Friday, July 20, 2007

Eliot Porter

Eliot Porter was born in 1901 into a middle-calss family in a suburb of Chicago. His parents gave him his first camaera at the age of ten. He earned degrees in chemical engineering and medicine, and worked as a biochemical researcher at Harvard University but never lost his interest in photogarphy. In 1938, Alfred Stieglitz showed Porter's work in his New York City gallery. The exhibit's success prompted Porter to leave Harvard and pursue photography full-time. In the 1940s, he began working in color with Eastman Kodak's new dye transfer process, a technique Porter would use his entire career.

Porter's reputation increased following the publication of his 1962 book, In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World. Published by the Sierra Club, the book featured Porter's color nature studies of the New England woods and quotes by Henry David Thoreau. A best-seller. several editions of the book have been printed.

Porter traveled extensively to photograph ecologically important and culturally significant places. He published books of photographs from Glen Canyon (Utah), Maine, Baja California, Galápagos Islands, Antarctica, East Africa, and Iceland. Cultural studies included Mexico, Egypt, China, and ancient Greek sites.

James Gleick’s book, Chaos: Making a New Science (1987), caused Porter to reexamine his work in the context of chaos theory. In 1990, Porter published, Nature's Chaos which combined his photographs with Gleick's writings. He died that same year.

Porter bequeathed his personal archive to the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. I'm ashame to admit that I never heard of this great American photographer until I happen to have the great luck of stumbling across a copy of his print entitled "Trunks of maple & birch with oak leaves, Passaconaway Road, New Hampshire (circa 1956) at a Salvation Army thrift store a few days again. It is majestic and a real treat for a nature lover like me. It has an honored place on a wall in my living room now.

Research info provided by:

Now here's a poem you can honor-worship:

Subjects, Adorned By “Proof”

With thoughts wheezing in the hearth:

-Horny hives for halos in a pickle lark.

-An unmade bed of queer wicker hobble.

-A tension tickler for an outhouse door.

-Fork hums in a hymn of stunning finger pass.

-Rubber gloves in a milestone of see-saw sledge.

-More muddy backslides for a fat Tuesday.

-High-tone gravy running down the network news.

-An ornament that dangles from lion amnesia.

-A covenant of miniature butcher block flocks.

-Life spans, generously distributed on tangled vines.

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