On a Great Humanitarian

We all know how the President responded to the Great Depression, right? It’s been thoroughly documented in the history books and in governmental archives. But, before we look at that in a little more detail, let’s remember the man himself.

The President was known for his business knowledge. He’d been in government for some time, and his reputation was unimpeachable. He’d served two previous administrations in the cabinet as a secretary. Before that, during World War 1, the President had led efforts to bring support to the people of Belgium as they suffered extreme food shortages from the effects of much of the war being fought on their territory–and this was even before the United States entered the conflict. His name became synonymous with humanitarian efforts when then-President Woodrow Wilson asked him to lead American efforts at bringing supplies to Europe to help rebuild after the devastation of the Great War. Thus, the man who worked to deal with the Great Depression seemed the perfect man for the job because he knew how to deal with crises.

So, what did the President do to try to overcome the effects of having almost 25% unemployment, the banking system in tatters, Wall Street and the entire business community rattled, and people’s lives on the edge? Well, we have to remember that, at that time, no administration had intervened in the economy before. It’s difficult to believe, but it is so. The American tradition was that business and government were separate, and, while elected officials could affect the economy with laws and guidelines, actually and actively working to stimulate the economy had not been tried before. And when the President did it to combat the economic downturn, many people thought it was tantamount to treason or communism.

No, he knew that to do nothing would be the worst thing for the country. He promised and delivered, in his words, “the most gigantic program of economic defense and [economic] counterattack ever evolved in the history of the Republic.” And so it was. He put the government to work on the economy like no other Chief Executive before him. Public works programs, support for the failing banks, low-interest loans to corporations, and he ordered companies to not lay off people (which was among the first things companies did when hard times hit) knowing that incomes were still needed. In short, he did all he could to make the situation better. What else would you expect from a great humanitarian? He knew what people were going through.

And he tried to calm people’s fears about the economy as well. He called in reporters to show how he continued his daily routines as if to say, “look, all is well. It’s going to be ok.” He even tried to allay fears by coining the term “Depression” to indicate that, like people at times, even the economy could become depressed, and that bright days were ahead.

Sadly, as we know, it didn’t work. His name became synonymous not with humanitarianism but, rather, with the Great Depression itself.

But you can’t say Herbert Hoover didn’t try.

On Stumpy’s Boys

Even her children called her Stumpy. The stout, short woman, of Irish descent, had married Michael Nyland in the early 1900s, and the coupled settled in Tonawanda, New York. She and Michael produced six children because, well, that’s what Irish Catholic families did. What her children and her friends remarked about Stumpy was that you couldn’t ruffle her feathers, to use the colloquial phrase of the day.

Michael had been a veteran of the Spanish-American War, interestingly. In later years, Michael would tell tall tales about his time in Cuba fighting alongside Teddy. In a conflict that saw the largely Protestant United States fighting against Catholic Spain, Michael had no qualms about taking up arms for his country. He and his family were American to their cores. World War I saw him support Wilson’s decision to enter the war on the Allied side with zero hesitation about him. And, then, when World War 2 began, it made him proud that his four boys all signed up to go to battle, to the front lines, to fight to defend American democracy. No desk jobs for the Nyland boys, nossir.

On the other hand, Stumpy bore the four boys enlisting with her usual quiet resolve. She was certainly proud, yes, and she was the one who hung the banner bearing four blue stars in the front window, the four blue stars indicating that hers was a household that had provided four soldiers for the fight. Like everyone else in Tonawanda, she endured the rationing of goods, she planted her Victory Garden, and she contributed to the scrap metal drives. Stumpy held nothing back when it came to contributing to the war effort.

But Stumpy ended up giving more than most. Word came that one of her boys, Edward, was listed as missing in action and presumed dead after his plane was shot down over Burma. Then, in fast succession, another son, Robert, who had parachuted behind enemy lines after D-Day, was also missing. Finally, confirmation came to her door in the form of a telegram telling her that a third son, Preston, had been killed on the Normandy beaches. He had died a hero, manning a machine gun that provided cover for his buddies while they made their way inland. Five days later, the notice came that Robert, too, was confirmed dead. Stumpy changed out the flag in the window. She made it show two blue stars and two gold ones. People asked why she didn’t make it three gold stars, and she answered matter-of-factly that she had no confirmation about Ed’s death, so why should she change that blue star?

