Photography; National Geographic
NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
22 Aug 1996
- McLean; Marden House
- 38.93403 -77.12036
Stereo=1; Decoded MS stereo
NPR/NGS GEOGRAPHIC CENTURY
LUIS MARDEN LOG
ALEX CHADWICK INTERVIEW AT HOME WITH MARDEN
RECORDED BY LINDA MACK
August 22, 1996
LM -I used to carry 35 mm equipment -still pictures
:36 LM -... still photography . .! travel sometimes with 40 pieces of luggage.
AC -really .....
1 :02 LM -well, it is like the 35 mm camera I pointed out to you -the camera was this big but the accessories could fill half this room
AC -it must have been worse with those 5 by 7's -I imagine.
1: 15 LM -see they had to use glass plates bc of the requirements of the process -Finely (?) process. Had to be rigid, couldn't be any wavy film in the film plane. So they had to be glass. So to make 12 pictures you had 12 glass plates but the Finely plate process required that you had so called taking screen in contact with the negative. So that you carried 24 pieces ofglass5 by 7. 12 of which were plate glass. That plus the camera and the case -that is why all early photographers have long arms like gorillas. Particularly on one side to carry all that heavy stuff. 2:02
3: 11 LM -started off in radio ..... .
AC -how was it that you decided to do a program about photography on the air?
LM -well I got -I was very interested in photography in HS. We had a little camera club in HS .. .it was pretty popular for a while.
AC -and some how a Leica salesman was passing through the area
LM -yes, a man named Kip Ross ..... showed me color film ......talking about a book he wrote -the first one -on color photography -I was 21
AC -how did you learn about color chrome?
LM -just reading, voracious reading .. .I read a lot.
AC -I heard that you have the latest computer stuff available LM -well, what I can afford .... AC -how often do you get a new computer?
7:03 LM -oh, this has been an interval of about 3 years ....7:26 but I am interested in the image generated process
7:36 AC -how do you think that technology is coming along?
LM -marvelously well. Everything seems to be going down hill in the world except technology -that is going strait up. My chief regret in leaving the scene is that I won't see the computers and the cameras of20 years from now. 7:53
LM -talking about electronic publishing has no future ¬
9:11 AC -what is then that draws you to the electronic manipulation of image.
LM -well, I don't want to give the wrong impression.
AC -I am very very not knowledgeable in computers. . .. I use it as a tool mainly for manipulation of words ..... but it is mainly as a tool as a glorified type writer and then just going beyond that
10:46 AC -so how did you get your first Leica?
LM -... 1 bought a second-hand Leica in Boston -I am talking about 1934 ....talks about the Great Depression ......wasn't much money around but I remember paying $60 in increments for my first Leica ... talk about his flight down to WDC for NGS interview....talking about first seeing the NG bldg. 12:41 talk about going to camera shop and then talking about photography ..... talk about applying for a job at NG bc he was interested in color photography.
15 :00 AC -talking about LM's 1st photo in the NGM -a photo of Boston....
16:00 LM -talking about a photo in the NGM -first ones for the magazine
16:31 AC -when you started traveling wound up in Central and South America .... .interested in learning how you felt about being in these tropical places .....
17:06 LM -I hated every min of it -the tropical part of it -for my sins now it turns out that I am sun sensitive and I have spent my professional life under equator practically _ diving half naked, subjected to sun. now I have to stay out of the sun as much as I can.
AC -do you think: that is a result of -
LM -I don't know but it is ironic bc I was always under a nearly vertical sun. but it is true I never liked the tropics very much, but I did like Latin America. 17:40 ... Yucatan was my first foreign trip.
AC -did you speak Spanish before you went?
LM -HS Spanish. That is one of the things I told Geographic. And when I was there some Spanish speaking people came in ....they planned it
18:47 AC -... how is it that you did know how to take a Finely plate?
LM -talks about how he learned .... 19: 1 0 talk about color photography and process of
21:37 AC -when you went down there weren't you shooting a Mayan ruin?
LM -yes ........talk about Chichenitza ..... .
