Everybody and his brother

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Everybody and his brother
Design Gift Ideas
Image by kern.justin
Another image from a very famous place
Do we need another image from Tunnel View in Yosemite National Park? One could argue that after Adams took his iconic "Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park" in 1944 there has been little need to recapture the public’s imagination with the view of this grand valley from a simple roadside pull-out. Yet there is rarely any shortage of photographers and nature lovers peering out over the stone wall making memories and photographs of the valley’s major features laid out in such stunning symmetry. So then, what is the reason for snapping away (see below for proof of just how many people bore witness to the grandeur represented in this photograph)? Do we need more nature images of landscapes thoroughly inhabited and (theoretically) protected? Why is a culture so hell-bent on consuming and utilizing every natural resource possible even interested in nature photographs, especially of landscapes which have been (at least temporarily) spared from mining, drilling, clear-cutting and development? I have two answers to these questions – the general and the personal.
The Wellspring

The valley called Yosemite, and a few other spots on Earth, have served as the nursery for ideas. These ideas were the basis for a series of successful and unsuccessful marches in the name of conservationism and environmentalism. The valley was the gray-walled and sand-floored crib of Muir’s preservationism. If Muir loved the wilds before (and he certainly did) he came to Yosemite, he got so near to the heartbeat of the Earth that he wanted for the rest of his life to try and get nearer. The valley was the luminous, storm-ravaged epic landscape of Adams’ classic photograph – laid out like some glamourous nude, covering just enough with a lacy veil of fog and snowcloud to elicit excitement and inspire others to the same end as Ansel. Camp 4 was the cradle of the American love affair with rock climbing and the first rungs of Rowell’s ladder from a poor mechanic to influential photojournalist and world-explorer. Perhaps too The Valley has been the nursemaid to our love of hiking and exploring the wilder places of America as something, if not vocation, then more dear than avocation. Thomas Jefferson famously wrote, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s natural manure." Conservationism did not die as some antiquated nineteenth century ideal, but it too must be refreshed from time to time. It’s night-soils were the words of Muir, the photographs of Adams, Rowell, and others. There is much yet in this world, and even in the Yosemite Valley, that needs protecting and conserving. I don’t know that my photographs will change anyone else’s mind about how to behave in the valley or in their own backyards, but I do know the process of taking photographs of this place has fixed in my mind the value of this wonderful place. The argument, therefore, is that ideas need expression and the continual flow of nature imagery is an effort to convince the apathetic and timid of the great value inherent in conservation. Great photography is a call to action, it draws the breath from our lungs and the blood from our hearts for a moment only to rush it back two-fold and inspire us to do more (by doing less) than gnaw with an axe at old, pine-perfumed gardens. Maybe Ansel’s was just an aperitif to some great and yet-unmade masterpiece more completely encapsulating the million-fold images, emotions and experiences that are Yosemite. Not all of us are going to make these still epics, however, and the reason to justify our personal photographic efforts are perhaps subtly different.
Making memories and photographs
The process of taking photographs is more about what is not in the photograph than what makes it into the frame. This is true in the compositional sense – often exclusion of extraneous elements and isolation of subject is the key to a successful photograph (a lesson I must constantly learn and a tree that is continually refreshed by the "manure" of deleting photographs poorly executed). This statement is also true in the figurative sense. These photographs are about more than their subject. They are about an amazing light show as dessert to a full meal of hiking and camping, they are about sitting at what seems like the top of Eden and enjoying a simple cup of hot soup as the blood-crimson of sunset gives way to steel-blue of twilight and finally to soot-black of night. They are about the fan-blade whoosh of ravens’ wings over the Pines campground and the long light of drawing winter skies in the high country of the Tuolumne Meadows – sundogs and all. The act of photographing is an act of personal education and change.

What I’ve learned in my time as photographer hobbyist is that you cannot collect or consume nature images. This is where I think most of us who aspire to wonderful amateur photography fail. There is an oft-considered difference amongst photographers between "taking" a photograph, like a vacation snapshot or a record shot of some event, and "making" a photograph through careful composition, consideration, patience and thought. So too there is a difference between remembering things and making memories. Stopping at a roadside pullout and clicking away at even the most gorgeous and tumultuous light shows of our Earth, only to pop back into the car and head out along a drab ribbon of asphalt is to take a snapshot in your mind’s eye and does disservice to the photograph, no matter how grand. If I could have told something to my younger self when looking to learn about how to make photographs, I would have told myself "Sit the $&#@ down and absorb the world you’re trying to photograph – you can’t photograph something you don’t understand and you won’t understand it until you let it in." I say all this because the photograph above of the valley from the famous Tunnel View pullout was populated with an enormous number of photographers, each very earnest and very serious and very talented. I counted at least two workshops going on and quite a bit of knowledge seemed to be in the offing. By the time I took the second photograph – my wife and I were alone. We had been alone for an hour by the time I took the fourth photograph on this post.