Stumpy’s emotions were so, so terribly mixed according to one of her daughters. The stunning losses happening so quickly one after another intertwined with the intense pride she had in knowing that her 2 sons died for such a noble endeavor. But, as a mother, the loss stung more within her heart. Yet, through it all, Stumpy never publicly shook her fist at the government or God for taking her boys.

The last son, Fredrick (whom the family called Fritz), was alive. The Army found him and brought him back to his mother and father in New York. He served out the remainder of his time in the military as an MP locally. And, then, as the war was drawing to a close, a miracle happened. Ed was found to have survived the plane crash in Burma and had lived through capture and imprisonment by the Japanese. He would be coming home as well. Stumpy told friends privately (because she wasn’t one to brag) that, see, she was right. Two gold and two blue.

And, even though the details aren’t exactly the same, in 1998, Stephen Spielberg would make Saving Private Ryan based on the story of Stumpy’s boys.

On a Copper Colossus

What if I told you the largest statue in the world for several centuries was a copper statue near Milan, Italy? It’s true. The statue’s skeleton is an intricate system of iron and brick with the copper sheathing overlaying it. It stands over 11 stories tall including the plinth, and it took over 80 years to build.

What is this colossus? Well, that’s part of this story. You see, there was a Catholic Archbishop and Cardinal by the name of Carlo Borromeo who died in 1584. He was famous for having been one of the leaders of the Catholic Counter-Reformation. Most people don’t know much about this important Catholic answer to Luther’s (and others’) calls for reforming of the Catholic faith. Borromeo did much more than merely fight against those reformers; he led the way in calling for abuses within the church to be ended and demanded that changes–many of the same changes the reformers wanted–be made within the church hierarchy and practices. This was seen as radical by many within Catholicism, but Borromeo had the support of some powerful people who realized that if the church were to last long-term, that changes must be made (or at least appear to be made).

When he died, there was a push for him to be canonized as a saint for his work in calling for a return to the core tenants of Christianity. His beatification and canonization came in the early 1600s. Thus, to honor this man, a large statue in the countryside near Milan, his town, was commissioned and built over most of the 17th Century. One of the best designers of that day was called in to handle the job, and money was donated by public and private entities in huge wads to finance it. The statue of Borromeo is large enough for people to walk up inside it and look out over the lake it sits beside. While the copper sheathing is incredibly thin, the iron and brick support system make it immovable even in the highest winds.

The statue depicts the Cardinal cradling a book in his left arm and holding his right arm up in a blessing. The book represents the learning that Borromeo promoted throughout his lifetime; he wanted to make certain that the church was on the forefront of learning, which was, in his mind, a key to understanding and wisdom. Since its erection three centuries ago, the huge metal sculpture has been one of the Milan area’s greatest tourist attractions.

You might be wondering what significance this huge metal statue has for us today. Well, let’s revisit it and see what you pick up. Large copper statue. Book in left hand. Right arm raised. Large enough for people to go inside and to look out from the top. Standing on a plinth.

Yes, now you have it. When the artist, Auguste Bartholdi, wanted to design a large statue in a similar pose, he traveled to Milan to perform a detailed inspection on the construction design of this colossus. He then returned to France and worked with Gustave Eiffel to make the only copper statue in the world that, to this day, is larger than the one of Cardinal Borromeo.

The Statue of Liberty.

On Two Dead Men

This tale of two different dead men is, on the surface, a sharp contrast in lives and personalities. On one hand, there was a homeless man from Wales named Glendwr Michael. Let’s look at him, first. This was during World War 2, and Michael was living in London. He had been born in south Wales in a coal mining town (no surprise there) and into poverty in 1909. By the time World War 2 started, Michael had lost both his parents and was jobless. He made his way to London and lived on the streets. What he could find to eat he got by begging. One description of him said he was friendless, homeless, and depressed. His issues kept him from being suitable for service in the war, and that pained him as well.

Someone found Michael seriously ill in a warehouse not too far from King’s Cross railway station in the city. He had eaten rat poison, and it is believed that he ingested it accidently. You see, the rat poison had been put in paste that was put on the crusts of bread. As someone who was nearly starving, Michael probably couldn’t believe his luck; he quickly ate the bread crusts and became violently ill. Two days later after being found, he died of the rat poison in St. Pancras Hospital. The poison had interacted with his gastric acids and produced a gas that effectively killed him by shutting down his liver and lungs. His date of death was January 28, 1943 at the age of 34.

