Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A tribute in dubious taste

In the aftermath of the Great Blackwing Fiasco of 2010, I’ve had little to say about the Palomino Blackwing pencil. This pencil doesn’t interest me. But I had to say something when the Palomino Blackwing’s manufacturer attempted to associate the pencil with the music of Duke Ellington and John Lennon. And now once again I have to say something:

California Republic recently began a line of limited-edition Blackwing “tribute” pencils. The latest one, “A Tribute to Dorothea Lange,” marks the eightieth anniversary of Lange’s photograph Migrant Mother. This pencil is a tribute in dubious taste — or a tribute to dubious taste. From the company website:

Blackwing 344 celebrates the 80th anniversary of this historic photo and the artistic legacy Dorothea Lange left behind. The deep red barrel, red foil imprint, bright red ferrule and black eraser reflect what a Blackwing 602 pencil would look like in a darkroom. The model number references Library of Congress LOT 344, which contains a number of her photographs, including the iconic “Migrant Mother.”
The arbitrariness (eightieth, 344) of this tribute aside, I have to wonder what it means to ”celebrate” a photograph that documents human suffering by turning that photograph into an opportunity to market high-end stationery supplies. And I wonder what Dorothea Lange would make of it.

See also Montblanc’s Gandhi pen.

Related reading
All Blackwing posts (Pinboard)

[I follow The Chicago Manual of Style in italicizing the title of the photograph.]

comments: 2

Sean said...

If the CalCedar 'Blackwing' is itself already a "tribute" to the Blackwing (I'm counting from the beginning I suppose, before the revisions became post-dated decisions), are these then tribute-tribute pencils? From a company that once advertised that the Blackwing “…helped create more timeless works of art than any single paint brush, fountain pen, or laser printer in modern history”, it's quite remarkable (but somehow unsurprising) that they would celebrate photography with a pencil.

If this pencil has been made to appear (in daylight) what it would look like in a darkroom, then what color is it actually supposed to be? What happens if you actually bring it into a darkroom? And by the way, are traditional photographers often known for what lead pencils they use(d) in the darkroom? If not, I guess that just about anyone or anything is eligible for a tribute. How about a 'Blackwing' pencil tribute to the space pen?

Imagine the irony if there ends up being a Frank Lloyd Wright tribute-tribute 'Blackwing.' (And how about that current Wikipedia entry? Wow.)

Michael Leddy said...

Your disdain reminded me of something I’d forgotten: Montblanc’s Gandhi pen, made in an edition of 241, to commemorate the number of miles Gandhi walked in a protest march.

For anyone who’s wondering: the Wikipedia Blackwing article is pretty obviously the work of the replica Blackwing’s manufacturer.