"Letting it in" is something different for everyone and I probably couldn’t teach it to my younger self, let along a stranger. It’s something like how Buddha can’t share enlightenment, but can only share the "way." It is a balancing act between imaging, imagining and observing. Compare the difference in the quality of the light between the photograph that leads this post with the one below (taken just a moment apart). The conservationists problems would quickly end if only he or she could bring all the skeptics, miners and misers to Tunnel View for a late-fall light-show and therein lies the dichotomy.

The Dichotomy of the Valley
Tunnel View is famous because it presents the major aspects of the valley so harmoniously. Yosemite’s scale seems to grow in proportion to its distance from the viewer. Half Dome is distant but towering, El Capitan is accurately represented as an impossibly sheer and impossibly beautiful slab of granite, some titanic slab table laid on its side, and nearest of all is the Bridalveil spilling fresh mountain run-off from the high country into a flower garden of amber- and ocher- and scarlet-leaved trees. The valley has just overcome the crisis of its birth, trees new and the cataclysm so near that water has not yet had time to erode its way, crashing instead from precipitous heights and providing our only clue of the impossible scale involved. I had made the pull-out having just hiked 12 miles of the valley floor trail that day and the complementary 10 miles the day before. In that hike I was struck with the out-of-place luxury of the guest resorts within the valley. To me there is something idealogical irreconcilable between a luxury hotel and a preservation of wilderness like Yosemite. I had many thoughts rattling around in my head while I took this last 16-minute exposure. I was thinking about originality, documentation, and the value of an image. The idea I wanted to convey was the dichotomy inherent to these national parks of ours. Yosemite village has a gift shop that sells purses and t-shirts and other trinkets designed to separate bused-in tourists from their money. The shop has a large plaque decrying how many plastic water bottles were consumed in Yosemite the year previous. The plaque is hung above a display selling plastic water bottles. Forever increasing pressure from the outside world to bring more visitors, to consume more wilderness, is one aim of these parks. In stark opposition is the initial, Muir-esque ideology of the parks – a preservation outside of development and the mar of humanity. So I waited for the last rays of twilight to fade and I left my shutter open for what seemed like an eternity, capturing the light pollution of a parade of cars, thundering past Tunnel View, casting their headlamps on the bows of nearby pines and then, on the valley floor, weaving through the gathering fog along the park road between the Pohono bridge and the northern park destinations; I imaged behind it all and above the valley the collected pollution casting a red pall on the sky like the representation of distant war by some Renaissance master.

To take a step back, and to put an end to my ramblings, it is hard not to take a good photograph from Tunnel View, or for that matter, of the valley. In two trips, I have been able to produce what I think are two rather unique images of the place (at least to the degree that any photographic act is one of creation or uniqueness): "The Dichotomy of the Valley" (above) and "We are Killers" (below). Far more importantly I spent two unforgettable evenings trying to absorb a bit of the grandeur in the thin and chilly mountain air. Had I to boil down the thesis here at play I would simply say that what is lacking in poor photography when compared to great photography are ideas and the successful expression of those ideas. The world is full of information easily found about how to successfully express a photographic idea, but often woefully short of fresh ideas themselves. This is why there was only one Muir, one Adams and one Rowell and why there is only one you. The reason that we need more images of nature, of Tunnel View, of the valley is that no two images are the same, they are all products of their respective creators and our thirst for brilliant creators is never quenched though the wellspring of Yosemite has provided amply. The trick isn’t to represent Tunnel View, but to represent yourself through Tunnel View.

A vintage Iroquois souvenir tiny purse Fetish
Design Gift Ideas
Image by antefixus21
This was for sale on eBay today.



