Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Deadwood Stage is rolling again

I love collections of old photographs. The more dog-eared and yellowed the better. Snapshots in time, depicting long gone lives in an era we know only from history books, TV and Hollywood. Yet the real thing always surprises me with its freshness and originality.

The US Library of Congress has just released a fabulous collection of the work of photographer John C.H. Grabill. He recorded the daily lives of the folk of the Wild West town of Deadwood in the 1880’s. Not the Deadwood of Doris Day and Ian McShane movies but the real frontier town, capturing the life of these intrepid pioneers who fought and tamed the Sioux Indians whilst panning for gold in the Black Hills. Colonel George Armstrong Custer led his troops into the hills to discover the precious metal and start the gold rush of 1874.

The same Col. Custer who lost his entire command of 300 men soon after at the battle of Little Bighorn. Only one horse survived.

Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, the Sundance Kid and Colonel Custer walked these streets. In the UK the Daily Mail Online carries a collection of the best.

The photographer, John C.H. Grabill, has disappeared in time, like the grainy, black & white people in the photographs.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

An End for Wildlife

The Natural History Museum in London reminds me that this year’s great Veolia Environment Wildlife photography exhibition is coming to an end. These telling and important pictures are on show for just a few more weeks before going on tour.

Here are two photographs depicting the damage being wreaked on wildlife in our throwaway lifestyle.

Turtle in Trouble by Jordi Chias Pujol from Spain.

Jordi came across this desperate scene when sailing between Barcelona and the Balearic Islands, hoping to photograph dolphins. 'I spotted the abandoned net drifting along the surface,' says Jordi. As he dived down to investigate, he could see the loggerhead turtle tangled up in the netting. 'The poor creature must have been trapped for some days, it was so badly knotted up.' Though it could just reach the surface to breathe by extending its neck, it was still sentenced to a long, cruel death. 'I felt as though it were looking at me for help as it tried to bite through the netting.' Jordi released it, allowing one individual a second chance. Given that all species of sea turtles are endangered, they need all the help they can get.

Sacrifice by Steve Winter from the USA.
It took three days for this Asian elephant to die. It had been shot by villagers as it was rampaging through their crops after monsoon floods had forced it out of Kaziranga National Park in Assam, India. Though the shot itself didn't kill the elephant, the bullet had been soaked in acid, and the animal eventually died from septic poisoning. Here, a man prays in front of the body. 'Locals have a mixed relationship with elephants,' says Steve. 'They see them as dangerous and destructive and yet sacred, too,' icons of the Hindu elephant-headed deity Lord Ganesh.

The Museum are now looking for entrants for the 2011 competition.