AC -ask about what it was like to be down in Mexico at that time for NGM
25:21 LM -this was a very primitive area. It was all bush -low bush -not jungle. No roads. The principle Mayan ruin was Chichenitza. So we had to travel by mule-back or on foot and where you could go by Model-T ford on stream beds bc they have a high clearance ..... this was back in the age of innocence when people hadn't seem much except for a privilege few ... 26:39 but the mere fact that you could show other people the way they live and the way they dress was of course of great interest and still is ¬what is left of it. 26:49 ... traveling with the 5 by 7 camera ... .28:34 It was Alexander Graham Bell, his [Gilbert H Grovesnor] father-in-law who encouraged him and encouraged him to use photographs bc he asked his father-in-Laws advice. But the early NGS was like the Royal Geo Society and the American Geo Society, technical scientific organization. The incidents of rain fall in the Gobi for that you had graphs. There was a feeling that photographs were not very scientific, did not measure things precisely. And you will have read a few ..... about an early report Gil H read about group in the Philippines ..... that was really the beginning of it. and the concept evolved into the popularization of geography -and the world geography is used in NGS and in the Magazine ..... to report on the world and all that is in it .....
30:02 AC -it is that popularization that I am interested in and that I admire in the Geographic
30:51 LM -Well that was the geographic of my time. And basically what motivates it is still the same thing. And of course it's the reason for it's success ... .I think: that's still the motivating principal.
AC -when did you learn to dive?
31 :22 LM -Well I was interested in the fish and what was in the sea. And being in the tropics I spent a lot of my time where there were coral reefs and so on, but I had never seen one until the eve of WWII, before this country got into the war, we got into a deal with the British for the right to build bases in the British West Indies. Traded 50 WWI destroyers before we got into that bc we were worried that the Japanese would want to attack the Panama Canal particularly after Pearl Harbor .... But I went around with the
US army engineers who were building these bases before they were actually manned, and I think it was a young marine officer who had a diver's mask and he lent it to me .... And of course if you have a look at a coral reef ... everyone who sees it becomes enchanted by it. That's how I got interested. I've always been interested in the undersea world, but I only had that mask, not even any fins on the feet. Then photography came much later and I began experimenting on my own, putting cameras in containers and that sort of thing. So when I started doing it, I was on the scene very early, I had to make homemade stuff.
AC -When did you first go down with an aqua lung?
33:15 LM -Well the first time I went down with any kind of breathing apparatus was with WWII surplus oxygen breathers that the frogmen used ....but the first time I actually used an aqualung was in Florida ... and while I was in Paris I heard of a man called Cousteau, I was interested in fishing and I was in a fishing shop and they had these cylinders in there and I asked what they were and they said "oh those are for diving, there's a captain in the French navy who designed them", but I had never met him. And not until a few years later when he came over here looking for support from the Geographic, that I actually met him and we started working together.
AC -were you the first geographic person to go out with him?
34:25 LM -yes. Actually went out on the Silent World cruise ....and it lasted nearly 6 months, we went to the Red Sea and Indian ocean and I was the underwater still photographer as well as the geographic person to write the article. Incidentally that brings up the question of writing and photography. In the early days, people who went overseas tended to do both ....and when I went with Cousteau it was in that capacity, to do both, to write the article and take the photos. What we published was the first series of photographs in color underwater ....
AC -light must be different underwater ....
36: 17 LM -tricky for color bc as you dive deeper and deeper, you're interposing a filter, a blue green filter between you and the subject and the sun, thicker and thicker. And eventually, when you get down 40-60 feet, everything but blue/green disappears, absorbed by the filter of the layer of water. So you have to bring your own illumination ... so for color, which was a geographic interest, it was a very tricky thing to do, and not until you could take your own source of light, could you really overcome it. Before then you could use filters to remove some of that green, but it only worked down to 10-15 feet....
AC -you were pioneering the lights ...
37:53 LM -...you see, it was much easier to take a professional photographer and teach him to dive than to take a diver and teach him photography ....before that there were divers trying photography underwater rather than a photographer going down and practicing his art in a different medium. That was the main reason why we .. .immediately came back with what we wanted ....
