52 Chapters
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Medium 9781574416565

The Great Depression

Byrd M. Williams IV University of North Texas Press ePub

Byrd III's diary

BYRD III WAS A JOURNALISM STUDENT at Texas Christian University from 1933 through 1937. He started photography in the early 1920s with a crummy, mail order toy camera and eventually acquired a Foth Derby, allowing a more detailed view of his visual experiences. The world was his now, and from that moment on he photographed continually around his neighborhood in south Fort Worth. During the Great Depression he shot extensively in the central business district of Fort Worth with his newly acquired Leica. Dad really hit his stride as an artist during this period, utilizing the sort of high modernist, decisive moment image structure prevalent at the time.

It was during this period that an adventuresome spirit took hold and, without warning, he ran off to the Great Lakes and settled in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He never talked much about this part of his life. I know from his diaries and photographs that he married briefly, bought an unfinished wooden sailboat to live on, and gave his best effort at being a writer/photographer/journalist.

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Medium 9781603442015

Hooked on Rivers

Ken W Kramer Texas A&M University Press ePub

Myron J. Hess

I LOVE being outdoors. Those rare times when I am able to step back from the frenzied pace of everyday life and feel in rhythm with nature give me an incredible sense of peace, of calmness. And, if you throw in a flowing river or stream, I can get close to achieving a state of nirvana. The love of nature came early. The appreciation of the special role of flowing streams developed a bit later.

As the youngest of seven children growing up in Cooke County in rural North Texas near the Oklahoma border at a time when TV watching was still an occasional event and computer games were science fiction material, I spent the bulk of my early childhood outside. When my siblings were home, I followed them around as much as they would let me. When they had all started school and I was still at home, the yard became my preschool and kindergarten classroom. Fortunately for me, farmyards can be incredibly interesting places: chickens and ducks to observe, ground squirrels and lizards to stalk, insects and toads to catch, and bird and mouse nests to discover. I think my dad was relieved to see me start school so he didn’t have to spend so much of his time answering my questions about what I had found or seen, and he could get back to farming full time.

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Texas Rivers and Tributaries

Ken W Kramer Texas A&M University Press ePub

I HAVE photographed the living waters of Texas for over twenty years, but at the beginning of my photography career I was more interested in places like the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and the mysterious slot canyons of southeastern Utah. I took pictures in Texas only when I stopped to rest during the long trips out west. But as the good images piled up, I found the streams and springs of my home state, from the West Fork of the Frio River or the wetlands of Aransas Wildlife Refuge to the Neches River bottomlands and the watery canyons of Big Bend Ranch State Park, to be the most extraordinary places of all. And I know there is much more to be found on private land, like a waterfall I have seen in deep East Texas that has never been photographed and doesn’t even have a name.

Yet just as Edward Curtis photographed the “vanishing Indians” one hundred years ago, I sense that I am photographing the vanishing waters of Texas. The Rio Grande in Big Bend is now more like the “Rio Poco,” the Middle Fork of the Pease River has dried up, and Jacob’s Well in the Hill Country stopped flowing for the first time in 2000. Larry McKinney, in his 1973 essay “Troubled Water,” states that “of the original 31 large springs (in Texas), only 17 remain. None of those springs stopped flowing because of natural causes.”

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Falling in Love With Bottomlands Waters and Forests of East Texas

Ken W Kramer Texas A&M University Press ePub

Janice Bezanson

I FELL in love with East Texas bottomland forests while trying to protect them. for most people it’s the other way around: they love them first, so they want to keep them from being cut down, paved over, turned into pasture, or flooded by reservoirs. But I got involved in conservation issues as an activist first. The late Ned fritz, legendary for recruiting people to do things they didn’t know they wanted to do, coaxed my husband and me into representing Texas Conservation Alliance, then called the Texas Committee on Natural Resources, in permit hearings against a proposed reservoir on Little Cypress Creek in the Cypress Creek Basin in northeast Texas. This boondoggle project wasn’t needed for water supply and would have flooded 14,000 acres of wonderful forest wildlife habitat.

