Tag Archives: Photography

A BOOK, A GUGGENHEIM AND ON TO STOCKTON

5/23/14

A BOOK, A GUGGENHEIM AND ON TO STOCKTON

Lots of water under the bridge since I last wrote. Quite simply, it has been one of the more amazing times of my life! And one of the more rewarding times as well.

I mentioned in the last blog that we had applied for a large-scale Creative Work Fund grant. It is a San Francisco Bay Area based grant for people working at the intersection of art and social change. They are very difficult grants to get and to our absolute amazement we received the award last Fall for our project in Stockton, CA. Stockton is the second largest city in the country to declare bankruptcy and one of the least literate cities in the nation. My wife Ellen Manchester and I will be looking at efforts to bring literacy and hope to this very dysfunctional place. We are working with a group called the Library and Literacy Foundation of San Joaquin County and also the San Joaquin County Library system. The grant will help get this project started but we will need to raise additional funds to complete the project. More grants to write! After 18 years of looking at libraries throughout the United States we will spend the next year looking at one library system. From the macro to the micro. The following are some preliminary images from Stockton including a portrait of me with Mas’ood Cajee who is our contact with the Library and Literacy Foundation. He has a remarkable life story and his day job is being a dentist.

Ellen at Stockton Asparagus Festival, Stockton, CA

Ellen at the Stockton Asparagus Festival, Stockton, CA

Hmong videotapes, Angelou Library, Stockton, CA

 

Hmong videotapes, Maya Angelou Branch Library, Stockton, CA

Lightroom (DSC_0339.NEF and 5 others)

Languages, Main Library, Stockton, CA

Masood and Bob, Stockton, CA

Mas’ood and Bob, Main Library, Stockton, CA

Trivia Bee, Stockton, CA

Five hundred people supporting literacy at the Stockton Trivia Bee, Stockton, CA

 

THE BOOK IS BORN

We officially launched the book The Public Library A Photographic Essay in New York City in mid-March. Ellen, our son Walker and I flew back and I gave the kick-off lecture at the main library in Brooklyn on March 20th. I also gave another slide show/lecture at the Mid-Manhattan library on the 26th. Both were well attended and really gave me the idea that the book will be well received. During this week the publisher, Princeton Architectural Press, told me that they are already starting to do a second printing of the book just from all the pre-sales. Yikes! We met and had dinner with several dear friends during our time in New York. One of the highlights of the trip was meeting and delivering a book to Bill Moyers at his office in Manhattan. Ellen said that meeting him was one of the great moments in her life. The photo of her being hugged by Moyers shows her beaming! The books finally hit the bookstores at the beginning of April. After a twenty year gestation period it was nice to see it finally out in the world.

The week in New York began a long series of interviews and articles about the book and the project. These include stories in the New Yorker online, the Wall Street Journal, the Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, The Christian Science Monitor, ArchNewsNow, Goodreads, New York Journal of Books, Seattle Pi, Book Page, Design Observer, The Morning News, SF Gate blog, FastCompany, Gizomodo, NPR Books tumblr, Architecture and Artisnas, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Bob Edwards show on NPR, the Scott Simon show on NPR, CNN, radio station WICN in MA, BYU Radio, the Los Angeles Times, Parade Magazine, Lost at E Minor, Scratch, Lonny, The Dish at Stanford, the Paris Review blog, Shelf Awareness, Next City, the Findery, etc. This is certainly my fifteen minutes of fame! I am sure that there will be more to come.

Book cover

Bob at NYPL

Bob at the New York Public Library, New York, NY

Bill Moyers and Ellen

Bill Moyers and Ellen, New York, NY

Books for sale, SF

The Public Library A Photographic Essay on sale at Folio Books, San Francisco, CA

One of the strangest things to come out of all this shows the reach of the media. I received an email from a retired lawyer in Texas saying that he had heard my NPR interview with Scott Simon. He asked if I had ever photographed the library in Deer Lodge, MT. I sent him a photo of the Kohrs Library in Deer Lodge that I had made in 2000. I explained to him that my mother came from an old pioneering family that had first settled the area in the 1860s. He wrote back and asked me her name. It turns out he is a long-lost cousin from a branch of my mother’s family that I was unaware of. Talk about six degrees of separation! When I had a reception at the University of California at Santa Cruz of a show with Joel Leivick and David Pace another long-lost cousin showed up and we met. Here is a photo of Alan Burns from Missoula, MT (brother of Dennis Burns, the retired lawyer from Texas), my sister Jane Dawson and I at a coffee shop in Santa Cruz.

