VISUAL ARTS + MUSEUMS
Daniel Kramer: Re-Marking Twain's Equator (FotoFest 2012)
March 17 - April 29, 2012
On March 17, The Krishna Cafe Gallery opens its first exhibit with a remarkable photographic journey by award-winning documentary photojournalist Daniel Kramer. The show, Re-Marking Twain's Equator, features selections from Kramer's documentary quest to retrace Mark Twain's famous world lecture tour chronicled in Following the Equator. The exhibit opens with a reception for the photographer from 7:00PM - 10:00PM.
Kramer first discovered Twain's book in 1992, while working as a reporter and photographer at a small newspaper in Southern California. With a red, felt-tipped marker he traced the route on his globe and dreamed of the lands he traveled through. In 1995, on the 100th anniversary of Twain's tour, Kramer stepped out of his dreams and into the footsteps of the greatest American author to document that journey.
One hundred years earlier, Samuel Clemons, writing under the pseudonym Mark Twain, was one of the world's best loved authors. He remains so to this day - as Earnest Hemmingway wrote: "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn...There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since." He was also broke. A series of financial setbacks had left him deeply in debt. Rather than declare bankruptcy, he felt it his duty to repay the debts. To do so, he set out on a lecture tour around the globe, which resulted in Following the Equator.
In preparing for his first freelance project he read and reread Twain's book and "every letter written by every member of the group." The journey eventually took him to eleven countries in ten months. "Before I left, I compiled a ‘‘shooting script,’’ the visually translatable excerpts from Following the Equator. If Twain wrote about the view from a particular hill in Auckland, New Zealand, then I planned to go to that same hill. This was my encyclopedic, systematic approach. But somewhere along the way, I realized that now Twain was, in affect, my editor, telling me where to go and what to photograph. I changed my approach and began to use my script simply as a road map. I went to the same cities but once there, I did what I wanted to do. If the script promised some interesting potential I went. If it didn’t, I let my natural curiosity be my guide."
Highlights included photographing and being blessed by Mother Teresa, photographing Nelson Mandela in New Zealand, South Africa and England (with the Queen). He also shot an elephant-relocation project in South Africa's Kruger National Park and a Tamil Tiger terrorist bombing in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Kramer is now a well-respected professional photographer and instructor at the School of Continuing Education at Rice University and the Art Institute of Houston, but, at the time of his project, he was not in much better shape than Twain. "I had $5,000 in cash and nine credit cards to fund the entire trip." A grant from Kodak took care of film and processing in exchange for their logo on the inside page of the book, when and if a book ever developed. The book did develop, and developed beautifully.
Re-Marking Twain's Equator is a visually rich coffe-table book that is a perfect companion to Twain's inimitable prose and two journeys in dreams, on steamers, and with donated film, separated by 100 years came together. "For me this was a fascinating opportunity to combine my photographs and Twain’s words: How had the world changed and how had it stayed the same during the past 100 years?" This collection of striking and beautiful images both answers and continues to ask that question.
"Re-Marking Twain's Equator" will run through April 29. The show is affiliated with FotoFest 2012. Prints from the exhibit will be available for sale.
The Krishna Cafe Gallery is located in the Purse Building, a 1920's warehouse converted to artists' and exhibition space, and the artisan coffee company Lola Savannah. The Gallery is the project of the Krishna Cafe Group, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the photographic arts.