A glance at history suggests that I’m not the only one who loves bottomlands. People have always lived close to rivers, seeking the basics of life—water, food, transportation, and shelter—from the river and the fertile land it nurtures. Rivers are the essence of the southeastern United States—land formed by the ebb and flow of ancient beaches and shaped by abundant rainfall, rivers, and the passage of time. Small ephemeral streams bubbling up from drift sands become creeks that converge and gather in ever-increasing volume. They become winding rivers that spill across wide floodplains and spawn diverse bottomland forests. These rivers and their “bottoms” capture the imagination of poets and musicians and the hearts of settlers who revel in their beauty and mystery and abundant life.

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4 On Leave in Paris for Training

Malcolm L. Fleming Indiana University Press ePub

The trusty C-47 that took us safely to Paris for a week of “schooling” by the Army. Two mornings and one afternoon were spent screening some of our own movie footage and getting a critique of it—both technical & how well it told the story (gave coherent information).

However, some of us who carried bags bulging with cartons of cigarettes, dozens of chocolate bars, and beaucoup soap had other priorities.

Euskirchen, Ger—1 April ’45

After much jockeying for a position, I got this angle shot of the Eiffel Tower along with three very cooperative planes. According to our guide, two daredevil flyers had flown under the tower in times past, but since the war who is the pilot who cannot brag of the feat?

Paris, France—6 April ’45

GIs Evans, Rosborough, and Randolph pause from their sight-seeing and snap-shooting for a glass of wine, vin rouge.

Paris, France—6 April ’45

A sculptor’s idea of love adds atmosphere to the real thing. Yes, they knew I was taking their picture, afterward. No, they didn’t throw anything or seem to care at all. Americans do the darnedest things.

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Where the First Raindrop Falls

Ken W Kramer Texas A&M University Press ePub

David K. Langford

BEFORE Lyndon B. Johnson was a politician, he was a child of the land. Growing up in the Texas Hill Country amid grazing sheep, cattle, and sparkling, clear springs, he inherently understood the relationship among sky, land, and water. Like most Texans, LBJ felt a strong kinship to the land because, since the days of the Republic, our lives and our livelihoods have been shaped by the diverse landscape that characterizes our home.

Although the former president was not part of my biological family, he was part of a large extended family of clannish, pioneering souls determined to eke a living from the Hill Country’s rock-strewn terrain. We were not kin by blood, but we were bound by shared experiences.

My biological family is like the ancient live oaks that dot the Texas Hill Country. For as long as there are memories, we have sunk our roots into the shallow soil and battled to survive in a place whose beauty belies its harshness.

Seven generations of my family have called Gillespie County and Kendall County home. From the beginning, my family has had a love affair, for lack of a better phrase, with water. The Hill Country can be unforgiving when you’re trying to coax a living from the soil. Water was the one thing that made the land hospitable—and offered the promise of a future.

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Photographs

Byrd M. Williams IV University of North Texas Press ePub

WALKING INTO THIS ARCHIVE is to walk among the dead. Many I knew and many I am just getting to know through their words and faces, but now I am one of the last remaining survivors in this Borgesian library of images. It was fiendishly comical when I noticed the irony of what has taken place: Middle class transubstantiation. Instead of bread and wine turning into the body and blood of Christ, four generations of my forebears’ bodies and blood have turned into paper and silver.

For me, photography is about death. It didn't used to be, but I'm sixty-four and everybody in the room is dead and I can't remember why I was so obsessed with saving their lives in two-dimensional facsimile. Perhaps all these years I have been trying to nail down what Ian McEwen refers to as our brief spark of consciousness.

It was never about the money; I could have done better mowing lawns. There was always this urgency about it: save all historic buildings, remember all the faces, stand on all the street corners, save everybody's toilet, share my experience with posterity, I was alive goddammit.

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Texas Water Politics Forty Years of Going with the Flow

Ken W Kramer Texas A&M University Press ePub

Ken Kramer

EVEN after forty years I can still visualize it. The “it” is the cover of the first issue of the biweekly Texas Observer I had ever seen. The year was 1969, and I had just embarked on my first graduate school experience—starting work on a master’s degree in political science at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches in East Texas. The professor in one of my classes had offered his students the opportunity to participate in a class subscription to the Observer, a liberal journal of opinion that provided exceptional coverage of Texas politics and government (and still does). Although I was a Republican at the time, I was extremely interested in politics, and, political philosophy aside, the Observer was touted as a good source of information about the state’s political comings and goings; so I signed up to receive one of the copies twice a month.

