces of photographic history.
The 1864 stereo camera owned by the M.B. Brady Studio, now in the collections of George Eastman House and now on exhibit.
One of the cameras in the exhibit, along with another on loan to the Newseum in Washington, D.C., were used by the studio of Mathew Brady, the prolific Civil War photographer. They are the only two known Brady cameras in existence today. These, along with the Lewis wet-plate camera also on view in the Eastman House exhibition, are held exclusively in George Eastman House archives.
Brady’s stereo camera was acquired by George Eastman House from Graflex Inc. and was found in Auburn, N.Y., amidst a collection of Brady’s glass plates. This camera was used to produce a pair of 4½ x 4½-inch images. The images would be separated, cropped and mounted together side by side. Looking at the two images through a stereographic viewer would produce a seemingly three-dimensional image.
Grandpa also has a couple of stereographs lying around his house. I remember my amazement looking through a pair of stereograph glasses resembling 19th-century bifocals and viewing the two images combined to make one with depth and length. You can sense this awe two feet away from the two cameras as George Eastman House has provided a Brady stereotype and a beautiful viewer constructed by a student of the graduate program.
The Lewis wet-plate camera, 1862, is typical of Civil War-vintage studio equipment (George Eastman House collections).
Also gracing the glass case in the Between the States exhibition is a Lewis wet-plate camera. The Polaroid Corporation gifted this aged artifact to Eastman House. The camera, manufactured by Henry James Lewis, was conventional of Civil War photographic equipment. It also produced two images, although these were 3¼ x 4½-inch. This wet-plate camera closely resembles the daguerreotype camera, which Lewis’s father and brother had previously produced. This camera provides a perfect representation of the size and style of camera that had to be lugged around on the bloody battlefields of the Civil War.
This exhibition is important to Rochester and the history of American photography. I was fortunate to have my grandfather introduce me to historic cameras at an early age. We, as citizens of Rochester, are innately enriched with photographic history. We hold here, in our own backyard, images of a war that has shaped our nation to this very day. This is evident in the accompanying exhibit Still Here: Contemporary Artists and the Civil War.
The opportunity to view the apparatus by which these images were captured is exclusive to Rochester and George Eastman House, where you can experience the amazement and power these cameras display.