39:34 AC -you were developing the equipment, you were developing the lighting?
39:47 LM -by that time we knew to use flash bulbs, not strobe lights, but flash bulbs. The trouble with them is that they were fragile. All light bulbs have a near vacuum within them and even here they're withstanding 14.7 pounds/square inch, the atmospheric pressure, and then if you go down every 10 feet you're doubling the pressure ...and usually when you fire the bulb, you hear a crackling sound and you see the crazed glass all around it, and on touching it, the thing would implode, not explode ... J still have a cycle shape scar here from where a light bulb imploded. So yes, we could take these pictures, bc by that time we could use flash bulbs, but underwater photography was still in very early stages. In fact, Cousteau, in his second book ....tells about how we were waterproofing on the Calypso, drilling holes in the base of bulbs and squirting melted wax into it. So the ship's dr. was doing one of his hypodermics ...so we knew how to take lights down, but to keep them working was very tricky, even to keep cameras from flooding was very tricky ....we were making equipment on the boat, we had a machine shop and we were making things plastic and metal. ...
41 :53 AC -had you already learned to speak French?
42:00 LM -Very interesting, bc they were all from the south of France which is like saying deep Mississippi instead of academic new England, differences in accent. Plus the fact that they used sailor's lingo. When I got back to Paris my friends said they were going to lock me in a hotel room and bring me food and water until I purified my language....Cousteau's wife was a charming woman, his first original wife was ...a very elegant French woman, but when she was on board she had a watch cap, a pullover, she'd work the wench and her language would blister the paint off the side of the ship ....we were anchored off Jetta one day, and for some reason I remained on board, Simone and I were the only ones on board and we heard scratching, so I went out and looked over the side of the deck ...there was a man in a boat saying it was broken and could he come aboard ... .it turned out he was a Pilipino fisheries expert from the UN who'd been sent to Saudi Arabia to help them increase their fishing catch and he wanted to know if he could get some cigarettes, and I think he wanted a drink too ...anyway, he and Simone and I were sitting down talking, he in broken English, and he mentioned he was a graduate of Tokyo Imperial Univ., well, from then no more French, English, Simone grew up speaking Japanese ... she was quite a lady.
44: 19 AC -The best know thing that you did after that was the discovery of the bounty ... and that was an amazing voyage that you set off on....
45:41 LM -that's why I ended up on the ship bc I had been on the first trip ... when I heard they were building it up there, I went up to Nova Scotia and talked to the man who was supervising the building it. I signed on as the third mate, they couldn't carry passengers, it wasn't permitted under the maritime law, so I was third mate ....we caught fire in the mid pacific and so I thought I wasn't going to get the story of the bounty but I was going to get the story of the captain and the launch bc the only boat we had was the launch and we were clearing it when we finally put the fire out ....
AC -that was a moment of danger.
LM -well yes, we were all going to be taken to that single boat. ...
47:53 AC -what do you think about Capt. Bligh and the mutiny?
47:58 LM -oh, they lie with Bligh ....Hollywood classically, has been all black or all white, the villains have to be all villain and so on. He was not that at all ....his logs show that he's very solicitous of his men ....(a description and anecdotes of Bligh follow) ...
AC -you found the ship.
LM -the remains of the ship.
AC -weren't you about to give up?
50:06 LM -oh yes. I spent about 2 months on the island and when I went there, everybody knew that the ship had been run ashore in this little bay which was just a cove .... and in 1936 the rudder of the bounty had been found, which I had seen in Fiji in a museum....and they could show me where they found that out there and I thought, well it'll be simple bc they ran it on shore before they set it on fire and where the rudder was is where the keel was, so all I had to do was swim up and down on the bottom and I did that for almost 2 months and I found nothing ... 1 had just about given up hope until one of the islanders who just came back from New Zealand and was curious about diving and would I show him ... .1 said "well if you take me out on the Sabbath ... on a canoe, I'll show you". So we went out on another part of the bay ...and I dived over the side ... and said "I'll signal to you", only 36 feet of water and tremendously clear, but tremendous swells. I went down to the bottom, landed on the bottom and saw a crescent, it was an oarlock, it had a broad arrow on it from the Royal Navy ....all I had was a chisel and a hammer and so I kept chipping on it and that's how I found it. What had happened is that the swells must have pivoted the ship around so that when she sank she was in a different area.
