Tag Archives: history

Mexico City, in Black and White

This was a return trip, just a quick three-day weekend over the Veterans’ Day holiday, so I only shot four rolls of black-and-white and six rolls of color (to be processed today). Here are some highlights.

I took a trip to the UNAM (Autonomous National University of Mexico) campus, which is famous for its 1960s architecture (it’s the site of the 1968 Olympics, and the Olympic stadium which seats some 80,000 (if I recall correctly) is across Insurgentes Boulevard from the campus). My partner is in law school at UNAM, so we met up after class and wandered around a bit. These images are from the Architecture school buildings, another program that UNAM is famous for.

UNAMArchitectureStairs

AngelUNAMArchitecture

You may be wondering- what’s with the rectangular images? He almost always shows us square photos! Well, I traded in some gear I wasn’t using and got a Mamiya RZ67 and a trio of lenses for it. The RZ67 is effectively a Hasselblad on steroids – unlike my Rolleiflex, which is a TLR (Twin Lens Reflex), the RZ is an SLR (Single Lens Reflex). The advantage is that with an SLR, interchangeable lenses make a lot more sense, since you only have to have one of them per focal length. The RZ also shoots 6x7cm negatives on 120 film (NOT 120mm!!! Pet Peeve alert – 120 is the film size, not 120mm. 120 was a Kodak internal designation for the format that became universal, kind of like Kleenex). The RZ solves the problem of having to rotate the entire camera when switching from horizontal to vertical by instituting rotating backs. This of course makes the camera bigger and heavier. It’s an additional challenge when traveling, but I think the images speak for themselves.

Back in the city center, I was wandering around on the street where my hotel is located, Calle Londres. Down the block are a pair of markets – the Mercado del Angel, which specializes in antiques, and the Mercado de Artesanias which specializes in modern handicrafts of all varieties from wood carvings to ceramics to sterling silver jewelry. The Mercado de Artesanias had a Day of the Dead altar still up in their entryway.

DiaDeLosMuertosAltar

DiaDeLosMuertosAltar2

You can’t tell it in black and white, but those pumpkins on the ground were fluorescent purple and pink. I like them better in b/w, don’t you?
BronzeDoorsLondres

Also on Calle Londres, these bronze doors can be found. I’m still not sure what they belong to, but they’re quite impressive.

 

GaleanaMonument

Another aspect of the trip was to take in some of the exhibits of FotoMexico, a nation-wide, three month long photography festival that covers some 600 exhibits around the nation. The headquarters for the program is the Centro de la Imagén, located inside the Biblioteca México (I’ll have more to say about FotoMexico in another post). The Biblioteca México is located in an 18th century tobacco factory-cum-military facility that was used as a prison during the waning days of Spanish colonial rule. This monument is in the park in front of the Biblioteca, commemorating Jose Maria Morelos, a Mexican general who led a valiant 40 day resistance against colonial authorities at Cuautla, after which he was taken prisoner, held in the jail in the Ciutadela (now the Biblioteca) and then executed for treason.
ParkSweepMexicoCity

The cart and broom of one of the caretakers of the park.
MorelosMonument2

Another view of the Morelos monument. It was erected in 1912, as part of the centenary commemorations of Mexican independence from Spain, and coincidentally the Mexican Revolution of 1911 which overthrew the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz.
GlorietaInsurgentes

Last but not least, the advertising billboard structure in the Glorieta Insurgentes. The Glorieta is a major traffic circle on Avenida Insurgentes Norte, and is a transportation hub – the subway and express buses have stops in and around the Glorieta. I photographed the billboard structure because it has a look to it reminiscent of a Bernd and Hilla Becher photograph of industrial structures.

Sinister Idyll: Historical Slavery in the Modern Pastoral Landscape – Hampton Estate

Here are the first two from my visit to Hampton National Historic Site, in Towson, Maryland (just north of Baltimore). More will be forthcoming, but I wanted to get these two posted right away. Hampton was at its peak, a several thousand acre estate. It was built as the country home for the Ridgely family, who made their early wealth through ironworks. One Ridgely would be governor of Maryland. The house itself was famous for being a centerpiece of entertainment and gracious living, having greenhouses and a subterranean icehouse on the property, providing the Ridgelys and their guests with seasonal fruits, ice water and chilled beverages year-round, an extreme rarity in 1790 when the house was built. The main house has thirteen bedrooms on three floors, a sitting room, great hall, dining room, parlor, library/music room, kitchen and laundry.

House Slave Quarters
House Slave Quarters

This octagonal garden, roughly 8 feet on a side, is built inside the foundations of the house slave quarters. It was a two-story structure, and some three families of house servants shared it. While the US Park Service guides (who give outstanding tours of the property) tell you explicitly about the structure and its purpose, no marker in the garden indicates its history.

Park Road, Hampton
Park Road, Hampton

Today, Hampton Lane divides the Hampton historical site. What is remarkable about the property is that so many of the farm structures remain – the dairy with its spring-water-fed cold water bath for the milk and butter, the horse stables (the Ridgelys were big horse racing fans, and kept the stables within eyesight of the mansion, another unusual feature, as well as a no-longer-surviving racetrack of their own), the overseer’s house and slave quarters for the skilled labor (stable hands, dairy workers, etc).

You can see the overseer’s house inside the white picket fence to the right of the scene. Hampton is open as a public park, and many people come there to ride their bikes and exercise their dogs. Today it is a beautifully maintained pastoral landscape in suburban Baltimore. While again, the Park Service does yeoman’s work in interpreting the space, and has provided outstanding documentation on the website for Hampton, the interpretation of the site requires you to actually go inside the structures and talk to the park service guides. It is possible to visit, and if you don’t engage, be completely oblivious to the fact that the parkland you are walking through exists by and for slave labor.

Anonymous Young Boy, by Alexander Gardner

Young Boy, by Alexander Gardner, Washington DC
Young Boy, by Alexander Gardner, Washington DC

Here’s another portrait by Gardner. Funny thing – Gardner was much more successful in business than Mathew Brady, yet Brady images are far more common than Gardner’s CDVs. I don’t know if it is that he did fewer (certainly seems so) or that his subjects’ heirs are largely holding on to them still. Given the disproportion between his images and Brady’s in the marketplace (not a statistically validated survey, but in my estimation, there’s a 10:1 ratio or more on the Brady:Gardner ratio), I’d say that he just didn’t make that many. This was obviously from his civilian commercial operation, and probably a few years after the Civil War as there is no mention on the back of being “Official Photographer to the Army of the Potomac”. The country as a whole grew war-weary in the aftermath of the war – all aspects of society were changing, and quite radically. Slavery had ended, the agrarian/industrial divide fell heavily in favor of industrialization. Women were a (temporary) presence in the workforce after the death of nearly 700,000 men of working age over four years of truly brutal combat.

With all this change and stress, it’s not a surprise that an association with the US Army that was trumpeted in 1864 would be quickly effaced from advertising copy.