Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fail 1.0

The first night of the Studio F exhibit was a bit of a failure.  I exhibited 7 photographs; each was of a bicycle and all but one featured children.  For starters, the turnout for this particular event was a little low.  But that's not the main thing. 

The main thing is that I hope never to get used to the feeling I get when people completely pan my photographs.  People would walk in, glance for a split second at the wall, and move right along.  Like almost nothing at all registered.  This amazed, baffled, and most importantly, pained me.  Of course I do this to other artists and their work.  Particularly painting.  So I understand what's happening.  But it also means failure. 

So I will change it up for next time.  I think I will try "salon style".  Rather try to have a coherent series, I'm going to display the photographs I want, and arrange them in a splash. 

Meanwhile I have so much other work to do.  I must

1) Prepare for Chicago!  This means really select what I will present for my reviews.
2) Organize my two on-going projects (the fountain and "boom town")
3) My other project... my neighborhood.
4) Catalogue and backup digital files.

So much work.  Meanwhile, I have to "work" (to make a living).

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Two Photographs by Julien Legrand

My "analysis" of each of the following photographs follows a method outlined by Minor White and Walter Chappel.  The method is a multi-step process in which the viewer records first impressions, explores the "geography" of the photograph, makes associations, and then attempts to tell the "story" of "the journey" provoked by the image, its "geography" and associations.  I'm not sure I'm doing this right... it's always a tricky endeavor to apply words to visual art.  In an online interview, Legrand said he wants his photographs "to make people ask themselves questions, to let their imaginations run free".  I hope at least I have obliged him on those accounts.

 First image: "Unusual Banality" (image #15 of 27)

The Story

It begins as a joke.  A small boy has (apparently) had an accident and even if we did not witness it, “the evidence” leads directly to him.  The “evidence” is a curved line, a kind of wry smile at the boy’s expense.  At the mother’s expense too.  She hurries away, down the street and out of the frame.  But they are both trapped, and caught.  The photographer’s eye freezes them; his shadow testifies to their “guilt” because it is his presence that connects the evidence to the boy.

The photograph appears in a collection titled “Unusual Banality”.  Nothing more banal than a little boy pissing himself (or is it only spilled soda pop?) and the routine “work” of motherhood.  She has shopping to do, her own baggage to carry.  She carries his backpack too, and holds his hand.  She hurries him along.  The entire photograph flows away.  The lines and shadows move in the direction of the two figures that are also feeling.  But a subtle, snickering chaos of lines dances at their backs, points to them, traps them in a vortex of crisscross.  The only thing not in motion is the photographer’s shadow.  He smiles, letting us in on the joke.

Second Story

There is a potential fire, an emergency that must be contained primarily by pipes, but also by the heaviness of stone, and by the brightness of light and shadow.  Nothing can move, because if something starts moving, the entire edifice will empty itself in a chaos of passion.   

Here is power-- controlled, civilized, reigned in.  Official tubes provide the access to the control necessary to keep this immense facade from coming down.  The tubes are motionless for now, but they await the signal.  There is one for going up, and another for coming down.  Neither is in use.  Both are ready.  They lead into the wall, behind it, and deep into the interior.

And also there is a young girl.  She wears sheer stockings and brand-name sneakers.  The sneakers are fast.  She is ready too.  She is anonymous.  We see only her legs.  Where do they lead?!
The sunlight assails both fortresses and cannot penetrate, as we cannot, these interiors.  One is of stone, the other is flesh and blood.  The stone cannot move; it is in a perpetual state of emergency.  The girl will bolt in an instant, not to flee the fire, but to seek it.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Child

"Little boy lost, he takes himself so seriously.
He brags of his misery, he likes to live dangerously."

"La vie est faite à coups des petits solitudes."  --Roland Barthes

A photograph captures an instant of Life, and in the case of a photograph of a child, it also points towards the child's future.  Here he is as a child; his whole Life stretches out before him.
I am thinking of the difference between a photograph of a child, and a photograph of an old person.  Something essential to Photography (as a form) is lurking here.  I am obsessed with both Time, and Childhood.  What does Childhood have in common with Photography?

For the moment I am left to my own obsessions.  I am a childish man.  I ride bicycles, including a BMX bike which is the choice bike of the adolescent.  I wear "play clothes" (jeans, t-shirts, sneakers) to work (and I work with children), and until very recently I did not even own a sport coat or suit, or pair of dress shoes.  I was obliged to go shopping for appropriate clothes to wear to the funeral of my cousin Robert Patrick Salvadori, who died last month two weeks before what would have been his 52nd birthday.

I remember Robert best from when I was a child and he was a teenager.  He came from Italy to my little suburban world and to my mind he was the living embodiment of everything I had, up until that time, understood "cool" to be.  He wore a black leather jacket, smoked cigarettes, and flipped casually from perfect English to perfect Italian (since he had grown up speaking both equally).  Robert is stuck in my mind at that age and that moment, just as if he were frozen in a photograph of that self that he was. 

In Camera Lucida, Barthes writes that a photograph "produit la Mort en voulant conserver la vie" (produces Death in the attempt to capture/ preserve [a moment of] Life).  We do not like to believe that all the moments that have made up our lives are "dead", or lost to us.  Do the photographs of our Lives testify to Life while simultaneously reminding us that each of these moments "dies" and is lost to us? The moments come and go in a flash, and so how can we reckon them? 

"Today you are older than you have ever been and as young as you ever will be, said someone (?!).  But a photograph disrupts this logic.  The child in the photograph is younger than he already is now, and yet the photograph (preserved, archived, hanging in a museum?) will someday be even older than he ever lives to be.  A photograph can "outlive" its subject, and so produce this warping of Time.

More than ever before, people are documenting the moments of their lives.  I am lost amidst all of these visions.  I grow old.  What will become of me?  I do not know, but I have more photographs to make.

July, 2014