As it turns out, that was a momentous decision in my life—although not perhaps recognizable as such at the time. The first issue of the Observer I saw was devoted in its entirety to something called the “Texas Water Plan”—about which I knew nothing although I was already interested in environmental issues. The cover, which struck me so profoundly, showed a cartoon of several leading state officials, including then former governor John Connally and then governor Preston Smith, waterskiing or otherwise frolicking in or around some body of water. These folks were promoting this thing called the Texas Water Plan.

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5 Advance through the Hartz Mountains

Malcolm L. Fleming Indiana University Press ePub

Removing road block of wrecked vehicles, ours & theirs.

Between Dorste & Osterode, Ger—12 April ’45

Eymo 35 mm

This is another frame of a 35 mm motion picture I filmed with an Army Eymo camera. It’s from a test strip I received back after processing.

Infantry and Armor move cautiously to clear road running by a lake in the Hartz Mts. Doughs smashing through the brush on either side flushed out several prisoners, and the captain leading the column on foot picked off a German on a motorbike with his pistol. That’s about all that happened till about 4 PM they approached a town. As we left them to get our film turned in the heavy weapons section was setting up to cover a platoon going in, tanks being in reserve. Most doughs were busy sleeping in the town next morning when we returned. Infantry were of the 18th Regt of 1st Div. Tankers were of the 745 Tank Bn.

Near Osterode, Ger—14 April ’45

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Landscape

Byrd M. Williams IV University of North Texas Press ePub

Self portrait on college notebook, Austin, Texas. BYRD II 1903

“The edge of the photograph dissects familiar forms, and shows the unfamiliar fragment. It creates the shapes that surround objects. The photographer edits the meanings and patterns of the world through an imaginary frame. This frame is the beginning of this picture's geometry. It is to the photograph as the cushion is to the billiard table.”

–JOHN SZARKOWSKI

Byrd Williams II began to photograph the landscape around the turn of the century. When he finished his bachelor's degree in Austin, he took a number of survey and construction projects around the west in search of permanent employment. This could entail any number of duties from drafting to site photography of project progress. During this period he voraciously photographed the American landscape with an eye for visual starkness and geometric efficiency.

Letter From Mary Alice Williams to her son Byrd II

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Medium 9780253353627

3: Luminosity ~ Inner Light

Henry Plummer Indiana University Press ePub

3

LUMINOSITY ~ INNER LIGHT

Corner of Attic Center Family Dwelling House South Union, Kentucky

MAXIMUM FENESTRATION

In their efforts to squeeze as much daylight as possible into buildings, Shakers pierced the outer walls with closely spaced windows, allowing illumination to stream in from every side. As the most sacred place in the Shaker settlement, and the nearest thing to heaven on earth, the meetinghouse was made especially airy and bright by a continuous band of repeating windows. But rendered almost as porous, and at times cathedral-like, were utilitarian buildings such as laundries and machine shops, tanneries and poultry houses, mills and barns.

Circles of Windows on Tree Different Levels Round Barn (1826, rebuilt 1865) Hancock, Massachusetts

Meetingroom Windows Meetinghouse (1792–93, moved from Shirley to Hancock 1962) Hancock, Massachusetts

INTERIOR SHUTTERS

The internal shutters with which windows are equipped at Canterbury and Enfield permit a range of lighting adjustments. At Enfield's dwelling house, a four-shutter system allows each panel to be operated independently, or in combination with others, so that light can be regulated at will, like a camera aperture, according to weather, temperature, and human activity. When the shutters are opened, they fold back and disappear into window reveals.

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10 Rules of the Occupying US Army

Malcolm L. Fleming Indiana University Press ePub

“Off-Limits” signs that greet the GI on every civilian door. Those on certain stores were later qualified by “Except for business reasons.” Also on each door was the name and age of all occupants. The great age gap amongst the males was readily apparent.