Now, for the other dead man, only the story of his death is more, well, glorious, for lack of a better word. His given name was William Martin. Martin was an acting Major in the Royal Marines. Martin’s date of birth was listed at 1907, and his death date as shown on his tombstone is April 24, 1943. Like Michael, Martin was also from Wales. Unlike Michael, Martin was a hero. His body was hauled out of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Spain by a local fisherman. His cause of death was listed as drowning. On one of Martin’s wrists was a pair of handcuffs; the other end of the handcuffs was attached to a briefcase. The fisherman notified the Spanish authorities, and they, in turn, told the British authorities in Spain. Martin’s body was taken by the British, and he was buried there in Spain with full miliary honors.

Now, Spain was ostensibly a neutral country during World War 2, but the fascist Franco regime was definitely pro-German. Between the time the fisherman found Martin’s body and the time the British authorities buried the man, it was determined that the briefcase attached to Martin’s body had been opened and the contents examined.

What was in the briefcase, you ask? Why, there were top secret papers detailing the upcoming Allied attacks on Nazi-occupied Greece and the Mediterranean island of Sardinia. The British were convinced that the Germans had been shown the information by the Franco government before the British were able to handle Martin’s body.

In fact, the British were counting on that happening.

You see, the papers in the briefcase were fakes. They were designed to throw off the Germans into thinking that the Allies were planning to attack elsewhere in the Mediterranean rather than their goal–Sicily. And the ruse worked. Based almost exclusively on the “top secret” information found on Major Martin, the Germans diverted troops from Sicily, and that made the later Allied invasion of that island so much easier.

So, you can see a large difference between the deaths of Glendwr Michael and Major William Martin. One died a bum, a homeless drifter. And the other one died a hero for his nation.

Except for one thing. The British had created Major Martin from the corpse of Glendwr Michael. The British knew that the body of a homeless person with no family would not be missed. And this fabrication saved the lives of perhaps thousands of lives of British and American servicemen.

Glendwr Michael had served his nation after all.

On a Silent Death

John Gilbert passed away silently at 7:44am on January 9, 1936 at his home in California. It was a heart attack, his second major one (there had been several minor ones). He was only 39 years old. His long-time nurse, May Jordan, called the doctor, but it was too late. She told the doctor that Mr. John had raised his hands shortly before he died as if he wanted to say something, but he dropped them and passed away. A silent death, she reported.

The doctor signed the death certificate that the cause of death was “acute myocarditis,” but everyone who knew John knew that it was because he drank himself to an early grave. John’s long-time butler, a man with the improbably name of Don Veto, said that John would often drink alone, silently downing glass after glass, bottle after bottle, night after night. The man literally drank himself to death.

You probably haven’t heard of him, but John Gilbert was a wealthy man in the 1920s. John had wisely invested the money he made in the entertainment business and lived off the investment income. You see, people knew John Gilbert, but his had not been one of the voices that people heard over his years in show business for the most part. His house was paid for, he could well afford the butler, the chauffeur, the cook, and the gardener. He had the finest clothes, the prettiest women, and the best champaign that money could buy.

Too much of the champaign, it turns out.

So, it seems that John would have everything to live for. Yet, he was miserable. You see, the decade of the 1920s saw more films made than any other decade. Despite what some say, the films of that decade were more than Chaplin and Keaton and those other silent film comedians. Some of the most beautiful and technically brilliant as well as some of the best stories ever told were produced in the 1920s.

And John Gilbert starred in a film, The Big Parade, that was the second highest-grossing film and the most profitable film made during that era. His next film, Flesh and the Devil, paired him with Greta Garbo. He and Garbo, his love interest in the film, became lovers in real life. Their every movements were reported in the newspapers and their hordes of fans followed their love story breathlessly. Next to Rudolph Valentino, John Gilbert was the greatest matinee idol of the decade.

But then, in the fall of 1927, Al Jolson uttered the famous line, “You ain’t heard nothin’ yet!” at the start of The Jazz Singer, and the era of “talkies” was born. By 1930, the film All Quiet on the Western Front was first filmed as a silent movie, but it was quickly remade as a talkie and went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture that year. Silent film was dead.

Gilbert had trouble transitioning to talking pictures. The issue wasn’t that his voice was high-pitched or nasally as so many silent stars’ voices were. No, Gilbert had the opposite problem. His voice was fine, but his enunciation was perfect. People who believed Gilbert’s acting when he they couldn’t hear him suddenly found him unbelievable when they could. His diction was off-putting. It made people laugh.

