Oops! Another Unforeseen Catastrophe

Barbie Series. 1984.

Quick Change the Channel. ©Kenneth J. Botto Photography Trust.

The recent testimony by Lamar McKay, Chairman and President of BP America, brought to mind Ken Botto.

In his testimony, Mr. McKay says, “Tragic and unforeseen as this accident was, we must not lose sight of why BP and other energy companies are operating in the offshore, including the Gulf of Mexico.”  We all benefit from motorized transportation, so we know why he’s there.  But “unforeseen”?  Of course not.  BP made an economic calculations not to cover the eventuality that is turning out to be the worst oil spill in history.  Dr. Joseph Romm writes about it on Climate Progress.

This brought to mind the line coming out of the Bush Administration after 9/11 that no one could have foreseen airplanes being flown into buildings.  Of course, US intelligence had been grappling with the prospect of terrorists and airplanes for at least five years.  Here’s just one example.  The CIA has entertained the idea since the 1970’s.

Oh, and then there was Ken Botto, a photographer in Bolinas who came up with the idea in 1984 as part of his series on Barbie and Robots.  The picture is aptly titled “Quick Change the Channel.”

San Francisco 1851.

San Francisco 1851

San Francisco 1851

San Francisco 1851

San Francisco 1851

About ten years ago I stitched together a seven-panel daguerreotype of San Francisco taken in 1851 and converted it to a Quicktime VR panorama.  On this 104th anniversary of the 1906 earthquake, I reprise it here.  Here’s your chance to stand at First and Howard streets 159 years ago, at the onset of the Gold Rush.

For today’s version, visit Google here.

San Francisco. April 14, 1906.

This wonderful 7 minute film just came across my desk.  It’s a 35mm film of San Francisco’s Market Street shot four days before the 1906 earthquake from the front of a cable car.  Thanks to David Kiehn of the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum for dating the work.  It is an astounding step back in time.

A longer 13 minute version can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKRbTF5afSE&feature=fvw .

Carleton Watkins and a “First Glimpse” of the West

Lake Tahoe: A Fragile Beauty

Impromptu Boundary

After the loss of his studio and archives to bankruptcy, Carleton Watkins began work on his New Series, where upon he re-photographed the West and rebuilt and expanded his photographic archive. A commission by the Hearst Mining Company brought him to Virginia City, Nevada. Watkins also photographed mining operations near Markleeville, California and Carson City, Nevada, railroad and water projects near Donner Summit, and hydraulic mining operations further west in California’s Gold Country.

While passing through Lake Tahoe he would take pictures of the resorts, as well as general lake views. He would also take portraits for the lumberjacks employed in the Tahoe Basin logging timber for the mines of the Comstock Lode.

Included in Lake Tahoe: A Fragile Beauty, alongside the Twain essays are a selection of Watkins New Series Tahoe photographs provided by the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology on the UC Berkeley campus. We only had space for a small number of images in Lake Tahoe: A Fragile Beauty, yet Phoebe Hearst’s collection of 140 Watkins photographs are the basis for the museum’s photography collection. I strongly encourage readers to visit the Phoebe Hearst Museum and the Online Archive of California to see more of Watkins’ photography from the area. As one fascinated by how the land speaks to our relationship with nature and the environment, I find the photography of Virginia City and Markleeville particularly engaging.

In general, I find Watkins’ work captivating. During the late-19th Century, his photography gave eastern audiences important views of a western landscape they were only able to read about, leading, ultimately, to the founding of Yosemite and other national parks. Today, these photographs offer another important first glimpse – for us. Watkins allows us to look back upon the land, exactly at the arrival of our industrial culture. The Gold Rush was the first human migration in history blessed so. It was a time not so long ago.