14 May 2015

Photography during the Mexican revolution

Lately I've been reading México: fotografía y revolución by Miguel Ángel Berumen, and Mexico at the Hour of Combat: Sabino Osuna's Photographs of the Mexican Revolution. The latter was brought to my attention by an exhibit at the Marriott Library by Artes de México en Utah.

In Fotografía y revolución, Laura González Flores says that the format preferred by most Mexican war photographers of the time was a 4 x 5 or 5 x 7 inch glass plate. Even though nitrocellulose film had become widely available at that time, the glass plates were better for commercial contact printing and had high enough image quality for photomechanical reproductions. By the early 20th century, exposure times were short enough and cameras were light enough that they could be used to capture action on the battlefield. Because it occurred so early in the 20th century, photos of the Mexican revolution are some of the first live-action photos of war (as opposed to images of dead soldiers). Although by this time photography was accessible to the middle class, most of those photographing the revolution were professionals, not amateurs.

Mexico City photographers, c. 1910.
Image from Fotografía y revolución.
Camera ad, from an early 20th century magazine for Mexican photographers.
Image from Fotografía y revolución.

I think the reason I've pored over these two books so much is that I love the peek into everyday life they give of civilians, especially women, and the photographers themselves. Osuna seems to have had a lot of access to the Madero family, especially his wife. I want all her outfits. Note that the rest of the images in this post are from Mexico at the Hour of Combat.

Do you peep that white dress? This is Madero's family.

Sra. Madero

Sra. Madero again

a nurse

A market by damaged buildings

When I saw this photo all I could think about was how jealous I am of the printer who
owned all that wood type, with accents. But, erhm, the important historical event documented here is in fact a prison break, not type.

Battalion of Yaquí Indians

Makeshift barber shop for soldiers

Compared to the other photographs detailed in Fotografía y revolución, Osuna's photos are technically better and I would say they go beyond documentary. The photography museum at UC Riverside holds the Osuna negatives and they have a great permanent history of photograph display too! And a little room that is a camera obscura! One of my favorite things about Mexico at the Hour of Combat is that it has an index of the entire collection, with thumbnails.

My favorite details are the little boy in the lower left hand corner and the brass band

Zapata eating dinner

11 May 2015

Infographics in 'Studies in Primitive Looms'

One time after work I wandered down the call numbers for Home Economics looking for a vegetarian cookbook and found Studies in Primitive Looms by H. Ling Roth. It is a survey of hand looms from around the world. Today hand-weaving isn't the primary way of producing textiles, but in some parts of the world these ages-old loom types are still widely used (e.g. the Andes). For craft weavers, I imagine non-western looms would have a lot of appeal because they would be easier to afford and store than traditional European looms.

The infographics in the book are clear and detailed. In the preface to my 1981 copy, it pays "grateful acknowledgement to ... the Council of the Royal Anthropological Institute for the gift of the [printing] blocks" but doesn't say who the illustrator (or printer) is. Now on to the pretty pictures.


This diagram illustrates the basics of how a loom works and is presented at the beginning of the book. It helps readers understand almost every other graphic in the book.

This diagram could just have been written, but how much less clear would it be without the pictures?

Love the 3/4 views going on here. 

There are a couple of gorgeous illustrations of warped looms with a woven pattern that aren't as informative as some of the warping diagrams below. But I think they're actually more informative than photos: if I were trying to reconstruct this loom, I'd prefer this drawing to a photo. Another reason these illustrations may have come into existence is that most of the looms they are based on are held in British museums--I doubt the museums are able to warp and display every loom. At the museum, this loom may only exist as a bundle of sticks (hopefully in archival storage). 

This map of Africa reminded me of Edward Tufte's insistence on the clarity black and white graphics.

These are my FAVORITE diagrams in the whole book. They show how the loom is warped and the resulting pattern. 

This image reminds me of a favorite Edward Curtis photo. One question that comes to mind when I see outdoor looms like this is 'and if it rains?' but perhaps people only weave outdoors in very dry climates.