Sadly, by 1936, John Gilbert’s career was over, and he was dead.

And so were silent films.

On A Country’s Name

The name of a certain country comes from a word that means “village” or “settlement” in the original peoples’ language. It seems that a French explorer and his troop of soldiers who were looking for gold and trade goods back in the 1500s happened across two aboriginal youth and asked them where they might could find places where people traded goods. The two young men, using sign language and a few emphatic words, drew a crude map in the dirt with a stick and marked the places of the native settlements along a river. They pointed to the settlement places and said the word. Thus, the Frenchman called the territory after that word, saying that it was, in effect, the Land of Villages.

Fast forward 300 years or so. The territory was no longer part of France at this point; in fact, it had become its own nation, separate and apart from the European powers that had once colonized it. At a meeting of political leaders of this now-liberated land, the name of the new country was debated. Some wanted to call the new nation Albion. Others suggested Borealia. Ursalia was proposed. Victorialand received some support. However, the delegates at this particular convention finally agreed to call the loose confederation of the various territories was this derivative of the original peoples’ word given to that French explorer. Thus, a nation was named.

Oh, today, you’ll hear some people conjecture that the country’s name comes from a Spanish phrase meaning “nothing here.” Others have opined that Portuguese explorers gave the land its name from a phrase in their language that refers to a series of valleys. Neither of these theories on the origin holds historical water. Other minor (and somewhat humorous) ideas say the word refers to an aboriginal type of beer made from wood or the name given to the land by one of the early colonizers of the land who came from Europe and grew sugar cane. A recent idea says the word means “nothing but crap,” but that’s more of a modern comedian’s joke. Don’t believe it.

It is beyond a doubt that by the mid-1500s, cartographers labeled the land the word that this early French explorer gave it. We know this because we have the maps that clearly show the territory labeled as such. That tells us that the story of those two youths who drew that crude map in the dirt and informed the explorer of the settlements used the word that today describes the second largest nation on earth in land size. Now, as to the pronunciation of the land, well, that’s another story. Some people insisted that the word be pronounced Kaw-naw-daw. Others said it should be said Kan-Natt-Tuh.

Today, we simply say Canada.

On the Priest of St. John’s

Ah, Rome! The Eternal City. I’ve been there twice but only went to the Vatican and the Vatican Museum one of those times. It’s an amazing city for art, architecture, and history. You can’t spit for a ruin, or a church, or a ruined church. And to walk out of the Rome subway system and see the majesty of the Colosseum rise before you…it’s magic. But I want to talk about a church building and the priest of that church that does not lie within the borders of the Vatican City.

While we all know about St. Peter’s, the church I want to introduce most of you to is called St. John Lateran. It’s named for two of the Johns from the Bible–John the Baptist and John the “beloved” Apostle of Jesus. It’s located almost 3 miles of the Vatican, and, having been consecrated in the 300s, it boasts of being the oldest public Christian church still in existence in Rome and the oldest in Western Christianity (those Eastern Orthodoxers have older ones).

The priest of St. John’s at the moment has been the head of that church for the past 10 years, and he is quite an amazing fellow as those fellows go. He’s an older guy (83) who was born Mario Bergoglio. He became a Jesuit in the late 1950s and taught in seminary before becoming an ordained priest in the late 1960s. What makes him special, at least in my mind, is that for a guy who comes from such a traditional Catholic background, he’s pretty progressive when it comes to seeing his work as being one of service to others.

Let’s not debate the abuses of religion in general and Catholicism specifically in this format. Allow me to tell you what I really admire about this simple priest of St. John’s church. Here’s an example of what I mean. During August, most of Europe goes on holiday–everybody. That includes people who work in the Catholic church. That sounds reasonable until you consider that a lot of beggars come to Rome in the summers to make money off the tourists who flock there. Those people who are mostly homeless rely on the largesse of the Catholic Church for food often and even for a place to shower or to stay the night in a shelter. What Father Bergoglio did was tell his staff that they had to take their August vacations in shifts so as to not shut down the mechanisms that helped the homeless population of Rome. In other words, he argued that the Church couldn’t simply walk away and leave people without resources for a whole month. In my mind, that’s pretty noble of him. In fact, Bergoglio himself still takes some shifts in the soup kitchens during the month, even at his age. It’s the rare priest or minister who practices what he preaches.

