Monday 30 September 2013

Ansel Adams: Master of his Craft

"You don't take a photograph, you make it."

Yosemite courtesy

Mount Williamson, Sierra Nevada courtesy

Jeffery Pine courtesy

Leaves, Mt. Rainier by Ansel Adams

Leaves, Mount Rainier courtesy 

Frozen Lake and Cliff courtesy

Tree courtesy

Boulder Dam courtesy

Beach courtesy

Farm workers courtesy

Ansel Adams courtesy

Sunday 29 September 2013

Americana is Alive!

I am visiting my American sister-in-law, Julie, this weekend (she now lives in Canada).  She has decorated for Thanksgiving.  Two pumpkins add colour to the garden.  A decorative plate filled with vegetables and candles sits on top of the kitchen table.  A harvest wreath hangs on the front door.  Pumpkin stickers decorate the windows.  Miniature pilgrims serve as salt and pepper shakers.  A turkey perches on the couch while a ceramic turkey sits on the stovetop.  Thanksgiving cutouts hang on each of the bedroom doors.  There is no mistaking that Thanksgiving is upon us. 

Americana is alive and well.  Americans have a sense of history that we can only dream of.  They know their history.  They know how their country was formed.  They know what they value.  They have a sense of roots. 

When I travel in the United States, I notice the American flags which fly proudly over the businesses and the homes.  Americans are sure of who they are and what they represent.

When I go shopping with my friend Heather in the United States, I see plenty of Americana.  She takes me to a discount store called Ollies.  Their book section is full of hard cover picture books, many of which fall into the Americana category:  Abraham Lincoln Crosses a Creek, George Washington, Buffalo Girl, I Have a Dream (Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech).  Not only can you buy Americana books, but also decorations. The Walmart has Thanksgiving wreaths, cookie cutters, crafts.  And yet our Dollarama had only one little corner dedicated to Thanksgiving compared to a whole row of Halloween items.

Where are our Canadian history picture books?  Where is our Canadiana?  Our sense of history is not nearly as clear and as strong as our American counterparts.  We don't teach it in school the way the Americans do.  American schoolchildren cannot forget the American history that was drilled into them when they were young.  American folkheroes are alive and well:  Paul Revere and the American Revolution; Benjamin Franklin and the discovery of electricity; Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address; Thomas Edison and the discovery of the lightbulb.

While Canada is lacking in a sense of Canadiana, we do have a history -- it's just a matter of learning it and promoting it.  We have our inventors:  Sir Frederick Banting and insulin.  We have our war heroes.  We have our leaders.  But we don't talk about them the way the Americans do.  We can learn from their example.

Saturday 28 September 2013

Fifty Percent Boredom, Fifty Percent Terror

According to war photographer Andy Clark, the Gulf War in Iraq (1991) was fifty percent boredom, fifty percent terror.  Here are some pictures from the conflict called "Desert Storm".

Me, leaning against a blown out Iraqi tank while embedded with the US 2nd Armour (Forward) inside Iraq north of Kuwait border.

Photographer Andy Clark courtesy

Tank courtesy

A file photo dated February 26, 1991 of a U.S. soldier standing night guard as oil wells burn in the distance in Kuwait, just south of the Iraqi border on the last night of the Gulf War. Hundreds of burning oil wells lit up the sky after they were sabotaged by retreating Iraqi soldiers.  REUTERS/Andy Clark

Fires in the distance courtesy

File photo of a Saudi Arabian resident trying on a gas mask issued to him by the government in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia on January 10, 1991.  REUTERS/Andy Clark

Gas mask courtesy

Two Kuwaiti Air Force fighter pilots greet each other on the tarmac after landing at the coalition airbase in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia in January of 1991.  REUTERS/Andy Clark

Comrades courtesy

While spending a couple days with U.S. Marines prior to the war I was given the opportunity to fire a couple of mortars with the hand held during a live fire exercise.

Photographer and soldiers examine firearms courtesy

A dead Iraqi soldier lies near vehicles abandoned on the 'Highway of Death' north of Kuwait City, Kuwait March 1, 1991. REUTERS/Andy Clark

A casualty of war courtesy

Highway of death courtesy

Desert Storm circa 1991 courtesy

General Schwarzkopf courtesy

Friday 27 September 2013

Duncan Develops Daunting Daguerrotypes

David Douglas Duncan captured some daunting photographs from the Korean War from 1950 to 1953. The war ended in a stalemate at the 38th Parallel, the North remaining Communist, the South, Democratic.  Here are some of Duncan's compelling pictures.

David Douglas Duncan in 1950

David Douglas Duncan circa 1950.

Captain Fenton realizes his company is almost out of ammunition circa 1950 courtesy

Wounded ambulance driver sobs when he learns his friend has been killed by the enemy circa 1950.

Wounded American Marine carried on machine gun which serves as stretcher circa 1950.

Americans retreat from Chosin Reservoir.

The fight for Seoul, Korea circa 1950.

Family flees as tanks fire away in Seoul, Korea.

American soldier sleeps as puppy whines in his ear.

Retreat from Chosin Reservoir past fallen comrades.

American soldiers pause for a break from Chosin Reservoir retreat.

Thursday 26 September 2013

Nick's Nikon Snaps Napalm Bomb

War photographer Nick Ut captured the most famous picture of the Vietnam War, 'The Girl in the Picture", a girl running from her village after being hit by a napalm bomb which burned the clothes right off her body (see my post "The Girl in the Picture" at  Here are ten photos by Nick Ut which brought the war into American living rooms and the American conscience.

1.  The Girl in the Picture

This picture Kim Phuc running away from her bombed village when she was just nine is now instantly recognisable and seen as a defining image of the Vietnam war

2.  Nipa Palm Grove

Spending so much time with members of the military he also got time to picture them having fun. Here he pictured youthful civil defence militiamen leap into the flooded Nipa Palm grove near Saigon on April 6, 1969

3.  U.S. helicopter picks up Vietnamese Marines

Vietnamese Marines rush to the point where a descending U.S. Army helicopter will pick them up after a sweep east of the Cambodian town of Prey-Veng in June 1970

4.  Napalm bomb detonates

Huynh Cong 'Nick' Ut took this picture just moments before capturing his iconic image. It shows bombs with a mixture of napalm and white phosphorus jelly and reveals that he moved closer to the village following the blasts

5.  Cambodian soldier smiles for camera

Not all his images are full of death and destruction. This one taken on September 20 1970 shows a Cambodian soldier smiling at the camera while on operations in Vietnam

6.  South Vietnamese tank

Trees are ravaged in the background to this picture of a South Vietnamese tank crew as the soldiers inside abandon it after being hit by B40 rockets and automatic weapons two miles north of Svay Rieng in eastern Cambodia

7.  South Vietnamese cross Mekong River

A line of South Vietnamese marines moves across a shallow branch of the Mekong River during an operation near Neak Luong Cambodia, on August 20, 1970

8.  Kim Phuc's aunt flees with baby

9.  Fleeing the bombs

10.  Nick Ut on assignment

Photos courtesy

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Capturing the Great War on Film

Phosgene gas effects courtesy