By William Carter

Photographer, Author, Jazz Musician

Posts Tagged ‘digital photography

Jazz Emerges, Part 1

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notPHnotWC005 New Orleans Brass Bands 1950-1990

Visible Roots of America’s Most Original Cultural Product

A lifelong preoccupation with traditional New Orleans jazz inspired my book, Preservation Hall (W.W. Norton, 1991). While doing my own shooting, I uncovered a trove of historical photos I decided to mix with my own (sources available on request). Like the music itself, this project is a blend of old and new, personal and professional. Blogs, like recordings, add a fresh dimension to a traditional art.

In the 1970s and 80s I paid regular visits to New Orleans. I was invited to play with some of the brass bands. In the sweltering streets and shuttered funeral homes, I juggled a clarinet in one hand and a camera in the other – not easy to do, or forget.

Jazz was born in the 1890s when strutting brass men and parade drummers, performing street marches and wailing spiritual dirges, went indoors, or up onto park bandstands, for “sit down jobs.” There, the marches merged with country blues, parlor ragtime, and popular dance songs utilizing stringed instruments like the guitar and piano. By the early 20th century, in these cultural wetlands near the mouth of the Mississippi, a new music had been spawned: a spicy, varied gumbo of black, white, and Creole ingredients.

As jazz evolved worldwide, its earliest style was preserved in the city of its birth. Many first and second-generation players remained active into the 1960s and beyond. As younger devotees took over, the music changed subtly – some would argue for the worse – as the old decorum, dress codes, and refined musicianship gradually gave way, like the French Quarter, to a more touristic style. But that kind of regret for a faded past has always marked a city that remains unlike the rest of America.

For me, the photographs in this and succeeding posts evoke nostalgia for a host of friends – a whole subculture, really – now largely gone. Their music is part of me.

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Copyright statement: William Carter papers, © Stanford University Libraries. Click here for a detailed usage guide.

Signs of the Times (2)

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Western Proclamations

After unearthing vintage Midwestern signs (see earlier blog, “America’s Corn Belt Speaks for Itself“), I found earlier traces of homespun eloquence in the Far West.  Most of the photographs below were shot during my journeys by camper across ten States, from California to Colorado, and from Canada to New Mexico.  I had been working for Sunset Books to create their best-selling Ghost Towns of the West (1971/1976).

Photographs © William Carter 1970-2012

Ghost Towns of the West 1

Ghost Town of the West 2

Ghost Town of the West 3

Ghost Town of the West 4

Ghost Town of the West 4

Ghost Town of the West 6

Ghost Town of the West 7

Ghost Town of the West 8

Ghost Town of the West 9

Ghost Town of the West 10

Ghost Town of the West 11

Ghost Town of the West 12

Copyright statement: William Carter papers, © Stanford University Libraries. Click here for a detailed usage guide.

Written by bywilliamcarter

June 23, 2017 at 12:00 pm

Hands Are Us (Part 1)

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Touching the Heart

Ruth and Olivia, 2012Archival Inkjet Print, ©William Carter 2012

Ruth and Olivia, 2012, Archival Inkjet Print, ©William Carter 2012

On September 11, 2012, I visited my beloved 97-year old Aunt Ruth. Her body systems were shutting down. Two of her children, Maureen and Susan, and one granddaughter, Olivia, were there. I took a few pictures, including the one above. Two nights later, Aunt Ruth passed away.

In the 1980s and ’90s I spend fifteen years photographing nudes and the body. For much of that I carefully avoided hands: they felt personal and unique, whereas the project was about universal forms. Eventually, though, hands started creeping in. I’m not sure if that was my decision or theirs. Several appeared in my 1996 book, Illuminations.

“Hands” is a project without a beginning or an end. Some were used with Indian poetry quotations and readings by Sramana Mitra. I used a shot of my own palm as the endsheets for my 2011 book, Causes and Spirits.

Here are some others:

Sramana's Hands, vintage silver print, ©William Carter 2002

Sramana’s Hands, vintage silver print, ©William Carter 2002

Appearance, 23/25 vintage silver print, ©William Carter 1983

Appearance, 9/25  ©William Carter 1983

Char, 3/25 vintage silver print, ©William Carter 1992

Char, 3/25 vintage silver print, ©William Carter 1992

Remember, 3/25 vintage silver print, ©William Carter 1990

Remember, 3/25 vintage silver print, ©William Carter 1990

Mystery (detail), Vintage Silver Print, ©William Carter 1990

Mystery (detail), Vintage Silver Print, ©William Carter 1990

Whisper, Vintage Silver Print, ©William Carter 1992

Whisper, Vintage Silver Print, ©William Carter 1992

Intimation, 3/25 Vintage Silver Print, ©William Carter 1991

Intimation, 3/25 Vintage Silver Print, ©William Carter 1991

Copyright statement: William Carter papers, © Stanford University Libraries. Click here for a detailed usage guide.

Written by bywilliamcarter

May 10, 2017 at 12:00 pm

The Old Glory That Was Kodachrome

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70 Brilliant Years

How great it was — while it lasted, until 2012 — something like 70 years.

It still lasts archivally: those chromes retain their slightly salmon, yet accurate, saturated colors while so many others have long since faded. The film of choice for top magazines, many folks’ travel slides, and countless other applications. This post features some of my Kodachrome slides of the western U.S. from the 1960s on. (We hope to present a few international Kodachromes later; then eventually a selection from that fine new medium — digital color.)

We are fortunate to be living through a major transition in the history of photography. Five centuries ago, Western art was revolutionized by the invention of oil painting. Artists old enough to have been trained in older techniques like tempera, but young enough to master oil — Venetians like Titian, for instance — combined both skills in highly creative ways.  (See my earlier post, “Tone in Art — and in Life.”) So I’m always pleased to hear of today’s art schools continuing to teach the older “wet darkroom” alongside the newer digital technologies.

