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Houston : Will Michels by Robert Stevens

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Tell me more about how you got interested in doing the exhibition War/Photography at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. I know you received a print of the Iwo Jima flag raising photographed during World War II in the Pacific Ocean area. What size was it? I am trying to understand why that sparked the exhibition? Do you have a background of interest in this genre?
I have a fine art background and have been a fine art photographer for 25 years, but my degree is in Architecture (Pratt Institute.) I graduated during one of the worst Architectural recessions in the history of this country, 1991. The job I found was working as part of the restoration effort on the Battleship TEXAS, a World War I era Dreadnaught. The TEXAS was at Iwo Jima during World War II, and shelled for five days, as part of the invasion force. Many TEXAS veterans saw the flag go up in person from the decks of the ship. I’ve seen the pride in their faces, as they tell their story of watching it go up – hence my personal connection to this iconic image made by Joe Rosenthal. It is one of the most published photographs of all time, usually seen as a vertical, with punchy contrast – full of bravado. Our print, is very small, 3 5/8” x 4 ½”, a contact print made by the man who processed the film on Guam. More importantly it’s the earliest known print, trimmed slightly, stamped by Naval Censors on the back, positively dating it to war-time, and mailed home to his family. It is a horizontal, including most of the negative, brown in tone with normal contrast. It is different than any other print I’ve seen of it.

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