F is for Forest and G is for Gaucho, January 31st

Certain files and images I've run across in the picture collection may or may not make it into the film, but they will stick in my mind. I went back today to look at a folder I'd noticed before, labeled "Dead, The." I won't reproduce any of the images here, but I suggest you look at them if you get a chance. Most of us (me included) avoid thinking of death. But it is the only thing we are guaranteed to experience one day.

The folder  is, as you'd expect, a catalogue of corpses: people laid out in their funereal best. There are  echoes of the Victorian funeral photos I first saw as a child in Washington, Arkansas and that are so creepily referenced in the brilliant ghost story The Others. But it's also, of course, an outline of some of our culture's modes of thinking about death and the dead (as well as their legacies.)

Other images that stick in my mind are of things  I've never imagined, like this uncanny armor made from raffia and shells on the Gilbert Islands, which reminds me of images of Cuban Abakua ceremonies or photographs of Yoruba ritual. But this armor comes from tiny atolls in the Pacific...

And then there are things I just never think about much, like fog horns:

And every time I visit, I fall in love with a category I had no preconceptions about. Today it's the folders for Gauchos, where I find the following range of images:

Plus another favorite that I can't resist scanning, a 1967 image of the "Nympho Gaucho of the Matto Grosso," handily labeled at the lower right of the image below. Try saying that five times fast...

And I have to admit it should be interesting to have the aye-aye meet some Giants:
This one seems to come in both economy and sample sizes....

I imagine Goya's giant may be looking toward Gibraltar, hoping the queen will come for a visit.

But then I turn back to F, where the folder for "Fortune Telling" beckoned. I was hoping for images of craggy gypsies, but found I was more attracted to guides for palm reading:

The second one is actually Napoleon's hand, so you can evaluate the accuracy of palmistry using a reliable case history. Is that the hand he always kept inside his vest?

I love very general categories, like "Forests," more than I thought I might. A very brief cross section might include:

If the tools of palmistry become totems of the forest, this could provide another interesting place for the aye-aye to travel. One of the palms could close around him, and a giant or a gaucho could set him free and drag him off to "G".

The letter E, January 26

Today I feel like a kid in the (image) candy shop, but also like  I'm racing through the Louvre like the characters in Godard's Band of Outsiders, as if I'm missing great stuff by rushing, yet enjoying the exhiliration of the run anyway...

I'm always drawn to the files on places I've never been, especially the ones that trace our ever-shifting Euro-American ideas of the other (and their art). The noble savage, the intrepid (pith-helmeted) explorers, the magnificent monument, and the scattered skeletons. Take Easter Island, for example:

There's also a strange (if inadvertent) humor to the collection just because odd things are juxtaposed simply by virtue of their alphabetical proximity. Right after Easter Island, I looked at Easter Eggs:

And then there's always Extinct Fauna...

THese should make for an interesting E-world, but now I'm wondering whether and how I can integrate the labeling for these images into the film:

I love all these slightly different pencil marks, as well as the category names...

But mostly, today, I'm thinking about my brother-in-law, Craig Arnold, whose blog is still out there in cyber space, though he himself  disappeared in Japan in 2009. The story is far more mysterious than any of the news accounts, but I'm not sure it's mine to tell. I miss him still, though, and when I found a translation of a Basho poem on the same day as one particular Easter Island image above, I decided to color in the engraving and put them together here...


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A Hirschvogel castle & the letter D, another January excerpt...

It's a dark, snowy day. Manhattan looks like it's drawn in white conte on black paper as I come in on the B train. The first thing I find is a better castle:

I can picture my aye-aye burrowing up through the earth on the lower left, followed by a bathing beauty, maybe...

When I begin to explore the files in the letter D, I'm reminded that what I truly love is the breadth and depth of the collection.(Bear in mind that I'm looking through hundreds of images each day that I work on this, and only selecting a few I like for the blog.) You can really sense the range of images and the nature of this free-floating visual history by looking at a few examples from any one category. In Dirigibles, for example, (the kind of label I can hardly resist) you get everything from 19th century engravings of the cockpit of a balloon, an atmospheric photo of a zepppelin in a hangar, to a 1980s National Geographic-style photo or a great Japanese  textile design of a German blimp:

In the category of Deserts, you can see a similar spread from recent photos of the Sahara to a 1937 watercolor illustration of the American Southwest (an advertisement for life insurance):

I want to start creating two-dimensional collage worlds for my characters to travel through using elements/images from files associated with each letter.

The way to create worlds for the film is beginning to coalesce in my head. How about this rough digital sketch for a world created from files in the letter "D"? (You can see all of the component parts of this above.)

Perhaps I should add images from "Dance", "Dragons," or even "Death - Allegorical."

The Letter "B," excerpt from January journal

The Picture Collection's one million images seem a bit daunting today. I'm looking at "Bathing Beaches - 1899 & Earlier":

But I'm also tempted by Burglary:

Or the images in the Picture Collection's digital gallery, found here. I especially love this one:

And then there are  "Book Illustrations - Fairy Tales" is another amazing category:

I've made this image larger, so you can see the label at the bottom...

I'm also looking toward the letter "C," and enjoying a few images of castles:

But how to make a world from these disparate parts?