04 May 2015

Visiting the University of Texas / Visita al museo Blanton de la Universidad de Tejas

Charles W. White, Awaken from the Unknowing, 1961

Elizabeth Catlett, Homage to My Young Black Sisters, 1968

Coincidentally, my two favorite works in this show at UT were both by artists who worked with the People's Printshop (Taller de Gráfica Popular). 

One of the reasons I love Robert Rauschenberg's work is because he frequently blurs the line between painting and printmaking. Next to the Rauschenberg in the exhibit was this quote--I include it here because it fits with the TGP's goals if not its methodology, which was more propagandistic. 

"I've never thought that problems were so simple politically that they could, by me anyway, be tackled directly. But every day by consistently doing what you do with the attitude that you do it ... if you feel strongly, it's going to show there." 


Ambos artistas de estas dos obras (vistas en esta exposición) trabajaron en el Taller de Gráfica Popular

También en la misma exposición se expuso una obra de Robert Rauschenberg, con esta cita al lado. Parece que Rauschenberg compartía algunas de las metas del TGP, aunque no seguía una metodología tan activista. 

"Nunca había creído que los problemas políticas eran tan sencillos que yo las podía tratar. Pero en hacer lo que haces, de tu manera, todos los días ... lo que opinas va a mostrarse." 

09 March 2015

Review: A History of Screen Printing by Guido Lengwiler

The research for this book (15 years in the making) is as beautiful as the layout. Here's what there is to love:

1. Many color reproductions, with close-ups (as if you were looking at it under a loop). So useful for print ID. The visuals he includes are an integral to understanding his text; they're not "obligatory image after 50 pages of dry academic writing" visuals. 

2. Graphics showing all the layers in a screen print:

3. Asides which are isolated in gray boxes are some of the most interesting bits in the book. This design strategy allows for clear writing, unencumbered by footnotes, without forcing the author to cut interesting extraneous information. For example, this spread is about silk production:

4. Full size reproductions of many pages from a 1927 Selectasine screen printing manual:

5. Detailed descriptions of how stencils, inks, and presses were made. For example, photosensitive emulsion was first detailed in an article by William Hugh Gordon in 1916 in Signs of the Times. In 1926, he released his formula for the emulsion: gelatin, water, egg white, glycerine, and bichromate. Although Lengwiler includes a lot of technical information, this book would be also be accessible to non-printers. 

I don't think English is Lengwiler's first language, which makes his excellent writing even more impressive. My favorite parts of the book were the beginning, which details commercial stenciling before screen printing, and the end, which talks about screen printing of textiles, glass, and ceramics. 
Lengwiler seems to be a bit dismissive of screen printing as fine art; he could have written about modern artists working in that medium. 

05 February 2015

Salt Flats

While I'm in Utah, I'm trying to see more of the American west. I don't have a car (the irony of nature being more available to people who own polluting machines is not lost on me) so I'm dependent on other people for transit to the national parks, etc. Last Saturday we went to the Salt Flats. We woke up early to make bread and fill the thermoses and then we drove a few hours to arrive at sunrise. These photos were taken by me, Rachel Hludzinski, and Mariana Castro.

When I was in Spain, people often told me that the US didn't have any cultural patrimony. But I feel like American patrimony is built into the landscape. It's doesn't necessarily belong to us but we can assume the role of preserving it; we can treat it like patrimony.


Mientras vivo en Utah, intento experimentar la naturaleza que hay aquí. Pero no tengo coche (para los que contaminan con el coche, es más fácil llegar a la naturaleza). Después de que Mariana me buscó en coche el sábado pasado, conducimos para los Salt Flats (al borde del Lago Salado). Nos madrugamos a las 4 para hacer un pan (en Utah no hay panaderías) y llenar el termo. Llegamos sobre las 7 para ver el amanecer. Hicimos estas photos Mari, Rachel, y yo.

En España pensaban que casi hubiera patrimonio en EEUU. Pero en EEUU la tierra es el patrimonio nuestro: aunque no nos pertenezca, la podemos conservar. La debemos de tratar como si fuera patrimonio.

Film photo!

This is a bilingual post. If you notice a mistake, please correct my grammar (in either language!)
Publico esta entrada en castellano e inglés. Al notar faltas de ortografía y gramática, hacedme el favor de corregirme (¡el inglés tanto como el español!)