Alan, Jane and RD

Alan Burns, Jane Dawson and Bob

 

A GUGGENHEIM

During the same week that the book was officially launched it was announced that I had received a Guggenheim Fellowship. I had known about the Guggenheim for about a month before they announced it. I had wanted to jump up and down and let everyone know that I had received it but they have a policy of waiting until they officially announce it. The following week one of my former Stanford photography students, Josh Hanner received a Pulitzer Prize in Photography. Needless to say, April was a very good month. A friend of ours, Greg Conniff had received a Guggenheim Fellowship several years ago. More importantly than the fame or money associated with the Guggenheim was the energy receiving the Fellowship gave him. I am very humbled by knowing the long list of great photographers that got this award in the past. I hope that the work I do over the next year will be worthy of this endorsement.

 

THE PAST, THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE

This has been a period a great transitions and accomplishments, large and small. One large effort that I was a small part of is the new exhibit and book from Stanford’s Cantor Art Center called Carleton Watkins The Stanford Albums. I have one essay in this beautiful book. In writing the essay it was nice for me to be able to combine my art history background with being a working photographer.

Watkins_digital_invite1

I finally went to one of my James Marshall high school class reunions. I was in the class of 1968 and at the reunion I was somewhat overwhelmed at talking with people I hadn’t seen in 46 years. Fortunately we all had nametags. Ellen gets the award for bravery for spending the evening at a VFW hall in West Sacramento with a room full of strangers and me. We did drive up to the reunion with my friend and classmate Nils Ohlson. Here is a photo of us in our letter sweaters. They still fit!

RD&Nils Marshall High reunion

Bob and Nils, West Sacramento, CA

One of the biggest transitions for me right now is retiring from teaching photography at San Jose State after 28 years. I’m sad to leave my colleagues there but glad to have more time to work on my projects. I will continue to teach photography at Stanford. Because of all this Ellen and I decided to take a weekend vacation to one of our favorite places, Camp Richardsons at Lake Tahoe with our friends Thom Sempere and his wife Susan. Four days of riding bikes, hiking, great conversations and doing nothing was bliss! Here is a photo of Ellen and I on the beach and me chillin’ under the pines.

RD and Ellen, Lake Tahoe, CA

RD chillin' at Tahoe

The following is a list of upcoming talks I will be giving in the Bay Area in June.

 

June 5, 2014

Architecture of Knowledge: A Photographic Survey of America’s Libraries

Photographer Robert Dawson in conversation with SF Chronicle architecture critic John King about Dawson’s 18-year project and new book “The Public Library: A Photographic Essay by Robert Dawson”

Book signing to follow

7:00 pm Tickets $10-$15

Hattery

414 Brannan St

www.hattery.com

 

June 11, 2014

Photographer Robert Dawson in conversation with Luis Herrera, City Librarian about Dawson’s new book “The Public Library: A Photographic Essay by Robert Dawson”

Book signing to follow

6:00 pm FREE

San Francisco Public Library

100 Larkin

www.sfpl.org

 

June 12, 2014

Photographer Robert Dawson in conversation with Dorothy Lazard, Librarian at the Oakland Public Library about Dawson’s new book “The Public Library: A Photographic Essay by Robert Dawson”

Book signing to follow

6:00 pm FREE

Oakland Main Library

125  14th Street at Oak

Oakland

www.oaklandlibrary.org

 

Here are some other talks I will be giving throughout the country this summer and fall. You are invited to attend any of these if you are in the area.

