Ethnographer's Notes

Photography changed a great deal during the years in which these photographs were taken. It amuses me that in 1959 I used my best camera, a Canon P with a 1.8 lens, for black and white and my back-up camera, a Kodak Retina IIc, for color. I could not imagine that color photographs would ever be published in any thing other than The National Geographic. I used the same cameras in 1973-74 but with the color in the Canon. By 1981, I was using a Nikon F2 and in 1987 a Nikon F3, and rarely taking black and white. All black and white was taken using Plus X and all color using Kodachrome.

Eighty percent of the photographs used in this web site are more than 20 years old, and two-thirds are 45 years old. While I do not think that I totally neglected the preservation of my film, I know that it was never stored in a manner that professionals would consider proper. The result is that virtually all of the film from which these prints were made is damaged to some extent, and in the case of slides which were repeatedly used in classes or of film that was developed in the field, the damage is extensive. In spite of this, I believe few will notice evidence of that damage in these prints.

This paradox is resolved by the wonders of computer technology; specifically Nikon's Coolscan IV ED, with which I was able to convert my film to digital images, and Photoshop with which I repaired and printed the photographs. As one who long worked in a dark room, I cannot offer enough praise for today's "digital darkroom." Not only can one accomplish more in terms of repairing and maximizing prints, but working in a comfortable chair is light years ahead of standing in the confined space of a dark room and breathing the fumes of photographic chemicals.

As an anthropologist I have often lectured on the meaning and subtlety of culture. One never knows how successful he may be in such attempts, but in preparing this exhibition, which was initially a photographic exhibition at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures at Indiana University, an event occurred that suggested to me that my best answer may have lain in one of my photographs.

On the first day that I met with the staff of the museum to discuss my proposal, I was introduced to Elaine Gaul, Co-Curator of Exhibits, who told me that she had taken an anthropology course from me in 1968! I jokingly asked if she remembered anything, and she startled me by saying she remembered a story about my "daughter's picture." And I suddenly realized that a story that persisted so long in a student's memory must pack a powerful message.

So, I offer it here:

In 1961 I was in my first job at the University of Cincinnati, and as anthropologists are wont to do, I was showing slides of my field work in our home to my chairman, Gus Carlson, who, incidentally, was the person who first instructed me in dark room procedures. When this slide was projected I simply said, "This is Susan and some of her friends."

There was a pause, and our son, Dick, who had his 3rd and 4th birthdays in Africa, added, "Susan is the one in the middle."

Think about it!

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