Here’s another example. As the priest of St. John’s, Bergoglio has as one of his perks a luxurious apartment where he could live–if he so chose. However, he does not live there. Instead, he chooses to live in the much smaller and much simpler guest house. His argument is that all he needs is a bed.

These and other stances have gotten him into trouble with the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. He is against capital punishment. He is for a more tolerant stance regarding same-sex relationships. He has spoken out against the excesses of capitalism and has advocated for laws addressing climate change. You can see that these stances might ruffle some feathers in the Vatican, and, indeed, they have. The Catholic Church has maintained its power for hundreds of years by being traditional and unchanging, and here is one of its most high-profile priests speaking like a modern radical practically.

You might think the Pope would step in and address some of these actions and positions taken by Bergoglio. Would it surprise you to learn that the Pope actually hasn’t spoken out against what the priest of St. John’s Lateran says and does?

You shouldn’t be surprised. Pope Francis isn’t the priest of St. Peter’s Basilica, after all.

And Francis is the name Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio chose when he was made Pope and became the priest of St. John’s ten years ago.

On a War Hero

We throw around the word “hero” fairly casually these days (I did exactly that in yesterday’s post, in fact). Colonel Jim Thompson absolutely deserves the word “hero” as a descriptor. Colonel Jim died 21 years ago after dedicating his life to the service of his nation in the United States Army.

Born in New Jersey in the 1930s, Jim was too young for World War II but wanted to be in the army. When Jim was finally old enough, he joined up in the 1950s; he went to Officer Candidate School and found that he loved the military. He decided that the Green Berets would be the unit for him. After a stint as an Green Beret instructor, Jim also did a tour of duty in South Korea.

As the US involvement in the Vietnam conflict began to expand in the mid-1960s, Jim was one of the first officers to go over to southeast Asia. The Americans needed the expertise of Green Berets like him, so Jim was assigned a 6-month tour of duty in that theater. However, Jim ended up being in Vietnam a total of almost nine years. Yes, you read that correctly. Jim was in theater almost nine years.

Later, in interviews, Jim related that he really hadn’t heard of Vietnam before his tour began. Yet, his time there became the defining experience of his life. During his 9 years, Jim suffered wounds to his face, he broke his back in a plane crash, and he was burned at least once. Also, during his time abroad, much changed in the US military and in the nation as a whole. The United States that Jim left in 1964 was not the same place he returned to in 1973.

Because of his meritorious service during the conflict, Jim was awarded a slew of medals. Among these citations were the Bronze Star, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, and the Distinguished Service Medal. When he finally returned home from duty, Jim also received his promotions to Lt. Colonel and then full “bird” Colonel because of his time in Vietnam.

But being in-country for almost a decade had taken its toll on Jim. Like so many other men of his generation (and most generations that go through war), Jim could not make the transition back to life outside of wartime. He suffered from what we now know was Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He began having terrible night terrors. He drank heavily. His personal relationships suffered. He became more and more detached from family and friends.

The price Jim paid to serve his nation was a high one.

You will often hear veterans and other say, “All gave some, and some gave all” referring to those soldiers who lost their lives in the war as well as those who suffered from it one way or another. Well, in many ways, Jim was as much a casualty of the Vietnam War as a person who died there.

I’d like to say everything turned out ok with Jim, but that simply isn’t true. A stroke left him paralyzed on one side in his later years and forced his retirement from the military. He died alone in his home in Florida at the age of 69.

What you don’t know about Jim’s time in Vietnam is that the 6-month deployment that turned into 9 years wasn’t Jim’s choice. In fact, it was absolute hell for him.

That’s because for those 9 years he was in Vietnam, Jim Thompson was one of the longest-serving Prisoners of War that the United States has ever had.

On a Super Hero

Unless you live in the Seattle, Washington, area, you probably haven’t heard of Phoenix Jones. You see, Phoenix Jones is a super hero.

No, really. Let me explain.

Phoenix Jones has all the prerequisites to be a super hero. He wears a costume complete with head mask. He has an alter-ego (his non-costumed name is Benjamin Fodor). He fights crime. He has his fans (many of them, in fact), and he has his detractors (even more than his fans, unfortunately). And, like many of the super heroes whose stories are chronicled in the comics and on film, Phoenix Jones also has to fight against discrimination from the other super heroes in his town as well.

