Daguerrean Yachts and Floating Palaces: Early American Photography Boats
Forthcoming (November 2022). Photographers in America built floating studios and galleries within the first decade after the Daguerreotype’s invention. In this essay, I explore the history of these boats on the Ohio, Mississippi, and other rivers from 1847 to 1885.
Reconsidering Edward S. Curtis's Encounter with Scientists on Mount Rainier
One of the best lessons that I grudgingly learned from an early mentor, Clarence H. White, Jr. (son of the famous pictorialist photographer), was that family stories are sometimes just that – stories, not facts. I applied that lesson when I came across a glaring discrepancy in one of the most often-repeated stories about Edward Curtis. While most of his biographers love to tell his story about rescuing a group of scientists on Mount Rainier, it turns out that what actually happened was not quite the same as what we've been told.
This essay appeared in PNQ - Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Summer 2019.
Duty Bound to Finish: Edward S. Curtis and His Quest for Money to Complete The North American Indian
My first serious study of Curtis was this long essay about the many ways that Curtis raised funds to complete his "impossible dream." By the time I was finished with all of the research, the article was so long that I couldn't find a journal that would publish it. So I uploaded it to Academia.com, where anyone who is more than casually interested in Curtis can dive into the details that I found. You can also download it here – just click on the cover.
A Rubiyat Like No Others
This is the story of a one-of-a-kind work of book art, The Rubaiyát of Omar Khayyám, published by Adelaide Hanscom Leeson in 1905. A copy of the book was embellished and beautifully decorated by another woman artist as part of a remboîtage in 1927. It's a fascinating tale of photography, artistry, and dedication.
Henry Blackwell, Bookbinder, Bibliophile, and Author
Glimpse into the life of Henry Blackwell (1851-1928), who was one of the most famous bookbinders and collectors of the early 20th century.
The Most Gigantic Undertaking: Edward S. Curtis and The North American Indian
In this essay, I examine many lesser-known details about the publication of Curtis's masterpiece, The North American Indian. Published in twenty volumes from 1907 to 1930, it has been called "the most wonderful publishing enterprise ever undertaken in America." Fewer than three hundred sets of the books exist today, and they are highly valued by anthropologists, museums, libraries, and private collectors.
Note: The essay is only available in the print edition of The Journal of the Book Club of Washington. You may purchase a copy of The Journal by clicking on the image of the opening page of the essay (at the left).
Un Numéro, Une Image [Introductory essay to issue #2]
I enjoyed writing this glimpse into the lives of Hugo and Gaynee Preller, who operated a floating photography studio on the Mississippi and White Rivers in the U.S. from about 1893 to 1910. The essay is intended as a framing preface to Photographica No2, which is devoted to mobile photography studios in the 19th century.
Check out my blog page for my random (but totally fascinating) insights on photography and its connections with philanthropy, institutions, history, and, most of all, the people who made and make those things happen. Here are a few teasers to whet your appetite.