Jul 28

Photographer’s Mate at Work

Thursday, July 28, 2016 12:01 AM

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Occasionally one will encounter a headline touting a “major archival discovery,” or something of that nature, though some may disagree with that assessment. But discoveries come from synthesizing information in a new way to reveal a certain truth, and in that vein we find today’s post.

The Photography Collection of Photographer’s Mate Alfred “Alf” Joseph Sedivi (1915-1945) at the U.S. Naval Institute Photo Archive, consists of approximately 1,650 prints donated by Nickie Lancaster, Sedivi’s niece. The collection includes images of the aftermath of the battles on Tinian, Saipan, Guam, Tarawa, and Iwo Jima as well as many showing shipboard life and activities aboard the USS Indianapolis (CA-35) before her sinking. Several caught this author’s eye as he was reviewing them, especially this one below showing Sedivi at work in the Indianapolis‘s photo lab.

Alfred J. Sedivi at work on his copy stand. Alfred J. Sedivi Colection, U.S. Naval Institute

Alfred J. Sedivi at work on his copy stand. Alfred J. Sedivi Colection, U.S. Naval Institute

The image shows Sedivi using his enlarger (with a handy package of Lucky Strike cigarettes as well) to duplicate several of his prints. The copies he sent back to his wife Hazel back in his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. It helped that Elmer C. Mickalson (1918-1998), a postal clerk on board the Indianapolis, was a good friend of Sedivi’s. Mickalson survived the war and became a Chief Boatswain’s mate; Sedivi perished when the ship was torpedoed on 30 July 1945. But thanks to their efforts, Alfred’s works not only still survive, but survive as a group.

Elmer Mickalson at work in the Indianapolis' post office. Alfred J. Sedivi Collection, U.S. Naval Institute

Elmer Mickalson (right) at work in the Indianapolis‘ post office. Alfred J. Sedivi Collection, U.S. Naval Institute

Referring back to the original photograph, we can see Sedivi making his copies — including one of Alfred posed in his flight gear with his camera for aerial photo work, shown below:

Alfred Joseph Sedivi (1915-1945). U.S. Naval Institute

Alfred Joseph Sedivi (1915-1945). Alfred J. Sedivi Collection, U.S. Naval Institute

It is interesting to reflect on the fact that one photograph in a collection documents the act of creation of another in the same collection — and in a very “meta” moment, that the photograph of the act of duplication was itself duplicated by the same process and is present. That the two can be matched together is even more notable. But that is the benefit of “through, accurate cataloging”: it does pay off in the long run, and researchers can make their own discoveries with that information.