See also “Bound for Glory: America in Color,”  Kodachromes by photographers of the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information, property of the Library of Congress.

All Kodachromes © William Carter

Murphy's, California c. 1970
Murphy’s, California c. 1970

Columbia, California 1970
Columbia, California 1970

Illinois, c. 1973
Illinois, c. 1973

Preservation Hall, New Orleans, circa 1986
Preservation Hall, New Orleans, circa 198

Preservation Hall, New Orleans, c. 1985
Preservation Hall, New Orleans, c. 1985

Preservation Hall, New Orleans, c. 1986
Preservation Hall, New Orleans, c. 1986

San Francisco, c. 1970
San Francisco, c. 1970

Granite, Montana, c. 1970
Granite, Montana, c. 1970

Silver City, Idaho, c. 1970
Silver City, Idaho, c. 1970

Copyright statement: William Carter papers, © Stanford University Libraries. Click here for a detailed usage guide.

Written by bywilliamcarter

April 3, 2017 at 6:00 pm

National Character

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by William Carter

San Francisco, 1969

Is there still such a thing as “national character” — in a world becoming ever more homogenized?  Or is there, even, “regional character” — in a nation ever more urbanized?

Famous photographs of earlier generations played on these themes – think of Cartier-Bresson’s famous image of the little Parisian boy carrying the huge bottle of wine, or of countless early images of America’s Old West, or of the collection of great documentary images seeded by the U.S. Farm Security Administration in the 1930s and early  ’40s. (In the last couple of years a subset of the latter — amazing color images shot on brilliant, sparkling early Kodachrome – have been released for our delectation by the Library of Congress.

Yes, Virginia, there is still an American character. It may no longer be as obvious (to us) as Mount Rushmore or the Marlboro man or Babe Ruth or Marilyn Monroe, but it’s there, lingering below the surface. It derives from our unique history. My earlier books delved into three regional subsets — in Far West, the Middle West, and New Orleans jazz.

My most recent book, Causes and Spirits: Photographs from Five Decades (available signed or not signed) was a wider ranging retrospective, spanning the world in fifty years. What surprised me, in 2012, was that on seeing the book, photography curators at major museums — two in the U.S. and one in Germany — selected mainly my “Americana” images to access into their collections.

These are not your media-made icons, but out-of-the-way people in out-of-the-way places. Our character seems to survive in the unnoticed interstices of our lives.

Midtown, New York City, 1963

Midtown, New York City, 1963

Lower East Side, New York City, 1963

Lower East Side, New York City, 1963

Reno, Nevada, 1962

Reno, Nevada, 1962

Southern Indiana, 1973

Southern Indiana, 1973

Northern Minnesota, 1973

Northern Minnesota, 1973

Near Jerome, Arizona, 1970

Near Jerome, Arizona, 1970

Oakland, California, 1961

Oakland, California, 1961

Indianapolis, Indiana, 1973

Indianapolis, Indiana, 1973

Southern Illinois, 1973

Southern Illinois, 1973

Southern Illinois, 1973

Southern Illinois, 1973

Southern Illinois, 1973

Southern Illinois, 1973

Indianapolis, Indiana, 1973

Indianapolis, Indiana, 1973

Detroit, 1973

Detroit, 1973

Seattle, 1962

Seattle, 1962

Mississippi River, Bellevue, Iowa, 1973

Mississippi River, Bellevue, Iowa, 1973

Atherton, California, 1972

Atherton, California, 1972

Copyright statement: William Carter papers, © Stanford University Libraries. Click here for a detailed usage guide.

Written by bywilliamcarter

August 31, 2016 at 12:00 pm

Happy Accidents Part 2

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When I was fooling around with my first digital camera several years ago, I tried auto focusing on my hand, then snapped the picture.  The photo somehow refused to go away, and kept popping up in my files.  Unlike others in the book I was preparing in 2009, it would not fit in that sequence, but like an unruly child still demanded attention, until I hit on using as a soft pattern across both “end papers” – the sheets just inside the hard covers.  What could be more implicit in ones destiny?


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The Palm of My Hand

“The Palm of My Hand,” photograph © William Carter 2001-2010, as used in Causes and Spirits, 2011

Click here to see other examples of photographs in Causes and Spirits.

Copyright statement: William Carter papers, © Stanford University Libraries. Click here for a detailed usage guide.

Written by bywilliamcarter

November 10, 2015 at 1:30 pm

Egypt, Mother of of the World

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I landed in Beirut in 1964 knowing nothing of the region. I was there to represent a New York photo agency — when such outfits had their people stationed around the world doing photojournalistic assignments.

One of the first people I met was the New York Times’ Middle East bureau chief, Dana Adams Schmidt. A seasoned writer, he was just leaving for Egypt, Yemen, South Arabia and Yemen: did I want to go with him? I jumped at the chance.

In Cairo I accompanied Dana on some of his political interviews. Nasser was in power trumpeting his anti-colonialist, pro-socialist, Arab-nationalist agenda. Since time immemorial the Egyptians, with their proud history, had considered themselves the cultural and political leaders of the Arab community.

The term for this outlook was — and is — Masr, Um al-Dunia: “Egypt, mother of the world.”

I had time to explore the  teeming, wonderful streets. The following year I would return to the Nile Delta photographing for a UN agricultural development agency. The country’s problems were deep — seemingly intractable — yet the faces were joyous. I can only hope some of that spirit survives the latest crisis. Half a century seems less long inside a seedbed of civilization.

All photos © William Carter 1965
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Copyright statement: William Carter papers, © Stanford University Libraries. Click here for a detailed usage guide.

Written by bywilliamcarter

September 23, 2013 at 8:59 pm

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