VideoPoetry: Historical Photography in the Desert Garden

By Peter Lutze, James Armstrong and Laura Woodworth-Ney.

Published by The Humanities Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper presents an integration of poetry, history and photography through the video medium to convey a cultural history of the irrigated desert in southern Idaho, USA, around 1900. The VideoPoetry project is an
investigation of cultural history that employs video and poetry to make it come alive. This social history is revealed through the lives of Clarence E. Bisbee and Jessie Robinson Bisbee of Twin Falls, Idaho. Their marriage focused
on their photography business that involved documenting the transformation of the desert into farms, towns, and cities. This project brings out for public view a selection of historical photographs from a vast archive of images, most
of which were produced by Clarence E. Bisbee over a thirty-year period. His remarkable technical competence and extraordinary breadth of subject matter reveal the texture of daily life as the settlers struggled with an inhospitable
environment. In the video, a narrator provides historical contextualization, linking the photos together to create a cultural narrative. Following the narrative introduction, spoken poetry provides an imaginative, but historically
based, personal perspective within this new society.
VideoPoetry integrates these elements to make these photographs accessible and engaging to viewers a hundred years later, especially to young viewers who may have very few images of the early history of their state. Such
dissemination of scholarship is especially important now.
Budget cuts, emphasis on external funding rates, and charges of irrelevance have degraded the role of the arts and humanities on many campuses. Public scholarship and scholarship of engagement with communities—known as public
history in the field of history—are essential to the preservation of humanities in higher education. VideoPoetry offers a dissemination method that engages audiences in non-traditional ways and highlights the complex, important
social functions of humanities research.

Keywords: Video, Poetry, History, Irrigation in the Western USA, Idaho, Public History, VideoPoetry, Bisbee, Photography, Twin Falls, Idaho

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 8, Issue 5, pp.43-64. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 4.925MB).

Dr. Peter Lutze

Professor, Department of Communication, Boise State University, Boise, Idaho, USA

Peter Lutze grew up in Oklahoma where his father served as pastor to black parishes. After graduating from Valparaiso University, he obtained an M.F.A. in Filmmaking at Brandeis University and a J.D. at the University of Wisconsin, where he also completed his doctoral dissertation on the German film director and social theorist, Alexander Kluge. Since 1990 he has taught at Boise State University, where he has also served as Director of University Television Productions. He was a founder and served for several years as Chair of Treasure Valley Public Access Television. He has produced numerous films and videos.

Dr. James Armstrong

Professor, Department of Literacy, Boise State University, Boise, Idaho, USA

Dr. James Armstrong has been a professor at Boise State University since 1992 where he has taught courses in reading education as well as reading and study strategies. As an undergraduate at Stanford University, he majored in English and completed the Honors Program in Humanities. He went on there to receive his master’s degree in education with a California teaching credential in English. He received his doctorate in reading education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has written two textbooks, Reading Tools for College Study and Patterns and Connections, and two books of poetry, Landscapes of Epiphany and Moon Haiku. He enjoys reading, writing, bicycling, running, golf, and photo-graphy.

Dr. Laura Woodworth-Ney

Professor, Department of History, Idaho State University, Pocatello, Idaho, USA

Laura Woodworth-Ney is an associate professor and Chair of the Department of History at Idaho State University. Dr. Woodworth-Ney is also co-founding editor of Idaho Landscapes, the state history magazine of Idaho, and the author of Women in the American West (ABC-CLIO, 2008) and Mapping Identity: The Creation of the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation, 1805-1902 (University Press of Colorado, 2004).

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