There are asterisks and notations in all fields. Some people are the subject of books, others make a chapter, but most don’t even make it as an entry on a footnote. Such things seem obvious in the rear view mirror. Is it work? It must be, at least a bit, since most of the notables have strong drives — ones that keep them working even though it would be easier to stop, to drop this and do something else. Very few people make a mark, even those hobbyiests, without an extreme dedication to regular, sustained effort. As though the effort keeps them alive.
You know of Strand, but probably not much about Willard Van Dyke.
Finding something in everything
.. Strand could, Van Dyke leaned on him, and may have learned.
“. . I learned a lot from Strand while ﬁlming the vast, open,
almost featureless vistas of Wyoming grass. He made compositions
out the darks and lights of the valleys and hillocks. . .”
Working until you see what you sought.
Sometimes the work requires additional attention. Working to some limit that others will not recognize, even after it has been demonstrated.
“. . . Paul asked if he could use my darkroom, explaining that it had been many years since he had made a silver print and that a darkroom was unnecessary for the platinum process. Of course, I agreed and was ﬂattered when he asked me to help him.
The subject was a skeleton lashed to a large Nazi swastika, shot against a dark, dramatic sky. It was intended for the cover of a leftwing magazine. The magazine used the best paper that it could afford, but that was still not very good. Despite the fact that the reproduction would at best be crude, Paul was still determined to make the best possible print from the negative at hand. The problems were not very great; it was desirable to have detail in the white
cross and in the skeleton, but as far as I could see, whether the sky was a shade lighter or darker didn’t matter. There were minute variations in the prints he made, but they were so minute that it was difficult to see what difference they would make, considering the kind of paper that would be used for the cover. I offered Paul a fresh box of one hundred and forty-four sheets of eight by ten inch photographic paper when he started. When at last he was satisﬁed, there were three sheets left.”
Strand could see, and would work until the work showed… this trait, this working mode would, later, as a teacher, crush some students. His vision, his own heritage, blocked some of his understanding of what students would produce. He couldn’t change them, and they certainly wouldn’t change or even challenge him.
These points can also be adopted, put on as one’s own. It is easy to fake being a Strand — but to be a ‘Strand’ meant having both characteristics — an initial ability, perfected, and skill practiced beyond the endurance of most of the footnotes.
Gary Metz fell into the trance of affecting the Strand-White pose. Gary isn’t even a footnote. He was, for many, a roadblock or a detour —
and so it goes