Photography's Rich, Disordered, But Awesome Part of Life

TELLING THE STORY

Most of us, without particularly meaning to, have accumulated--from commercials, from ads in magazines, from picture books, from movies--a mental archive of images of the West, a personal West-in-the-Minds eye in which we see an eternal pastoral, very beautiful but usually unpeopled. These potent images, pelting us decade after decade, finally implant notions about how the West was explored and developed, in a word, won that are unrealistic.

Photography has helped to redress the balance little by little with its rich but disordered resource. Over the last seventy years studies of various kinds and the occasional autobiography, like We Pointed Them North(1939), have helped to alter the picture that is engraved on all our brains from TV and the movies: Roy Rogers, Gene Autrey, the Lone Ranger, Butch Cassidy, et al.-Ron Price with thanks to Larry McMurtry,High Noon, a review of The New Encyclopedia of the Amercan West, editor Howard R. Lamar, Yale UP, in The Australian Review of Books, December 1998, pp.17-19.

The enterprise began, perhaps as early as 1894 when the first Bahais landed in America from the Middle East, or even when the Letters of the Living travelled throughout Iran in 1844 and thereafter. The twenty-five years from 1894 to 1919 was a precursor to the year 1919 when the Tablets of the Divine Plan were read and a pioneering program began that is now eighty years old. It is a program that is immensely diverse and operates at local, regional, national and international levels. It is important, as the Bahai community comes to describe this vast and complex story, that it avoids a tendency to an affinity with the reverential writers of medieval England, to endless edification & to what is called hagiography.There is a need to emotionally individualize stories so that readers will not have to piously wade through hundreds of pages of lifeless story.-Ron Price with thanks to Edward Morrison,When the Saints Come Marching In:The Art of Bahai Biography,Dialogue,V1,N1, Winter,1986,pp.32-35
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Defining character,
determining worth,
touching on the personal,
bringing people out of
verbal concrete,
through understanding.

Needing an eye
for telling detail,
a certain dramatic power,
analysis and interpretation,
with incisiveness and conviction,
with no doubt about its being true,
a willingness to deal with the unpleasant,
for we need more than a glimpse.
We need the story of the saintliness
in all its unsaintliness.

It is as difficult to write
a good life as to live one.
We want to know we are not alone:
for the community is its own ritual,
the greatest drama in the world of existence,
something forever new and unforeseen,
devoid, in writing, of appearances and pretentions,
a mysterious development, this writing, of many values,
conveying to the reading public
insight and a knowing who they are
into their lives.

Ron Price
1 February 1999

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Taking Off From/On Photography

A DOCUMENT, A RECORD

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is holding a retrospective this month, in April 2000, on the photographical work of Walker Evans. I know nothing about Mr. Evans, but his photography was an interesting document on his times, a record of his days and years, the sentiments and styles in the first half century of American history and a personal autobiography. The brief summary I saw, perhaps ten minutes, on The News Hour with Tim Lehrer went by so quickly I did not catch it all. But it had something to say, indirectly, about my own autobiographical work.
-Ron Price with thanks to The News Hour with Tim Lehrer, 5:00-6:00 pm, 7 April 2000.

Showing my world as I see it:
a poet warrior, heavily armed
with the stuff of my life,
my world, my religion—
my playful and not-so-playful
energies, moods and desires--
a document over three epochs,
a record of my days,
not so plain and simple,
clear and visually straight from the shoulder
as Evan’s work. But, with Keats,
an almost instant transmutation of impressions,
thoughts, reading and ideas into poetry,
well, what some might call poetry, what
I might see as a study for poetry.1

1 See Robert Gittings, Selected Poems and Letters of Keats, Heinemann Books Ltd., London, 1981(1966), pp.8-11.

Ron Price
7 April 2000

married for 41 years; living

married for 41 years; living in Australia for 36 years; a Baha'i for 48 years; a teacher for 35 years.
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After my years of early childhood(1944-1948) I enjoyed life as a student for some twenty years; for over thirty years I enjoyed teaching. I don’t think I was a natural teacher, but I grew into it. After several years I became successful; I became a person enjoyed by my students and enjoying them. I loved to explain things and rarely made a questioner feel stupid for asking. Although I had broad intellectual interests, my pursuit of career and my involvement in the Baha’i Faith left little time for other activities: I did not play golf or follow sports after the age of 18; I did not take up painting or cooking or photography or anything one could call a hobby, although I did collect stamps in my teens; I watched little TV, had no TV from 1956 to 1976, although after I retired in 1999 I watched over two hours a day; I rarely went to movies, to various forms of entertainment or ate out. I did sing and played the guitar from 1967 to 2007; I joined the Baha’i Faith with its world of meetings and outings and I went for a daily walk of about half an hour among a host of other domestic, familial and social activities that are part of the lives of fathers and husbands in the west.