Gardelegen, Ger—27 May ’45

Civilians scan the bulletin board for the latest Military Govt notices.

Wetzlar, Ger—16 May ’45

The predecessor of all such, Proclamation No. 1. Well-known especially for the sentence, “We come as conquerors, not as oppressors,” it is all worth reading.

Gardelegen, Ger—27 May ’45

Some of the following attempts
to copy fine print in the field
are inadequate, but titles
at least give the main intent
.

The Curfew Notice is quite legible. Interesting to note how all are printed in both English and German. The little notice below concerns the turning in of all firearms to the police.

Gardelegen, Ger—27 May ’45

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Postcard

Byrd M. Williams IV University of North Texas Press ePub

BYRD WILLIAMS SENIOR, A TENNESSEAN ENTREPRENEUR, sold his hardware store in 1880 and moved to Texas for a new economic start. Byrd purchased a small farm and then promptly opened a hardware/dry goods/general store on the south side of the square in Gainesville, Texas, where he hawked a wide variety of products including photographic items. He began to shoot his own photographs, printing them on the new Kodak postcard stock and offering them for sell on his counter top: The BYRD photography endeavor started here.

Byrd's vendor franchises supplied him with all the latest in darkroom paraphernalia, viewing devices, and archiving materials such as fancy family photo albums. By the time the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago rolled around in 1893 the hobby of postcard collecting was in full tilt. Around this time, the US government lowered the postage rate on cards to a penny. The “craze” became an industry.

Small towns could not, for economic reasons, attract the large-scale publishing companies that might invest in “Eiffel Tower-type” tourist postcards. The equipment and materials were available to produce small runs of local interest postcards, so Byrd and his sons began to roam the state in search of regional tourist attractions.

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11 Wartime Destruction

Malcolm L. Fleming Indiana University Press ePub

This greatest synthetic oil plant in Germany, the Leuna Werk, was bombed 22 times and was forced to cut its production to ¼ its capacity. This and other interesting facts I got from a French slave laborer who worked in the office of the plant and kept track of all the raids. He now is serving the American Military Govt in the city as an interpreter.

Near Merseburg, Ger—6 May ’45

On Nov. 2, 1944, during the 12th raid on this vital Leuna Werk, the B-17 that my friend, Bob Campbell, was piloting was hit by flak, set afire, and forced down.

Near Merseberg, Ger—6 May ’45

Huge statue of Emperor Ludwig, the Bavarian, stands serene in the desolate city center. 171 winding steps bring fools and photographers groping through pitch blackness up to the top of the 125 ft pedestal. See next photo.

Darmstadt, Ger—13 May ’45

Burned-out shells that once were the city’s important buildings. The Air Force must have had a grudge to settle here. All damage is said to have been caused by a single raid with incendiary bombs. View is from a statue-topped tower.

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Violence and Religion in Texas

Byrd M. Williams IV University of North Texas Press ePub

Byrd IV, Christmas and birthday 1960

Growing up in Texas

Baudelaire is credited with coining the term modernity (modernité) to designate the fleeting, ephemeral experience of life in an urban metropolis, and the responsibility art has to capture that experience.

Texas is not unique to America in its unencumbered love of firearms and openly devotional mindset. The best I can tell, these cultural attributes are salient to any of the Southern states, at least in proportion to the Northeast and Northwest. The Byrd Williams archive is rife with photographic evidence of violence and religion throughout. I would be remiss not to address this aspect of our heritage.

Cultures evolve. My family was never very religious but we were armed to the teeth. I always loved cameras, but for the life of me I cannot remember why we had so many guns. I somehow lost that meme, maybe because our societal norms are shifting. My immediate ancestors were not particularly racist, violent, gender biased, homophobic, or fundamentalist about any ideology. By hobby and trade we were “observers” but close examination of the visual and written evidence indicates complicity in many of the above areas. I am chagrined about this. One could pass the buck and say, “Oh well, it was just the way it was in those days,” but my life of anthropological scrutiny prevents this. Photographing people carries with it a hint of exploitation. I offer myself for the same.

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