AC -I wonder if the intellectual experience of doing that, the kind of detective work, if that is what, if that helped you later when it became your goal to try to find the new world land fall of Columbus.
54:23 LM -I shouldn't say that that particular instance did except that what I did in reconstructing it afterwards ... was what any sailor would do ....use the same reasoning in both cases, not one as the result of the other, rather it was the application of what is known as common seamanship to two different problems ....
56:38 AC -is it realistic to suppose that the currents haven't shifted in 500 years?
LM -geologically speaking, 500 years is the blink of the eye ....now the big thing that may have changed is magnetic variation. We don't know that but ... .I don't think the currents and the winds have changed much.
AC -Anyone of your discoveries would be a crowning achievement for one person's career. .. but you go on ....
58:59 LM -Well I've been a pilot for many years ... .I'm curious about most things. The only qualification for journalists is curiosity .. .I'm interested in most things and I've been interested in aviation for a long time ....The ultralites are getting right back to the early days off light before WWI ....people always ask me, all the places you've been to what attracts you most and what interested you most. .. .in the ultralite story I flew before dawn one morning, right over the place where the Wright brothers made their first flight and I got goose bumps ... .I looked dawn, before dawn nobody there, and it gave me goose bumps, I'll always carry that with me ....
1:01:41 AC -Have you finished your book on bamboo yet?
LM -... yes, the angle is bamboo, it's a big jump from what we've been talking about ....
(talks about his book)
1 :04:07 AC -... Do you ever fish on this river here?
1 :04:12 LM -this river? That's why we're sitting here, bc of that. During WWII you couldn't get enough gas to go fishing ....so we used to put our rods in the car and park along the road and cast for shad in the spring ... since then I've never fished again here ....
. . . . Alex and Luis talk about living here in the area ....
1 :06:12 AC -... how did you get Frank Lloyd Wright to build this house for you?
LM -Well I was always interested in his architecture ....(Luis tells the story about how he got Wright to design the house) ...
1:10:30 AC -.. .I want to ask you about Polynesia bc we're going to do some programs for this series about Polynesia. I'd like to get your impression on when you first started going to the Pacific, what you saw there in Fiji and Tonga and you've talked about the homogenization of the world, Coca Cola, and airplanes and broadcasting (which even though I'm a broadcaster I think it's the worst offender). But what was it like in Fiji and Tonga and places when you were first going there.
1:11:47 LM -Well, to come back to Tahiti it's a symbol of Polynesia. I had the good fortune, the first two times I went to Tahiti, I went there, the Spanish say "Como Dios manda", "As God ordains it", under square sail. Once in Irving Johnson's Yankee, Brigateen, used to sail around the world, and the second time in the rebuilt Bounty. But whether or not it was on square ship, you had to go by ship to get to Tahiti. And it was a very long trip from Europe, from this continent, and you had, on the trip, you had to have a lot of leisure. So mainly you found people who were colonial administrators or retired people of means who had time to go there. In other words, it wasn't very much touched by tourism, moreover in Tahiti in particular, the French didn't want tourists bc Tahiti was a symbol, a lamp, attracted all the moths, all the vagabond moths of the world who go there and live there off of coconuts and bananas. And you had to have a return ticket or money deposited for a return ticket in a bank, they didn't want beach combers going there. And they had no airport, so when I went there the first two times it was more or less, not the way Bly(?) had seen it, but certainly the way earlier French writers had seen it. And basically it hadn't changed v. much, it was still Polynesian. Fiji was a British colony when I went there, it had been since 1874.