A Haudenosaunee Tradition and Art
Dolores Elliott
The Iroquois tradition of raised beadwork began in west- ern New York in the late eighteenth century. It is slightly older than the other great North American Indian bead- working tradition that the Lakota, Cheyenne, and other people of the Plains developed. Raised beadwork is unique to the Haudenosaunee; it is made nowhere else in the world. The Senecas, who decorated clothes, sashes, and small pincushions with small glass beads in the eigh- teenth century, probably invented the style of Iroquois beadwork that still exists today. They were making bead- ed pincushions by 1799 and purses by 1807. In the mid- nineteenth century, ethnohistorian Lewis H. Morgan noted in his League of the Ho-de’-no-sau-see, or Iroquois the “delicacy, even brilliancy of their bead-work embroidery” on women’s clothing (1851, Book 3:384), and he included illustrations of beadwork on a needle case, woman’s skirt, cradleboard, heart-shaped pincushion, and work bag, the forerunner of a modern purse. He reported that in 1849 he had purchased five varieties of work bags as well as three varieties of pin cushions and five varieties of needle books (Morgan 1850, 57).
(Figure 4.1). While they sold their goods at nearby Montreal, the Mohawks also traveled extensively throughout North America to sell at fairs, exhibitions, wild west shows, and Indian medicine shows. Some even sold their beadwork when they traveled to England to perform Indian dances at Earls Court, an exhibition ground in London. Photographs taken in 1905 show these performers attired in clothing decorated with Mohawk beadwork.
The Iroquois tradition of beadwork continued to evolve in the nineteenth century, and by 1860 Mohawks near Montreal and Tuscaroras near Niagara Falls were creating elaborate pincushions, purses, and wall hangings adorned with raised beadwork. Despite the similarity of items created, the two geographic areas developed different styles of beadwork (Table 4.1). Throughout the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, at the height of beadwork production, the Tuscaroras sold their beadwork mostly at Niagara Falls, on their reservation, and at the New York State Fair. They preferred to use small clear and white beads. During this same period, the Mohawks used larger clear beads and also employed red, blue, green, and yellow beads on most of their early pieces
Figure 4.1. Two needle cases that illustrate differences in nineteenth- century Mohawk (left) and Niagara (right) beadwork.
My personal family experience illustrates typical Iroquois beadwork transactions in the twentieth century. My story starts in 1903 when my grandmother went to the Afton Fair, a small agricultural fair in central New York. She took my nine-year-old father, but his sister, then eleven, was sick and could not go. My grandmother brought her home a present from the fair. It was a beauti- ful pink satin-covered bird-shaped pincushion that sparkled with light green beads (Figure 4.2). My aunt treasured this bird throughout her long life and displayed it proudly in her china cabinet, where I saw it when I was a child. At her death this cherished heirloom was passed on to her daughter who later donated it to the Afton Historical Society in Chenango County, where it is presently on view.
My research indicates that this bird was made by a skilled Mohawk beadworker from a Mohawk community located near Montreal and several hundred miles from the Afton Fair. This pincushion probably got to the fair with a group of Mohawks who traveled by train or wagon to perform at fairs, medicine shows, and exhibi- tions. While at these venues, they also sold their hand- made baskets and beadwork.
In 1958 I bought a small red heart-shaped pincushion at a booth in the Indian Village at the New York State Fair, which is held near Syracuse (Figure 4.3). It was a present for my mother, who displayed it prominently on her bed- room dresser for the next twenty-five years until I inher- ited it. Mary Lou Printup, a leading Tuscarora sewer, later identified this pincushion as one she had made. She, like most Tuscarora beadworkers prefer to be called “sewers,” a term not popular with some other Iroquois beadwork- ers. In my research and writing, I use the word “bead- worker” to refer to all except those individuals who specifically prefer to be called “sewers.”
When I purchased the red heart I had no idea that this pincushion had anything in common with the bird that my grandmother acquired fifty-five years earlier. I knew that I wanted to get something special for my mother, and this pincushion was special because it was beautiful and made by a native artist. In buying it I shared something with my grandmother, who died before I was born, that is, the purchase of a piece of Iroquois beadwork. Most likely the purchase of the bird was my German-born grandmother’s only interaction with a Haudenosaunee woman, and my purchase at the State Fair was my first interaction with a Tuscarora sewer, the first of many.
In a similar manner Iroquois beadworkers and their non- Indian customers, often tourists or attendees at a public entertainment venue, have been brought together by bead-work for over two centuries. These transactions undoubtedly number in the tens of thousands.1 During honeymoon trips to Niagara Falls and visits to agricultural fairs, exhibitions, and other attractions, people purchased Iroquois beadwork as mementos to remember these places and experiences. The beads often form designs featuring birds and flowers, natural themes that appealed to the Victorian women who drove the market of souvenir sales in the nine- teenth century. Studies by Beverly Gordon (1984; 1986) and Ruth B. Phillips (1998) describe the souvenir trade and point out the importance of these items to the people on both sides of the transactions.
Souvenir beadwork was so treasured that the pieces were frequently kept in cedar chests or keepsake boxes. Therefore, when unwrapped one hundred or more years later, they are often in pristine condition. Ironically, few contemporary beadworkers have samples of their ancestors’ work because it was usually made for sale to strangers, although some beadwork was created as gifts for family and friends.