 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Artist’s talk, panel discussion and book signing

American Library Association annual conference

3:00 pm

Las Vegas, NV

http://www.ala.org/conferencesevents/

 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Artist talk and book signing

7:00 pm FREE

Howe Library

Hanover, NH

www.howelibrary.org

 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Artist talk and book signing

92nd Street Y

12:00 noon Tickets available

1395 Lexington Ave

New York, NY

www.92y.org

 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Artist talk and book signing

Strand Bookstore

Tentative date. TBD

828 Broadway

New York, NY

 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Artist talk and book signing

Noe Valley/Sally Brunn Branch San Francisco Public Library

2:00 pm FREE

451 Jersey St

San Francisco, CA 94114

 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Artist talk and book signing

California Library Association annual conference

Oakland City Center Marriott

Oakland, CA

conferenc.cla-net.org

 

Walker will be leaving next month for a yearlong trip throughout South America with his friend Nick Neumann. They will be photographing, filming and blogging from the road. Ellen and I will be spending the rest of our free time working on the library and literacy project in Stockton. We look forward to hearing from you and, as always, would appreciate any feedback you may have on this blog. We always enjoy hearing from you. To be continued….

Ellen and farm worker school, French Camp, CA

Ellen photographing a school for children of farm workers, French Camp, San Joaquin County, CA

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WORKING ON THE BOOK

WORKING ON THE BOOK – 9/18/13

It has been a long time since I posted a blog on my Public Library project. I wanted to bring you up to date on this amazing journey and let you know about upcoming events. My last post came shortly after my 2012 summer Library Road Trip with Walker. Later, after looking at my work from the whole project I realized that I had photographed a lot of libraries in poor communities but few in wealthy ones. Some of the wealthiest communities in the nation are right here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Walker and I photographed several libraries in Silicon Valley and Marin County. It helped to balance out the project.

I soon became caught up in my normal, crazy academic schedule teaching five classes at two universities. I also came down with what turned out to be a long-term staph infection in my sinuses. I am finally over most of it. In the Fall, 2012 and Spring, 2013 I began working closely with Princeton Architectural Press producing the book. Late in the Fall we spent the Thanksgiving holiday in New York and later in New England with Walker, Ellen, her brother John Manchester and his wife Kate. We were in New York City two weeks after Hurricane Sandy had devastated the area. Our friend Stanley Greenberg took us out to the Rockaways along the Brooklyn shoreline. The branch library there had just been emptied of its water-soaked books. Parked in front was a Queens Library bookmobile. It was one of the few places around where people could recharge their cell phones, get on the internet of just get warm. I took the last photographs for the project of that sheltering mobile library.

The Spring of 2013 was probably the busiest and most stressful time of my life. In addition to my academic responsibilities and being sick I was working full-time on the book. I also applied for and received a Graham Foundation grant to work on the Public Library project. I also applied and am currently a finalist for a Creative Work Fund grant to document the library and literacy campaigns in the distressed city of Stockton, CA. If I receive the grant it could provide a new direction for my project beyond the publication of the book. Added to all this I produced a 30 year retrospective exhibition of my work for a show at the Thomas Welton Stanford Gallery at Stanford University. Whew! No wonder I felt exhausted all Spring.

Putting together all the parts of this very complex book took up all of my free time. Throughout the Spring I was literally working seven days a week. Working with my two editors at Princeton was a delight. Sara Bader and Sara Stemen are real professionals and have been very patient with all my distractions. It is nice to work with people that know the English language so much better than I do and, at the same time, penetrate the complexity of legal contracts with writers and publishers. And they did this with humor and wisdom! I know that I have been lucky working with the two Saras. Equally important was the help and encouragement from my wife Ellen and our son Walker. I literally could not have done this project without them. The production of the book involved selecting and sequencing the images; finalizing the text, labels and extended captions; getting permissions from the writers, their agents or publishers and countless little details that needed attention.

The big day arrived in mid-April when Ellen and I finished everything, put all the book parts in a box and sent it off to Princeton. Afterwards, we even had time for dinner and a much-appreciated glass of wine. Later in the Spring we received the first two edits of the book by email. We met with Princeton in New York in mid-July when they had literally just printed out the first hard copy of the book mock-up. We took it with us to our little cabin in the woods in Vermont and sent it back a few weeks later. In early September I sent back the second version of the mock-up to Princeton. After approving the cover design I have been working with Princeton’s publicity person to develop a plan to publicize the book. I have also been working on lots of little details since then.

