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Sunday, 26 May 2013

Padlocked Heart


Chief Joseph (c. 1840-1904): photo by Edward Sheriff Curtis (1868-1962), 1903; orotone print by Jean-Anthony du Lac (1929-1982), 1980, 58.7 x 48 cm (National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution / Library of Congress Collection of American Indian Photography)

Then as sun comes up Sunday paper for the obits
wherein growing older you discover your familiars
today Jean du Lac master of the orotone (photo repro
on glass) born in France died in San Francisco ashes
scattered off Marin coast “The majority of his life
a mystery” he “left behind a single key
to a solitary padlock The location of the padlock
is unknown”

TC: from Zombie Dawn, 2002

Curtis Camera

"The 6½-by-8½-inch dry-plate camera seemed to suit [Edward S. Curtis] best. Time and again, ‘The Chief' . . . turned to the favored old Reversible-Back Premo. . . . No gadgets; just a camera, tripod, focusing cloth, and film."
-~ Jean-Antony Du Lac, 1976 (Smithsonian Libraries)

Hunters Point

The streets of Hunters Point in San Francisco during the September 1966 rebellion. After the police shot 16-year-old Matthew Johnson in the back and killed him, people rose up against the police and the whole repressive situation. The mayor called in police sharpshooters, and National Guard troops with tanks and machine guns were sent into the neighborhood, but the people rebelled for three days:
photos by Jean Anthony Dulac, September 1966 (via Revolution, 8 October 2006; photos courtesy of San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library)


The Offering: San Ildefonso: Mohawk Mother and Child: Jean Anthony du Lac, 1977, unframed orotone print after a photograph by Edward S. Curtis, 24 " x 18" (Clars Gallery, Oakland)


Mohawk Mother and Child
: Jean Anthony du Lac, 1976, unframed orotone print after a photograph by Edward S. Curtis, 24 " x 18"
(Clars Gallery, Oakland)

Chief Joseph: framed orotone print by Jean-Anthony Du Lac, 1980, after a photograph by Edward S. Curtis, 28.5" x 22.5" (Clars Gallery, Oakland)


Raven Blanket: framed orotone print by Jean-Anthony Du Lac, 1980, after a photograph by Edward S. Curtis, 28.5" x 22.5" (Clars Gallery, Oakland))

Red Cloud: framed orotone print by Jean-Anthony Du Lac, 1980, after a photograph by Edward S. Curtis, 28.5" x 22.5" (Clars Gallery, Oakland)

du LAC, Jean-Antony -- 73, of San Francisco, CA, died January 15, of natural causes. Born in France and raised in New York City, he moved west to San Francisco in 1957. Jean was an accomplished photographer whose published credits include Life Magazine and the San Francisco Examiner. He spent many years reproducing Edward S. Curtis's images of North American Indians; and he mastered the process of creating orotones, which are photographic reproductions on glass. Jean's orotones appeared on the walls of the Smithsonian as well as the White House during the Carter and Reagan administrations. A preservationist, his reproduction of Eadward Muybridge's panorama of San Francisco still hangs in one prominent San Francisco hotel; and he was instrumental in organizing Proposition P in the early 1970s, which sought to preserve the old San Francisco skyline by limiting the height of all downtown skyscrapers. The majority of his life a mystery, Jean left behind no material possessions, save for a single key to a solitary padlock. The location of the padlock is unknown. Jean is survived by his three children: Christian du Lac of Palo Alto; Joshua du Lac of Sacramento; and Sascha du Lac of Del Mar; and one granddaughter, Ariella. A private Memorial Service was held on April 27 off the coast of Marin County. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to: The Dakota Indian Foundation, 209 N. Main, P.O. Box 340, Chamberlain, SD 57325.

San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday 14 July 2002




“The majority of his life
a mystery, ”he “left behind a single key
to a solitary padlock The location of the padlock
is unknown”

A "mystery" indeed, locked in the faces of Chief Joseph, Red Cloud -- long live these orotone prints.


grey whiteness of fog against invisible
top of ridge, bird slanting to the left
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

full, rather than half-size
view of possibilities

happening, which experience,
being in reference to

silver edge of sun in cloud above ridge,
line of pelicans gliding toward horizon

Dalriada said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hazen said...

No gadgets;
just a camera,
and a man who will look,
who sees life as a mystery,
constantly unfolding.

Nora said...

