I find it very difficult to sit and do nothing, these days, after almost a decade of continuous work on one project. At the same time, I'm burned out to the point it's threatening my health. I wish I could think of which prominent photographer it was, who finally had to quit because his doctor had ordered him to. Someone was interviewing him in his old age, and the fellow explained that when he took up a camera, it was too exciting, and thus was dangerous for his heart. I can't afford to see doctors, but I'm a bit concerned I could be in a similar situation.
Still, last night, a new project (i.e., a sub-project) came to me--creating a small book of Mathew Franklin Whittier's "deacon" stories. This morning I searched through my digital archive and came up with twelve, plus I can add a bonus of two "church" stories. This won't be a lot of work--I'll simply massage them for Microsoft Word (instead of Word Pad, which I typically key these in with), provide a citation, and add any notes regarding attribution or other issues that seem necessary.
But these stories cry out for illustrations, and I can't afford it. I could dip into savings if I thought the book would sell; and it will be small enough that I could create a physical book of it, which might be more attractive for buyers than an e-book. But I don't dare invest, in this way, knowing it probably won't sell a single copy until after I'm gone.
Once the public realizes who MFW was, it's a done deal--copies will sell like hotcakes, and no-doubt someone will have it illustrated. Hopefully they will pick the right artist. I would really prefer to choose him or her myself, because I have the intuitive sense of what Mathew would have wanted. Quite a number of his humorous sketches were illustrated; but not, as best I can recall, any of these church-and-deacon stories.
I'm sitting here before the laptop screen, wondering if I should ask for donations. I mean, this is a small audience who (with one recent exception) doesn't see enough value in my work to buy my books--I think that putting myself out there, asking for a substantial donation (because even online, a good artist isn't cheap), knowing it means almost certain rejection, is probably not very respectful to myself. I don't mind humiliation, it comes with life as part of the package. But it's stressful, and the doctor I can't afford to see probably would recommend against it.
This book would be an illustrator's playground. Far from struggling to find suitable scenes to portray, he or she would have a heck of a time choosing among them.
I'm also not sure what to do for a cover. I certainly can't draw! And one hates to create a generic cover with a nature scene, or a pattern (I used a pattern from the bark of a tree for one book), or simple broad stripes of different colors, for a book like this. The cover, itself, cries out for an illustration...
I could go photograph a country church, I suppose. There must be a suitable one in the area around Portland, Maine.
How's this? The church is the East Parish Meeting House in East Haverhill, Mass., where some of these stories may have taken place. Actually, this building is the one erected on the same spot, two years after Mathew and Abby were married by the pastor in 1836. I would guess it looks very similar to the original. The image, meanwhile, is from Wikimedia and is has been placed in the public domain. Admittedly, I am a "meat-and-potatoes" graphic artist, but it will do.
I was just idly wondering what search terms I could use to find that famous photographer who was ordered by his doctor to stop shooting. You can find the darndest things online with key words, but this is a tough one. I don't think he was a portrait photographer; I don't think he was strictly landscape. He would have been working in the 20th century, probably the early-to-mid 20th century... It could be Henri Cartier-Bresson, but I couldn't swear to it. I say that because of the following quote in one of his biographical sketches:
Cartier-Bresson retired from photography in the early 1970s, and by 1975 no longer took pictures other than an occasional private portrait; he said he kept his camera in a safe at his house and rarely took it out.
It's hard to believe that my period of heavy involvement, as a serious amateur, in photography goes back about 30 years, now.* It really seems like just yesterday. It's no wonder I can't remember. I have a few of my best black-and-white prints hanging up in my studio apartment, here--but to think I took them and printed them 30 years ago! You who think you are young men, or middle-aged, blink twice and you will be my age...
I have a series, here to my left, taken at an arts festival in Atlanta. A craftsman, probably in his late 60's or early 70's, who looks like he's from, say, Holland, is showing a middle-aged man the fine points of his lathe-turning work. The younger fellow looks archetypally American. They ignored me while I was snapping away--it was evening, and they were lit only by a single bare light bulb. My feeling is that it really transcends time. And yet, that was 30 years ago. The craftsman is probably gone by now, or quite aged; the middle-aged man, if he is still with us, is at least as old as the craftsman was in the photograph.
I'm not leading to a conclusion, or a moral. I'm just musing...
Here, I found the originals in my digital archives, and this is one of the images from the series:
Oh, I might have mentioned that I attended an antiques show here in Portland 2-3 weeks ago. The prices, especially for furniture, at those shows, are through the roof (at least for me). Yesterday, I drove to Walmart to buy a few pair of shorts, for my new bread bakery job. Of course, this time of year they don't sell shorts (they are merciless about seasonal items), so I headed to the nearby Goodwill. Outside, they had some furniture items on quicksale, among them a table with curved legs and claw feet, which had two fold-down wings on either side, and drawers for silverware. I asked how much it was, and the clerk put a $5.00 tag on it. I've got it in the kitchen, and it fits beautifully with my "budget antiquey" decor. It needs a little repair work on the spring-loaded prop holding up one of the wings, but one of my neighbors is a handyman by profession, and says he'll be glad to look at it. All this, also, is neither "here nor there," with no moral or conclusions forthcoming. It just sort of showed up in my path, and I bought it. I think life can be just as interesting--and a lot less frustrating--if you don't insist on anything, and just take it as it comes.
Oh, heck, that's a moral, isn't it?
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*Mathew Franklin Whittier, writing under the pseudonym "Quails" for the Boston "Weekly Museum," writes of leaving Paris in the Jan. 10, 1852 edition:
Having now seen the most interesting places in Paris and vicinity, we prepare for our return to London. We are escorted to the depot by our worthy friend, Monsieur Ernest Lacan, and there, after a hearty shake of the hand and an affectionate farewell, the bell rings and we find ourself fast departing from the gayest and most beautiful city in the world.
The "Encyclopedia of Ninetheenth-Century Photography" says of Ernest Lacan:
Although Ernest Lacan never practiced photography he was a central voice in the international photographic community during the second half of the 19th century. As editor and writer for the two leading French photography journals, La Lumiere [The Light] and Le Moniteur de la Photographie [The Monitor of Photography], from 1851 to 1879 Lacan helped shape the terms of the debate around photographic practice and theory as he strove to articulate photography's cultural significance.
Mathew, as "Quails," writes the following in the May 10, 1851 edition, a couple of months before he left for Europe. Note that he refers to Lorenzo Chase as a friend.
We made a visit to Brady's celebrated Daguerreian Gallery on the corner of Broadway and Fulton street, one day last week, and examined the largest collection of pictures of eminent men that we have ever seen. Mr. Brady is looked upon in this city, in about the same light that friend Chase is in Boston, as a driving, persevering, industrious artist, determined to succeed and excel, in anything he undertakes, let the trouble or expense be what they may. Your readers must not think--from our speaking of Daguerreotype artists in so many of our letters--that we are in that line of business, for we ain't, but we love dearly to look upon good pictures of every kind, and more especially those taken by the Daguerreian process--there is that naturalness about pictures taken in this way--by first-rate artists--that has yet, been produced in no other manner.
*For anyone new, here, in my first book, "Mathew Franklin Whittier in his own words," I have gone to great lengths (literally) to prove that "Quails" was not--as historians believe--written by entertainer Ossian Dodge, but rather by Mathew.
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