I realize that you’re waiting for the punchline here, but there’s not one coming. Really. There is a guy named Benjamin Fodor who wears a costume and does super hero-y things and goes by the name Phoenix Jones. And there are other people in Seattle who also see themselves as super heroes and dress like super heroes and act like super heroes and who are jealous of the notoriety of Phoenix Jones.


Now, before you dismiss this as fantasy or a special type of crazy or even simply play acting, let me assure you that it is none of these things. These are people who are deadly serious about crime fighting in a modern American metropolis. And that makes sense given the zeitgeist of modern life. In a world out of control, when we are bombarded with hourly news of how out of whack our society has become, how violent and careless and completely nuts everything is, then suddenly becoming a super hero suddenly seems like a perfectly normal response to such a world.

That’s the theory, anyway.

We spend billions of dollars going to cinemas to see these super heroes save the world over and over. We purchase the merch, we consume the endorsements, we revere both the fictional personas and the actors who portray them. We can’t then wonder why in heaven’s name the Benjamin Fodors of the world would don costumes and take on the evil that is out there today.

And Phoenix Jones is, like many super heroes, a complex character. To hear him tell it, he’s been responsible for bringing several criminals to justice. To hear his detractors tell their side (including his “rival” super heroes), Jones is a big fat liar. He had some MMA-type training, but he seems to only fight people who are drunk. So, there’s some mixed messages here. And then there’s the arrest.

It seems that Phoenix Jones sold drugs to an undercover police officer. Yep. That happened. So, Phoenix Jones’s reputation took a major hit, and today it’s difficult to find someone who sees him as the “good guy” in almost any scenario. Now, he mostly remains in the shadows, the super hero underworld, as it were, and he leaves the super hero stuff to some of the other masked and caped crusaders in Seattle–people like Midnight Sun and El Caballero (real super heroes in the metroplex).

What most people don’t realize is that there are similar masked heroes in most big cities around the world. The police and the local media don’t usually talk about them because, well, they tend to get in the way of actually fighting crime even if their intentions are good.

Perhaps what we need to remember is that the real super heroes of our cities are the health workers, the teachers, the construction workers, the wait staff, the parents, the checkout and stock people, the inspectors and engineers, the ones who make our lives possible and who are kind to others.

And these super heroes don’t need capes, either.

On a Photographer

Pictures still amaze me. I’m talking about the process of using actual film, of running the exposed negatives through chemicals, and transferring that reverse image onto photographic paper. In my head, that whole undertaking is far more magical, much more mysterious, than electronic images taken by digital cameras for mobile phones.

There is actually somewhat of a backlash against the concept of instant digital photographs by a small group of professionals and hobbyists today. These are folks who pursue the original methods of preparing glass frames with chemicals and using large-format, vintage cameras to re-create the way pictures used to be created.

Let me introduce to you a man named Joe. Joe grew up in France and learned about these old, practically original methods of making pictures. And he pretty much taught himself how to do all of it, which is difficult to pursue to say the least. Trial and error became Joe’s photography school. Joe was forced to use what he had on hand or what he could afford to create his images. He even used some unorthodox methods that aren’t used by most of these hobbyists today. For example, because he had access to them, Joe used metal (pewter) plates instead of glass to have the light allowed in his large-format camera to etch the image. He was forced to use a type of asphalt to prepare these metal plates to capture the light on them.

The images Joe eventually produced have an antique tint to them because his methods were so primitive. He had to keep his lens open for several hours to allow enough brightness into his home-made camera box so that an image could be produced. That also meant that he had to photograph subjects that were almost completely still, images such as cityscapes and buildings, things that didn’t move too much.

Joe realized that what he was creating with his crude equipment wouldn’t be clear images. Yet, he pursued the hobby because he was excited to see what the simple process of light being allowed to refract into a prepared metal plate would produce. He wasn’t trying for “high art” or creativity from a compositional perspective. And Joe didn’t concern himself with focal planes and lenses, f-stops and filters. All he wanted to do was, in his words, paint images with light–“light writing,” Joe called it.

Well, the result of Joe’s work was unveiled in 1952. One of his light prints, the pewter plate with a faint, unfocused image on it, was found in a storage box. Today, you can see it in the University of Texas at Austin in one of that institution’s museums. What made Joe’s picture so interesting?

Well, Joseph Niepce took the image of some rooftops outside his window in a village in France.

What makes it interesting is that it was the first photograph–ever–and it captured that French light way back in 1827.