Highsmith, a distinguished and richly published American photographer, has donated her work to the Library of Congress since 1992. Starting in 2002, Highsmith provided scans or photographs she shot digitally with new donations to allow rapid online access throughout the world. Her generosity in dedicating the rights to the American people for copyright-free access also makes this Archive a very special visual resource.
Here is her photographer’s eye on Barstow, Ca. — 2012
A collection of historic and vintage photographs by a variety of photographers reworked and colorized. Working with these old photos like this has given me reassurance that the things I see, they would have seen in much the same way as I can see what they are showing me at the palm of my hand.
There are those memories of the autumnal winds when seasons turn upside down and the icy drama of the silver winter threads through the hollows between trees stirring last year’s brown leaves into a low ruckus and crackle. Thin and bare sycamore branches, delicate and bony, trace low and lonely moans in their dark choir. Pink sand from the nearby riverbed salted everywhere and anywhere; grit flecked in your hair, in your shoes, in your eyes. These are the days. These were the days. These are the heartfelt and kind memories of these days.
A gentleman named Bill had a hankering to wander about the desert. He had been told the way to really see the desert was to walk through it. He liked the idea and drove as far as Death Valley to start a good distance from all humanity and all things civilized. Here he met a Shoshone Indian Chief who traded him a fine burro for a fine, fairly new car. Off he went for a wonderful, if not occasionally harrowing adventure. Through Nevada into a corner of Utah back into Arizona and down the north rim of the Grand Canyon and back up the south rim to the village and then back to the desert in California. Well over a year had passed when he returned to his wife who was waiting for him in the little town of Baker in the middle of the Mojave. All was well upon his return and his adventures were becoming known far and wide. Bill had become known as ‘Burro’ Bill. One evening there was a knock at the door. Bill was surprised to see his friend, the Shoshone chief. The chief wanted his burro back. ‘Burro’ Bill said the burro was his now. They had been through so much together and he could not bear to part with the beast. The chief explained that a day or two after Bill and the burro departed the car had a flat tire and broke a wheel therefore was not drivable, therefore the deal was no good. The burro was still operable while the car that sat in Death Valley was not.
ref: review Burro Bill and Me, Ramblings in the American Desert Author: Edna Calkins Price
Rather than growing wider and emptying into the sea the Mojave River becomes smaller and smaller finding its way in the sand between the cobbles and rocks curling into crescent -shaped dark meanders and swales transitioning to dry sand and finally, collections of same sized stones.
Mono Lake lies in a lifeless, treeless, hideous desert, eight thousand feet above the level of the sea, and is guarded by mountains two thousand feet higher, whose summits are always clothed in clouds. This solemn, silent, sail-less sea—this lonely tenant of the loneliest spot on earth—is little graced with the picturesque. It is an unpretending expanse of grayish water, about a hundred miles in circumference, with two islands in its centre, mere upheavals of rent and scorched and blistered lava, snowed over with gray banks and drifts of pumice-stone and ashes, the winding sheet of the dead volcano, whose vast crater the lake has seized upon and occupied.
The lake is two hundred feet deep, and its sluggish waters are so strong with alkali that if you only dip the most hopelessly soiled garment into them once or twice, and wring it out, it will be found as clean as if it had been through the ablest of washerwomen’s hands. While we camped there our laundry work was easy. We tied the week’s washing astern of our boat, and sailed a quarter of a mile, and the job was complete, all to the wringing out. If we threw the water on our heads and gave them a rub or so, the white lather would pile up three inches high. This water is not good for bruised places and abrasions of the skin. We had a valuable dog. He had raw places on him. He had more raw places on him than sound ones. He was the rawest dog I almost ever saw. He jumped overboard one day to get away from the flies. But it was bad judgment. In his condition, it would have been just as comfortable to jump into the fire.
The alkali water nipped him in all the raw places simultaneously, and he struck out for the shore with considerable interest. He yelped and barked and howled as he went—and by the time he got to the shore there was no bark to him—for he had barked the bark all out of his inside, and the alkali water had cleaned the bark all off his outside, and he probably wished he had never embarked in any such enterprise. He ran round and round in a circle, and pawed the earth and clawed the air, and threw double somersaults, sometimes backward and sometimes forward, in the most extraordinary manner. He was not a demonstrative dog, as a general thing, but rather of a grave and serious turn of mind, and I never saw him take so much interest in anything before. He finally struck out over the mountains, at a gait which we estimated at about two hundred and fifty miles an hour, and he is going yet. This was about nine years ago. We look for what is left of him along here every day. …
Pictorialism, an approach to photography that emphasizes beauty of subject matter, tonality, and composition rather than the documentation of reality.
The Pictorialist perspective was born in the late 1860s and held sway through the first decade of the 20th century. It approached the camera as a tool that, like the paintbrush and chisel, could be used to make an artistic statement. Thus photographs could have aesthetic value and be linked to the world of art expression.
Interesting how a zigzag of light against a shadow will catch your eye while you look away from the low sun. Anticipation, is paramount; the shadows roll over the mountain canyons and ridges quickly. Observe it then. Blank everything else out and don’t look away. What you will see will never be the same again. Don’t miss your moment!
What can you say?- These little guys hide by staying ~real still~. They eat ants and squirt acrid blood from their eyes when attacked. I think. I’m not an expert– However, it’s just a lizard anyway. Don’t eat!
Sometimes you can get caught in an imperfect sunrise. Sunrise shots don’t always work out. Sometimes you just have to get out of it what you can–even if it’s just understanding you’ve lived to see another sunrise.
This image was shot in Joshua Tree National Park just moments after the sun completely set behind the horizon. I thought it seemed very surreal. In the post processing, since it was so strange-looking, I decided to try a subliminal composition with slightly increased saturation. It was my first attempt at doing something with this technique. If you look closely, you may be able to see just a little bit richer color starting at the yucca at the bottom, then curling up counter-clockwise through the brush and then on to the rocks.