23 January 2015

Review/Crítica: Multilingual Dictionary/Diccionario multilingüe

I am on a quest to discover good resources for the Spanish/English speaking bookish person. 

I'm reviewing Dictionary for the antiquarian booktrade in French, English, German, Swedish, Danish, Italian, Spanish and Dutch because it's more reliable than some other multilingual dictionaries.  I'm not actually sure this could properly be called a "dictionary," maybe more of a multilingual gloss--it doesn't provide parts of speech, definitions, or regional variants. The author, Menno Hertzberger, founded the international league of antiquarian booksellers in 1947. This book was also published midcentury. His native language was Dutch but his French was probably excellent. 

Given France's rich print culture, so much book history has been written in French that the language has an exceptionally large amount of book-related jargon (probably more than English or Spanish). I'd guess this dictionary is most accurate between French and Dutch, but the English-Spanish translations weren't bad.  Sometimes it translates a term into an equivalent phrase that's perfectly intelligible but that isn't often used: "consecutive numbering of pages" instead of "consecutive pagination," for example. Some translations just seemed incorrect: the translation for "turn-in" was "cabezada" (the word I usually use for "headband" or "endband"). 

One quirk was that there were repeat entries: the three different entries for "foxing" in English were alternately translated as "manchas de papel," "marcas de amarillentas," and "picadura roya." But for "filete" Hertzberger gives four equivalent terms in the same entry: "fillet, rule, ornamental line, ornamental band." 

This is very much written for the bookseller rather than -maker; not enough technical vocab for a binder. One thing I appreciated was that the print ID vocab all seemed translated precisely. And, overall, most of the translations were good. 

Al fin de descubrir más recursos para el encuadernador bilingüe, doy una crítica de Dictionary for the antiquarian booktrade in French, English, German, Swedish, Danish, Italian, Spanish and Dutch por Menno Hertzberger, fundador de la Liga Internacional de Libreros Anticuarios (se fundó en 1947). Este libro se publicó unos pocos años después. No es un verdadero 'diccionario' porque le faltan las categorías, definiciones, y regionalismos. Se supone que la lengua materna de Hertzberger era holandés pero que también hablaba francés, el idioma internacional de su oficio. Dado la rica cultura impresa francesa, el léxico francés que trata del libro es muy amplio. Entre francés y holandés las traslaciones de Hertzberger serían excelentes. Entre inglés y español no eran malas ... decir esto no es decir mucho, pero este libro sí es alguno de los mejores de los que he usado.

A veces no se dan todas las traslaciones en un solo lugar: hay tres entradas distintas en español para traducir el sustantivo inglés "foxing." Pero la entrada para "filete" sí da tres palabras alternativas al lector. Palabras relacionadas con la estampa se trasladan con precisión. 

Claro, el libro sería de mayor utilidad al lector coleccionista ... el pobre encuadernador sigue buscando el diccionario de oro que contiene todas las palabras necesarias. 

This is a bilingual post. If you notice a mistake, please correct my grammar (in either language!)
Publico esta entrada en castellano e inglés. Al notar faltas de ortografía y gramática, hacedme el favor de corregirme (¡el inglés tanto como el español!)


I was a lucky kid who got to take a textiles class last semester. One of the best things was that we did a tiny amount of weaving on the school's floor loom. It reminded me a lot of operating a clamshell press, but with multiple food pedals, because you "feed" the shuttle with one hand and pull it through with the other hand. Kind of like feeding paper. But there's not ink, and it's not as noisy, and it's probably warm because looms don't have to live in garages like presses. 

Judie Eatough, the woman who gave our class a demo and warped the loom (which means putting yarn on it) for us is very active in the Utah weavers' guild. Where you can rent equipment for 10-15 dollars a month. Wut? 

Anyway, when I asked her about her career, she said that many weavers, like her, have a science/math background (the jacquard loom was the first computer!). She got a degree in chemistry, raised her children, and ended up taking weaving classes as a hobby. She became so expert that she then taught college weaving classes for many years. 

We learned the names of all the parts of the loom (yay jargon!) and wove this simple pattern from linen threads: