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Tuesday, 17 November 2020


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Where is the Montaigne now?

Your connection with Larry McMurty sent me on a nice little internet dive looking for any writings of his about photography. In those depths I instead discovered (randomly, as these things go) that Diane Keaton has a passion for photography, both in collecting it and making it.

In a New York Review of Books he writes "My friendship with Diane Keaton began about twenty-eight years ago, when I found her, one morning, sitting in the flower bed outside the Madison Hotel, in Washington, D.C. She was rummaging in a bag big enough to hold a caribou, which contained a camera heavy enough to stun the caribou with, should that be necessary."

Talk about a decisive moment! (Both for McMurty and for the imagined caribou.) Did he mean she had a Wista thing or a Nikon F thing? I wonder.

She has a book of her photographs _Reservations_ of hotel lobbies, it seems, published in 1980. Vanity Fair writes "Since then she has curated exhibits for artist friends while amassing a vast personal collection of vintage photographs. These are invariably shots of lost faces and places—images that might have been ignored or destroyed if she hadn't saved them." Who knew? These have led to books of photographs that she has put together, the subject of McMurty's review.

I miss bumping into people in the ways your post and these tidbits about McMurty/Keaton suggest. Instead we have to wander these corridors of the internet and bump into our memories of running into folk.

I hope rummaging around "in real life" and collecting it, in hand, are not going to become a lost activity.

A while ago, you wrote that you had a Rollei 6008AF. If you put this and your new Wista into use for your serious photography, you will not need any other equipment for decades.

This entry is among my favorites of yours, really spoke very directly to me. Lots to contemplate in a melancholic way during darker fall days of November in our latitudes, says this 64 y.o.

I live in a city with very good public transportation. Maybe I should stop buying lenses and get a car? But the 24-70mm f2.8 is much better than my 24-105mm f4. And I really think another macro lens might be useful.

He was a Postal worker, she a Librarian. They
built a great Art collection over the years.
“Herb and Dorothy Vogel had three requirements in purchasing art: It had to be inexpensive; it had to be small enough to be carried on the subway or in a taxi; and it had to fit inside their one-bedroom apartment.”

When they transferred it to the National Gallery of Art it was worth many Millions of Dollars.

Educate yourself on what you will collect and go from there. They did it like the Johnny Cash song - One Piece at a Time.

Over the years I've amassed a rather small, but I'd like to think, rather impressive collection of photography monographs (around 500). All are in Exc to VGood Cond, a few worth a couple of hundred each. Recently, I wrote to around a dozen people with considerably more photo connections than myself as to suggestions for where I could donate said collection. Two caveats: they would have to go to an institution or organization where they would actively be used as a learning resource, and that some accommodation would have to be made for their transport since I am not a person of means.

Absolute crickets...

George Best, an extraordinarily gifted and brilliant footballer of the 1960s, once said apropos of what he'd done with his money "I spent a lot of money on booze, birds [women] and fast cars. The rest I just squandered."

Agreed. Book collecting is for wealthy people. But aren't we blessed to live in countries where book reading is free?

Although - I have heard from your assistant that you do have quite the collection of photography books. As my mother would say, little fish are sweet (or enough is as good as a feast).

And am right that if you check your shed, you already have enough stuff in boxes? Imagine the effort required to have a seriously serious book collection. Your possessions do own you. You carry them from house to house. Look after them. Insure them. Yadda yadda yadda. To be fair though, your photos of your houses interior do show a very clean, almost minimalist aesthetic. So, well done you Mike.

Interesting coincidence - Ronald Reagan put the kibosh on my career as an astronomer. His budget cuts in CA lost me an assistantship at Lick Observatory in 1968, leaving me to a job promised at NASA, which evaporated in NASA's first budget cuts.
Left me with a career as a high-tech peddler and entrepreneur which I can guarantee you was more lucrative than being an astronomer.
Today when people ask why I left astronomy, I tell them being an astronomer was too much like being a priest; you did not have to take a vow of chastity, but you did have to take a vow of poverty and a vow of silence (hiding on the mountain alone observing for long periods of time.)

Of course, in biological terms, we need to eat, shelter, reproduce, and don't get eaten. Anything else is status games or entertainment. So, logically, any money not spent on what entertains you is just wasted.
Or, anyway, that's my excuse.

I can justify anything. Digital gear today makes acquisition of more items easier than back in the film days. I remember buying my new in the box Leica M6 with 35mm Summicron, almost 3000 1980s dollars. The initial financial hit was such that buying film and processing had to wait for a while... so much for the joy of Leica ownership.

Today, I just calculated the number of frames I'd have to shoot to equal the cost of a new body or lens and then I feel free to pull the trigger.

I just bought my 9th Fujifilm lens, the 23mm f/1.4 which is on sale now. All I have to do is shoot the equivalent of 50 rolls of slide film (film cost and processing) and the lens is "free".

At least that's my justification.

I have never bought a camera (or lens) without a good reason ;-)
Even though I had all this BIG stuff getting a Micro 4/3rds camera and lens was for a good reason - OC,OL,OY.


The ol' familiar story about men and their collections. King Solomon had a large collection of women (300 wives and 700 concubines). If that's any consolation for you.

Dan K.

I enjoyed hearing about your association with Larry McMurtry. Beginning in 1996 I lived in Ft Worth for five years. On two occasions I drove the 120 miles to Archer City, Larry's boyhood home and later the site of Booked Up, his vast collection of books. The volumes were scattered on shelves in four spacious buildings (including a former car dealership). I wandered at will in three of them and encountered nobody. I found Larry at a desk in the fourth building. He was talking to an Englishman dressed in attire rarely (if ever) seen in West Texas. This man was revealed to be a book scout from London who had driven up from DFW airport that day. "Is there anyplace in town where I can get a bite to eat?" he asked. Larry broke the news: there was the Dairy Queen, and nothing else. There was only the three of us to get a little chuckle over this.

I was raised in a home surrounded by thousands of books and, of course, now own thousands of books of my own (not counting my personal, professional library, which about doubles the count). I find it very hard to dispose of books, even if I don't like them. To keep further expansion down as far as possible, my rules are (a) except if I am travelling, hardbacks only and (b) no new purchases until all prior purchases are read. Ido honour my rules in the breach but not by very much. I've never collected for value or rarity but have accumulated a few valuable editions along the way. I'll keep them as long as my ownership of them continues to give me pleasure.

Hi Mike, just a follow-up on your comments about my comments! The reason I said: "2. Military Experience", is not because the military had anything to do with your job, but that military experience gave you a bunch of points in the "government hiring system" that allowed you to become a prime candidate for any job! I was told that someone who did a stint in the military, and then spent a few years learning photography, would be considered more for a position than someone with an expert portfolio and 20 years experience! It was pretty easy to see at one of the government studios I was at, that they were NOT operating under the idea that highly experienced people with new information from the outside, was what they wanted to develop!

Dear Mike,
I was reading this last post of yours and was thinking how can be strange that two people can have a similar path of life (starting with the age because I am turning 64 next January).
What is more odd is how photography has been a commun lifespan passion over the years and the often twisted destiny of us. It turn out may be that we are part of the same galactic community of curiosity and visual emotions.
I hope you the best!
From freezing Canada, Daniel M

About 20 years ago, my wife and I made a big inter-state move to where we live now. We had professional movers come and give estimates for packing and moving everything we owned. I asked the foreman how he calculated the cost of a job. His response? "That's easy. We come in with a tape measure and we measure the number of linear feet of bookshelves. In terms of weight, everything else is a rounding error." So it's books, books, books.

The mid-Seventies were the most mobile and least prosperous of my long life, but I did take a step down the bookie's path. As a young photographer smitten with the West, one current photo book compelled me to invest the big bucks. It was a large-format collection of Edwin Curtis' antiqued large-format photos of Native Americans in their vintage regalia. Many critics panned the work as recreations, and it was a mass-market edition with no chance of appreciation. But it was a luxury object to me: I recall it was $40, though even $20 was more than I'd ever paid for a book. Maybe for five books. My five volumes of Ansel Adams' how-to-series didn't fit with this big album, bound on the short side, and I didn't have a coffee table. I've never had a coffee table. I wonder what I've been missing, besides bruised shins?

I’ld bet you’d be a great, successful contestant on Jeopardy!

I have encountered (helped move, in fact) people who had enough LP records that the books were not the main weight moved (they were SF fans, there were a LOT of books; but low thousands of LPs as well).

Science fiction is still a good place for me to do just a little book collecting. First editions of Doc Smith are often under $100 (not everything, and not really good ones, and not one the dozen or however many there were sets of the Lensman series hand-bound in leather and put in a box as "The History of Civilization", that goes up around $7k; but many). First editions of Heinlein are too much for me, as are autographed copies. There are also things like the American first of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens (the source material for the TV mini-series), signed by both authors, which I bought new for list price and got signed by both authors when they were both at a convention I was at, and was worth mid hundreds last I checked which was before the TV mini-series and before Pratchett died).

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