I remember seeing an obituary in the Globe when I was a kid. A woman (a Cabot, I think? Some prominent Boston family) died, leaving behind, three children, eight grandchildren, and a crocodile.

Marie W said...

Thank you for this beautiful homage, Tom. I didn't know JDL, it's great to scroll down the post, I see his portraits as many homages too. I paused for a while at Mother and Child, thinking where is the child? Amazing photo.
Good news, I think I found the solitary padlock.

TC said...

I've been intrigued by the the elusive Jean Du Lac since reading his obit eleven years ago. A man who disappeared from the world leaving little material trace. His prints still turn up online and in auction sales, at extremely modest prices.

The questions surrounding this interesting figure have haunted me for years. The record of his photographic work suggests a strong commitment to particular causes. His dedication to the work of Edward Curtis bespeaks a care for the Native American culture which had been Curtis's great subject. And Du Lac's photojournalism, as seen in the two 1966 photos here -- documenting protest actions for the local Communist magazine Revolution -- hints of a larger concern for social justice.

Du Lac, I've learned, is known in the history of photography as an expert on the Orotone printing process.

An orotone or gold-tone is one of many types of photographic print which can be made from a negative. An orotone photograph is created by printing a positive on a glass plate pre-coated with a silver gelatin emulsion. Following exposure and development, the emulsion is coated with banana oil impregnated with gold colored pigment, to yield a gold-toned image. Alternatively, the developed glass plate can be gold-leafed by hand using 23 karat gold leaf. Because they are printed on glass, orotone images are extremely fragile and often require specialized frames in order to prevent breakage.

Though Edward Curtis used the orotone or gold-tone process to print only a tiny fraction of his negatives (Curtis called his prints made by this process "Curt-Tones"), others were printed in this manner from his black and white negatives after his death. Between 1970 and 1980 Jean Du Lac, working in San Francisco, created a small body of gold-tones, which are not easily delineated from Curtis's own prints. In 1976 Du Lac prepared 175 Curtis prints for the Florence Curtis Graybill / Victor Boesen publication issued by Crowell (N.Y.), Edward Sheriff Curtis: Visions of a Vanishing Race.

"The ordinary photographic print, however good, lacks depth and transparency, or more strictly speaking, translucency," Curtis had written. "We all know how beautiful are the stones and pebbles in the limpid brook of the forest where the water absorbs the blue of the sky and the green of the foliage, yet when we take the same iridescent pebbles from the water and dry them they are dull and lifeless, so it is with the ordinary photographic print, but in the Curt-Tones all the transparency is retained and they are as full of life and sparkle as an opal."

There is a sort of mysterious life that shines out intermittently from the obscurity of the past, as through an opaque medium.

Glints and reflections of depths, briefly glimpsed, then lost. Someone was here for a while, and now is not. What we thought we have been able to make out may or may not have been real. Then we're no longer here to wonder, and all's forgot.

But Marie has found the Padlocked Heart, which has plainly been awaiting the right caretaker. So now perhaps her countryman can rest in peace, his heart in the right hands at last.

dandenpo said...

Oh I can't believe how truly blessed we were to have had such a remarkable friendship with this truly humble extrodinary man .I just now saw of his passing and am saddened and our personal gifts and purchases from him now have so much more meaning.He was a master at his oratones purchasing only the best glass from France for his pieces .His frames from the best walnut he could find and if your protons has a plate it was buried in Jeans yard by his hands to antique it. This funny little man dropped his pin in our front yard (1ft talk grass) we spent hours laughing looking for it ~he said he'd get a new one from Ron (Reagan) as he was still on staff as White House Photographer.He loved telling stories of his travels to me and my husband but his favorite thing we remember him for was running around in tall grass in yard trying to catch the light from the sun just right on the goldtones to show his clouds in the sky (as a good protons with the sky needs good clouding for depth) Well like I said I realized how lucky we were to meet him and have a wonderful friendship and had to say something.He taught us everything about the orotones as we sold some our of our gallery where we only sold Edward Curtis photographers and Jean duLacs prints. A remarkable story about a remarkable man especially in his open thinking .My children grew up with ChiefJoseph orotone looking down on them in our front room and it kept them in line they still say but my Abraham Lincoln orotones that Jean made for me since my grandmother's sister was married to Abrahams great great great nephew it's signed from Jean to us personally and now I realize how rich in spiritly I am .For me it is the solitary Padlock