Seema's Show

A Life on the Left

Sara Halprin,

Seema's Show: A Life on the Left
 
 

"This telling of an extraordinary old woman's love affair with the American twentieth century--her unheralded vital place in its art, her delight in its diversity, her lifelong Left activism, eyes-wide-open to both blessings and bummers--is a tonic for existential despair. We need this wonderful book."--Ronnie Gilbert, The Weavers

At seventeen Seema Aissen got her first job drying prints in a photo-finishing lab in Boston and joined the newly-founded Young Communist League; at thirty-three she was hired by Ansel Adams to run his darkroom in Yosemite; at thirty-seven she married the writer Jack Weatherwax and devoted herself to supporting his work; widowed at seventy-nine she began a new life; at ninety-five she had her first photographic exhibit. Sara Halprin began recording interviews with Seema in 1986 and took the title and narrative frame for this book from that first show.

Seema's Show follows Seema's life from her birth in 1905 to radical Jewish parents in Czarist Russia, emigration to England, then Boston and Los Angeles, where she joined the Film and Photo League, began her lifelong work for racial justice, and formed enduring friendships with artists and political activists including Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, and Woody Guthrie. In 1984 Seema moved to Santa Cruz, California, where she became a central figure in progressive culture and began, in 2000, to show her own work.

"Like my grandmother, Imogen Cunningham, Seema Weatherwax tells it like it is. This astonishingly candid biography vividly brings to life the great twentieth-century California art photographers--Adams, Weston, Cunningham--as well as left-wing activists like Woody Guthrie. If we had national treasures, Seema would be one."--Elizabeth Partridge, author of Restless Spirit: The Life and Work of Dorothea Lange



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