Because most pieces were made for sale to tourists, many people have dismissed Iroquois beadwork as “souvenir trinkets” not important enough to collect, study, or exhibit. In fact, they are often called whimsies, a term that I believe trivializes them and diminishes their artistic and cultural value. But within the last two decades Iroquois beadwork has become the subject of serious study and museum exhibitions. At least four traveling exhibits of Iroquois beadwork have been installed in over a dozen museums and seen by thousands of museum visitors in the United States and Canada since 1999.2 This scholarly recognition has resulted in an increased appreciation of these beadwork creations and the artists who made them. What were considered curious tourist souvenirs when they were made are now generating increased respect from both the general public and the Haudenosaunee.
ry pieces, the back is a colorful calico. Some pieces, mainly in the Niagara Tradition, have a silk or cotton binding around their perimeters to cover the cut edges and attach the front and back fabrics. Tight beadwork on the edging often binds Mohawk pieces together so a cloth binding is not necessary. Flat purses as well as fist and box purses are constructed in the same manner, with cardboard as the base.
Contemporary beadworkers see their work as a signif- icant part of Haudenosaunee culture and an important link to the past. In Haudenosaunee communities bead- workers are admired as continuing a revered tradition. Although there are a few male beadworkers, the majority are women, and in a matrilineal-society with powerful clan matrons, the economic benefit of beadwork sales increases the influence of the women even more.
Pincushions were usually stuffed with sawdust, but sweet grass, cotton, cattail fluff, newspapers, and poly- ester have also been used. Contemporary craftsmen remember that their mothers preferred pine sawdust because of the nice aroma.4 Small strawberry-shaped pin- cushions are traditionally filled with emery, used to sharpen and polish needles. Velvet and twill-covered pic- ture frames and other wall hangings on cardboard bases have polished cotton backs on earlier pieces and calico on more recent ones. European glass beads were often aug- mented with metal sequins on nineteenth-century pieces and with plastic sequins and other plastic novelty beads since the late twentieth century. Bone and shell beads and leather, which are often used in other American Indian beadwork, rarely occur in Iroquois beadwork.
Iroquois beadwork is still sold at Niagara Falls, the New York State Fair, and several pow wows and festivals in the northeast; the methods of beadwork distribution have changed little over two hundred years. The bead-work itself, however, has changed tremendously. Over the last two centuries the styles of beadwork have evolved from simple small pincushions and purses to highly elaborate shapes, becoming works of art in the tra- ditional sense. The beads selected have progressed from the very small seed beads used around 1800 to the larger seed beads of 1900 and finally, by 2000, to a wider variety of bead sizes and colors.
The most common form of Iroquois beadwork, and the form most easily recognizable by people who are not familiar with Iroquois beadwork, is the flat black purse or bag featuring identical colorful, beaded floral designs on both sides. Most flat bags have flaps on both sides, but the opening is across the top where the two sides meet. The face fabric is usually black or very dark brown velvet, and the interior is often a light-colored linen or polished cot- ton. A binding, usually red, is attached around the closed sides of the purses. A beaded fringe is sometimes added. The fringe is merely sewn to the binding and does not hold the two sides of the bag together; it is purely deco- rative. The flaps usually are edged with white beads that are larger than the beads that outline the flaps and body (Figure 4.4). The flaps and body are sometimes outlined with short parallel lines like a stockade. The faces of the flap and body are covered by stylized flowers in shades of blue, red, yellow, and white connected with green stems, which are sometimes striped in two shades of green. Some bags feature a small slit pocket under one of the flaps. It may have been meant to hold a comb or mirror.
Iroquois beadwork remains a unique art form distin- guished by several characteristics found only in work created by Haudenosaunee beadworkers. Iroquois beadwork features a design in glass beads that have been sewn on a fabric that is stretched over a backing of cardboard or cloth lining. The materials used in the beadwork are predominately small seed beads, cloth, cardboard, paper, and in pincushions, a stuffing. The beads are sewn onto the fabric in geometric or natural designs using waxed, doubled white thread.3 The beads are usually sewn over a paper pattern that remains in place under the beaded elements. Although not practiced at all times in the histo- ry of Iroquois beadwork, the most distinctive trait is that the beads are raised above the surface of the cloth face. Some pieces have raised beaded elements that are over an inch high. The beads are raised by putting more beads on the thread than is needed to span the pattern so that the beads form an arch above the pattern. The amount of extra beads determines how high the arches are, that is, how much the beadwork is raised. Various velvets were and still are the favored fabrics, but other fabrics such as wool, twills, silk, and satin are also used. Pincushions often have beaded velvet fronts and polished cotton backs. Polished cotton is a shiny stiff material that is also referred to as chintz or oilcloth. On the majority of late twentieth-century and contemporary twenty-first-century…

Preserving Tradition and Understanding the Past: Papers from the Conference on Iroquois Research, 2001–2005, Edited by Christine Sternberg Patrick, New York State Museum Record 1 © 2010, by The University of the State of New York, The State Education Department, Albany, New York 12230. All rights reserved. Click on top link for more.

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