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Sunday, 28 August 2011

Natural Reaction (William Henry Jackson, Bombay, 1895)


File:William Henry Jackson-Fleeing camera.jpg

Woman and children fleeing camera, Bombay, 1895

when the shooting began
in panic
from the white man
with the magic box
beneath the black cloth

File:William Henry Jackson-People on sidewalk.jpg

Street musicians playing stringed instruments and other people squatting on sidewalk, British India, 1895

Photos by William Henry Jackson (1843-1942)


ACravan said...

Because British India has been on my mind pretty constantly over the past year, because of the astonishing images and the terrific direct/askance poem, disturbing as it is, I feel shocked pleasantly awake after two days of mid-Atlantic states "weather porn" and no electrical power caused by local drizzles. Thanks so much for that. I can leave the dry cleaner parking lot wi-fi stand now and go out and "hunt breakfast." These photos remind me so much of dreams I've been having. Curtis

TC said...


Jackson was a blacksmith's son (b. Keeseville, N.Y.) who began selling drawings to neighbors at the age of twelve, a sign of things to come for an enterprising artist who kept at it for the better part of a century.

After fighting at Gettysburg he went West and worked for eight years as a survey photographer for geographer and explorer Ferdinand Vandiveer Hayden.

His photographs helped turn Yellowstone into the first national park. He was the first white man to see and photograph the Mesa Verde ruins of the Anasazi people in Colorado. After the Hayden Survey years, Jackson settled down to a successful commercial career in Denver. His pictures now revealed the steady conquest of the frontier by the railroads.

By the 1890s he was celebrated as the country's greatest landscape photographer. In the words of historian Peter Hale, Jackson's photographs "revealed the essential qualities of the West and reproduced the experience of contact with wilderness and God for millions of viewers."

He was hired to create the official set of "views" exhibited at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, was befriended by one of the Exposition's organizers, Joseph Pangborn, and commissioned by Pangborn to set off on a five-year, all-expenses-paid trip round the world. As it turned out, he was back in half the time, toting a full portfolio of photochrome and stereoscope views of China, India, etc. The shots in this post come from that trip.

As it appears from the top shot here, not all Jackson's Asian subjects were ready to stand as still as Western rock formations while having their picture taken. Not all -- but some, as indicated in
this magic lantern slide of a very patient Buddhist idol at the ruins of Borobodur.



when the shooting began
in panic
from the white man

Lovely lines, coupled with these two photos (some people in motion, others sitting stone statue still). . .

light coming into fog against invisible
ridge, song sparrow’s tchep tchep tchep
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

think of “something,” is it
a consequence of fact

things set in motion, other
person, not therefore

grey white of fog to the left of point,
shadowed green pine on tip of sandspit

TC said...

Plenty of that grey white stuffing over here too, Steve.

Probably in Bombay, 1895, it wouldn't have worked to say, "Say cheese".

So maybe it would be:

"think of 'something,'

though that too might have been a bit of a stretch, leaving the only fall-back position as...

things set in motion, other

in flight.