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Presented in this volume are more than fifty of the Getty Museum's two hundred ninety-five pictures by Atget, with commentary on each image by Gordon Baldwin, associate curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum. In Focus: Eugène Atget also contains a chronological overview of his life and an edited transcript of a colloquium on his career, with participants Baldwin; David Featherstone, independent editor and curator; photographer Robbert Flick, professor of art at the University of Southern California; independent scholar David Harris; Weston Naef, curator of photographs, Getty Museum; Françoise Reynaud, curator of photographs at the Musée Carnavalet, Paris; and Michael S. Roth, associate director of the Getty Research Institute. This volume of the In Focus series is published to coincide with an exhibit of Atget's images from June 20 through October 18, 2000, at the Getty Museum.
Atget considered himself a maker of documents, intending his images to be used by artists, set designers, historians, craftsmen, and, eventually, national institutions. His over 8,500 photographs taken from the 1890s to his death in 1927 "compose a pictorial encyclopedia of the city in which he lived and that he sought to possess visually." He ive vacuum of authentic Indian authors and works. His repertoire includes short stories, fiction, poetry, screen plays, and the first ever big screen motion picture written, directed, and acted by Indians: Smoke Signals.
If still using the word Indian is an issue for the reader, Alexie addresses this on the very first page of One Stick Song. During a PEN American panel on Indian Literature, Alexie, along with other Indian writers spoke to a mostly non-Indian audience of two or three hundred people. "'Why do you insist on calling yourselves Indian?' asks a white woman in a nice hat. 'It's so demeaning.' 'Listen,' I say. 'The word belongs to us now. We are Indians, pronounced In-din. It belongs to us. We own it and we're not going togive it back.' So much has been taken from us that we hold onto the smallest things left with all the strength we have."
Alexie reveals much with his sweet sarcasm that is endearing in its honest truth. On the subject of often confusing family ties in Indian country: "They are my cousins, meaning we are related in the Indian way. My father drank beer with their father for most of two decades, and that is enough to make us relatives. Indians gather relatives like firewood, protection against the cold."
There are tough and gritty parts to this book, brutal reality, and rough language. There is the close bond of family and elders in juxtaposition with dysfunctional relationships between family members, the rez, and the "townies," the Tribe, and the U.S. Government. This dysfunction filters down to the younger residents of the reservation as is illustrated in "The Mice War." The necessity to laugh in the face of avoidable and spectacular fatalities, to keep going is a very real part of Indian life.
This book is an important link in the chain of U.S. literary history, one that has been weak if not absent for centuries. As in Indian country, the humorous outweighs insurmountable grief, and Alexie hits the mark with deadly accuracy. "If a book about Indians contains no dogs, then it was written by a non-Indian...."