1.13.40 That reminds me I went there in 1953 first when the newly crowned queen was making a visit there to the commonwealth nations or colonies. So I saw the end of the British colony and it's classic aspect of them, but they too respected the local culture and customs. Colonies, to me, is not entirely a bad word, it's got a bad connotation, it's a simplification, all good or all bad. Most of them let people alone. The French wanted to make Frenchmen out of people and the best exposition of this is in Lawrence's "7 Pillars of Wisdom" so the French and their colonies wanted to make Frenchmen out of everybody. The British knew that if you weren't favored by God by being born British that was too bad. You got good railways, good administration, good police system, good roads and so on, but you were simply not British. In both cases with the two different attitudes they didn't really make too much impact, or attempt to make too much impact on local culture, they respected it. And what really changed things was the great floodgates of tourism that opened up with airports and airplanes, particularly jet airplanes would shorten air travel between places. So I did see Tahiti in fairly almost pristine aspect in the early days, and Fiji with all its native culture, in great flaw. And today, of course, it's the travel. I remember Pitcairn Island, when MGM was going to produce a film called "The Island" a great mind decided that they would raffle off an island off for publicity. So they called me and wanted to know what I thought about raffling off Pitcairn Island. They said I know, we're not bothered by that, we'll fly there. But I said, there's no airport. That put them off. One thing that convinced them was that there was no airport, they couldn't get to it, so they weren't going to raffle off a British colony. But the fact that they're accessible and all that made it, I'm not saying it's a good thing or a bad thing, I'll admit a passing of differences, but that's what inevitably changed everything, and it still goes on today.
1 :16:28 AC Does it ever strike you that you contributed to the desire ...
1.16.35 LM -oh, of course, by writing, every word every keystroke, every picture I made I'd always say to myself that I was helping that. But it didn't bother me very much before the jet travel, bc people might yearn to go but they couldn't afford long sea voyages and long absences from daily living. But now, Antarctica, I've not been there, the flows are coated with Kodachrome boxes, and where Shackleton left the people and did that endurance voyage in the kid, they reproduced that and went out in inflatables. And people have said that on occasion, you don't want people to go where you go, but that's not true at all, I don't want 10,000 people to go at a time, bc it just changes it and everywhere else. I remember when, ...Linblad(?) ran a ship from Mombasa to? and he said visit uninhabited, untouched islands. Well, the first shipload visited uninhabited, untouched islands, but with weekly sailings, nobody else could do that. So it's inevitable, it's like the Dutch boy with his finger in the hole in the dike, there's no water coming through that hole, but the water is coming over the top of the dike. You've got the pressure of world population, that is the big problem of the world today, excess world population. 60z glass cannot hold more or dispense more than 6 oz, the earth is finite and population is growing infinitely and unless something happens to turn that simple equation, I'm pessimistic, we're not going to see much. Carpe Diem, luckily I was born with that instinct, I'm here today, what's here, let's see what they do here, what must I not miss. But that should become the great theme today bc it's not going to get any better, except technology, that's getting better.
1.19.15 AC -people would like to have your adventures. There were places where you went in S. America where few people had been before ....
1 :20:03 LM -Very few people there before. A few harbingers of civilization had been there, there was one trader that went down there to sell them alarm clocks. Why do they need alarm clocks, they bought them bc they tingled, the bell rang. But he didn't sell them the keys to wind them up until a later trade. So they hadn't been untouched but pretty much so.
AC -Advice to future explorers. You caught the last of those experiences.
LM -I wouldn't presume to give anybody advice bc we can't affect the circumstances, except, speed up. If you want to do something, do it bc it will be less and less alien, less and less new to you the longer you wait. In fact, what I'd love to see the NGS and RGS get together and decide what cultures are still around and which are the ones in greatest danger of disappearing and let's map them all out and cover them journalistically and scientifically before they all go. Now some individuals are doing that. There's one woman who paints, I use the word primitive advisedly, societies, she goes around and paints them. She spends years in N. Guinea,2 or 3 years at a time, China, all the ethnic groups, she's recording. I'd like to see that Kodachrome. Organizations getting together saying let's record this before it's gone. Geographic has recorded a lot of things but some of that was lost during time. So we should continue to do that. Stress those bc those are
the ones that go the fastest.
1:23 :21 Ambi -where they had the interview.
1 :26:20 Ambi -Potomac river, running full/high beneath the house. Birds and other outdoor sounds in background every once in a while. Plane passes overhead.