Visual Artist's corner

General discussions of interest to readers and fans of Harlan Ellison.

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FinderDoug
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Re: Visual Artist's corner

Postby FinderDoug » Tue Dec 23, 2014 8:46 pm

I'm currently researching a blog post/essay/article on a Houston-area photographer named Lawrence Lipke.

Backstory: i was in an antique store six months ago or so in the Houston Heights, and stumbled across a slide carousel full of slides. Timeframe circa 1979, images of Vancouver, the pacific northwest, and the Caribbean. I usually check such things for interesting period shots; you never know what kind of slice-of-life you'll find in a situation like that. These were... Superior. The photog had an eye and knew how to use it. These weren't Uncle Ernie's vacation slides. So I bought the carousel. A majority of the slide holders are labeled "Photo by L J Lipke". So I figured I'd do some digging into his life and times, as prelude to an essay.

So far, I can tell you he's deceased (in 2010); married in the eighties and potentially divoced (as Harris County was looking for heirs in 2010); worked in oil for 16 years, before starting his own photography business; took press photos of sporting events in 2008; died at 57; and if I've got the timeline thus far right, the trip that produced the carousel in question was between his junior and senior years at Harvard.

If this is of interest, it's because Lipke had such an eye, and as far as I can tell thus far, put it aside for the day-to-day of life as an oil company geologist, but still considered this as vocation-worthy at some point (hence the slide labeling) that part of me a) wants to know more about him and b) wants to understand what came between him and his gift.

As an aside, it makes a point about orphan works - for these may truly be orphan in The "dead, no heir" sense - because Lipke had a gift, and copyright hamstrings sharing his stuff.

But I'm still digging. And if I have a story to share, well, it'll show up at douglasjlane.com when/if I get there.

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FinderDoug
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Re: Visual Artist's corner

Postby FinderDoug » Wed Dec 24, 2014 6:24 am

Wow. And yuck. Please discard paragraphs 4 and 5 of the above, addled as they were by Southern Star Buried Hatchet stout (don't let me post using my phone at bar stop #3 in a holiday season that's been a series of G-gauge train wrecks), and replace with the following (rationale in brackets):

Lipke interests me at this point because his work is high quality (something he was self-aware of enough to ensure his slides were clearly labeled, even in his late teens), and I'm curious where his interest fit into his workaday world when he got older. He appears to have started his own photography business on the far side of his oil and gas career, a few years before he died; I'm intrigued, given the quality of the images in the carousel I found, if he continued to shoot for pleasure all those years, and if so, if any other work is still extant.* [Updated because I have no evidence anything came between him and anything; but the peek into his work and world have made me curious about him as a visual artist and the extent of his photographic legacy.]

And Lipke's slides illustrate the value of having a system for dealing with rights to reproduce orphaned work. It appears he passed without an heir; Harris County went actively searching for "unknown heirs" after his death; I found an address reference for Lipke's estate in Illinois, for which his father appears to have been executor. His father died two years later. There's no telling where - if anywhere - the rights to access Lipke's images have gone. They may have been deeded along via inheritance; they may be in limbo. But barring permissions obtained, they can't be legally reproduced or displayed until their copyright expires in 2078 - which may consign Lipke to an obscurity that, if his early ability is any indication, isn't deserved. [Updated because paragraph 5 is simply mud. As I was by the time I wrote it.]

* A lot of fine creative people who were sporadically or never known very far outside their immediate spheres go down the memory hole every day. Back home, growing up, we had a family friend named Joe Pavlak. Joe was a local sports reporter for years, had worked with various local sports leagues, worked with the high school coaches, knew everybody. His office, a room off the back of his house, was chocked to the brim with information. He had file cabinets full of records, statistics, newspaper clip files, photo files, old school and league score books - it was a den of local sports history. When I was working for the paper, if I needed background, I called Joe. Edsall Walker, Catskill's contribution to the Negro Leagues? Joe had deep background. Notable athletes for a History of Saint Patrick's High School's sports? Joe could point you to the two who had tryouts for the major leagues back in the sixties. And on and on. One of the first signed books I ever received from an author was Joe's bio of boxer (and personal friend) Fritzie Zivic (written under the name Timpav, which was Joe's byline in the service.) Anyway, if Joe didn't remember it, he could find it in that room. And when Joe died, his daughter and son-in-law had a dumpster set outside one of the office windows and pitched the contents of that room into it, because they didn't care about it. It might have made a nice donation to the county historical society; to them, it was trash. And my understanding is that among what was trashed were his personal writings, which went back to being a USMC reporter in the 40s. So what's extant and what might be worth preserving have become a sort-of weird Pavlovian thing for me. And Lipke's slides rang the bell.


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