JAMES CRAIG PHOTOGRAPHY

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New B&W – Dragging Moai on Sled

Monday, December 5, 2016

As I get accustomed to the new software, I'm also doing an intensive review of what is now only about 21,000 images – I've managed to trim the exposures down to that. Next on my list of what to work up into B&W and printl The real reason for this shot was an attempt to get a shot of the lady on the far rope behind the flag, someone we know. I failed miserably at that. Then there was the regular-dressed fellow (a Papanui) in a blue shirt in the background – had to do a little work to get rid of him. The Tapati Rapanui parade, held near the end of the festival, is part of the competition. These ladies were pulling one of a series of wooden carved Moai on sleds. The parade starts on the other side of town near the airport. It was dark before this group pulled into the road above Vare Vare, the final destination. At that point a couple of the men from preceding sleds joined in behind to help. The lighting from a lamp somewhere served as my illumination. The print is (will be) about 12x20 – I wish I could show more detail here. We were both tired and all we had done is walk alongside the parade taking pictures. A couple of explanatory images below.

*** I’m always disappointed in how a B&W looks on line, especially images designed to be printed much, much larger, While the resolution isn’t up to the original, I upload the images to stand up to some enlargement. One can get more of the impact of the image by:

on an iPad simply spread your fingers over the image to fill the screen / On a Mac double tap on the track pad or top of the mouse – tada, greatly enlarged view / On a PC w/o touchscreen, rightclick on image, open in new tab, zoom to enlarge.

Oh, still looking for the right title for this one. I’m finding it interesting how much this trip, difficult in so many ways, has given me a nuw perspective on mining my exposures. This shot is from 2007. Here are a couple of background shots, showing the sleds lined up and ready to go and one, like the rest, pulled by men. Note the kids painted up and catching a ride. It was a long day for us following and watching – must have been rough on the pullers.

SOME NOTES ON EASTER ISLAND OF 2006 TO AROUND 2012 vs TODAY – CHANGES:

  • In 2006/2007 there were two flights a week to the island. Today there are at least nine, with a larger planes.
  • Available food: we ate a lot of bananas and avocados. I remember in 2007 when the first blocks of cream cheese appeared, we thought we won the lottery. No real grocery stores, just markets that sometimes managed to import something special. Pollo-asado, roast chicken, was our favorite find when it was available. Today most of the same markets get regularly stocked from the mainland. And there is at least one small but modern market that is stocked similar to the mainland, if much abbreviated. Good coffee is finally available. One has to buy a lot of water, tap water isn’t really safe.
  • Coffee, even in the few fancy restaurants, was instant Nescafe (“no es cafe”). One of our favorite stories is to relate finding “sausage Pizza” on a menu and ordering it – only to find vienna sausages scattered on top. It wasn’t long before some new places opened with slightly improved menus. Today there are a number of nice restaurants even serving good pasta dishes. Times have changed.
  • Prices had at least tripled since 2006, on just about everything including food. It always was a little more expensive than at home to to shipping costs,, but now way more expensive.
  • In 2006 there were many more Rapanui on the island than there were Chilenos, today the opposite. We got used to going into town and seeing nothing but Papanui, now they seem to stay away from town a lot more. Understandably there is a lot of conflict and protest. It’s not always pretty, but no real threat to tourists.
  • From 2006 through 2012 we could go almost anywhere on the island, and free. Today, primarily because of so many tourists and the threat they are to monuments, there are a lot of restrictions – many of my shots could not be gotten now, lots of signs, fence barriers, and a fee of from 60 to 80 dollars (lasting only a short period of time) to pay for all the necessary manpower to watch over everything. Not the same island. Sure I cna get a special permit, but that doesn’t fix the touristy appearance of everything and lack of access to other areas. The one, great open trek is still the 6 to 8 hour hike around Teravaka. True, it is now interrupted by a couple of ranches established out in the boonies by Papanui, but it’s the closest thing to what we saw when we first came.
  • The weather is also different. Yes we had whole weeks of heavy rain before. But good days were good. Today, most likeky partly due to melting Antarctic ice, the wind from the south goes over cold water in the ocean currents, making for many warm days with icy wind. Parts of the year that were dry and sunny are now windy, cloudy, threatening rain a lot. This trip saw 9 weeks with maybe 9 good days. Not at all normal for this time of year. We used to laugh when there was a bad stretch and tourists spent three to five days like that and then had to leave. Now it seems more the norm.
  • We acquired a large number of great carvings between 2006 and 2012. Some were major investments. We noticed a few mass-produced items appearing in 2014, now half of what is offered is made in China or elsewhere. Even carvings. Real Rapanui carvings now seem to be in two categories: mostly half-baked efforts for only half reasonable prices and a few really great carvings for – wow, don’t want to go there. Pieces we paid $500 for would now easily be $2500. The problem is that the old generation of fine carvers is dying off, and people are hoarding their work. We are grateful to have what we do, and have now been priced out of the market.
  • The island has gone fro no crime to speak of to having multiple home break-ins. And it’s not the Rapanui.
  • Cars - suddenly far too many are on the island now.
  • Trash has become a big problem, how to get rid of it. Recycling efforts are under way, but it is an island after all.
  • Internet hasn’t improved all that much since late 2007. Twice the speed of very slow is still slooooow.
  • A lot more roads are paved – sort of. Potholes are a major issue instead of mudholes that just might swallow your car.
  • Music. Rapanui music was everywhere, written and perfored by locals. Today it is downright rare to hear it. Chilean and Stateside music rules.
  • And far too many of the people we got to know, friends, have died or left the island.

Nothing stays the same but in spite of everything Easter Island retains much of its magic. We simply happened be in the right place at the right time – my portrait of Easter Island is one of a fast disappearing point in its history. When Fred Picker did his book of B&Ws in the 1970s it was a barren land with few people and not much potential for the medium. Today it is simply too modern to work with. I got lucky. We got to know Rapa Nui when the older generation that grew up in the time of Picker and Heyerdahl were still alive and kicking, when Rapanui predominated on the Island, when the outside world was limited in its influence, when tree growth – nonexistent at the time of Picker – hadn’t yet gotten out of hand, when everything and everybody seemed to be at that point in time where there was a story that could be told with a camera. I hope the portfolio I end up with tells that story. I did not imagine when I began how fast that world would vanish forever.

So, as I go through my exposures again, I have that in mind – finish telling the story, making of the portfolio or exhibit a portrait. Then figure out just what I’m going to do with it. The image at the top is in one sense simply a continuation, in another the first of a very new effort grown out of a new consciousness of what I have.