A website and traveling exhibition are part of our future tasks. I will keep you informed as we get closer to our publication date of April, 2014. Until then, please stay tuned and stay in touch.

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Redwoods, Mill Valley library, Mill Valley, CA

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Bookmobile, Rockaways, NY

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Print selection, San Francisco, CA

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Assistant print selector, San Francisco, CA

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Laying out the book, San Francisco, CA

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Final design and layout, San Francisco, CA

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Initial mock-up, San Francisco, CA

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Last details, April, 2013, San Francisco, CA

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Last proof read, April, 2013, San Francisco, CA

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Ellen packing it up!, April, 2013, San Francisco, CA

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Editing first print out, Vermont

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Swatting flies and editing book, Vermont

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So Many Libraries, So Little Time

Armijo branch, El Paso, TX

Armijo branch, El Paso, TX

Coal sign in library, Williamson, WV

Coal sign in library, Williamson, WV

Cowboy hat in reading room, Main Library, Cleveland, OH

Cowboy hat in reading room, Main Library, Cleveland, OH

ImageDarkened interior, no AC, record heat, Tchula, MS

Darkened interior, no AC, record heat, Tchula, MS

Fannie Lou Hamer Library, Jackson, MS

Fannie Lou Hamer Library, Jackson, MS

Flags and Carnegie Library, Las Vegas, NM

Flags and Carnegie Library, Las Vegas, NM

Guitar and library, Muskogee, OK

Guitar and library, Muskogee, OK

Navajo Library, Window Rock, AZ

Navajo Library, Window Rock, AZ

New and old libraries in Cherokee Capitol, Tahlequah, OK (diptych)

New and old libraries in Cherokee Capitol, Tahlequah, OK (diptych)

Main Library, Newark, NJ

Main Library, Newark, NJ

Stairway in Main Library, Midland, TX

Stairway in Main Library, Midland, TX

Three murals and ceiling, Main Library, Detroit, MI

Three murals and ceiling, Main Library, Detroit, MI

West branch Carnegie Library, Louisville, KY

West branch Carnegie Library, Louisville, KY

Main Library, Winchester, VA

Main Library, Winchester, VA

 

3/26/12 – I had threatened to do this for a while. I am now posting a small selection of images from last summer’s Library Road Trip. The previous images on this blog were all quick recording shots taken with my little Canon G-10 at the same time as I was shooting my larger film cameras. The final shots were all on film and I have never posted these before. I am doing it now because I finally finished developing and spotting the 300+ images that have been edited from the trip. Finally, these pictures can begin to see the light of day. I selected these fifteen images to be somewhat representative of the diversity of libraries we encountered last summer.

Things are progressing with the book project. We are actively looking for writers to be included in the book and I will let you know how it goes. Any suggestions of writers that you think would be appropriate would be greatly appreciated. I just received a wonderful hand-written letter from Wendell Berry. It was a rejection but I am going to frame it anyway.

This summer will be the last of the Library Road Trip field work. Walker and I will do our last tour through the upper Mid-West including Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming and Colorado.  This is the last region in the country that I have not yet photographed for this project. We will do it more or less in this order and plan on spending four weeks on the road starting around June 12th. If you have any contacts or suggestions of libraries to photograph or places to stay it would also be much appreciated.

After I get back from the trip in mid-July I will spend the rest of the summer developing and editing the film, working on the book and getting ready for a big exhibit of this work at Stanford University’s Art Gallery.  That exhibit is scheduled for the winter of 2013 and will include work from the 2011 and 2012 summer Library Road Trips and my recent short trip to southern Nevada and Utah. It will be a good way for me to focus this new work. In conjunction with the earlier exhibit produced for the San Francisco Public Library during the spring of 2011, I hope to produce the core of a traveling exhibit that can tour around the country for several years. That traveling exhibit, in combination with the large-scale book will be the final expression of this massive project. But I have miles to go before I get there. So many libraries, so little time. Stay tuned.

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Filed under American Life, Greatest Hits, Libraries, Photography, Public Libraries, Road trip, Robert Dawson Library