Let’s start with the continuing saga of me and my camera. If that bores you, well, there’s also a thing about the Dave Heath show at the Nat’l Gallery of Canada and an excerpt from the Jonathan Blaustein review of After the Fact.
So . . .
The X100F is a perfect tool for snap-shooting, carrying everywhere, making random notes. And that’s how I thought I might use it.
But after a few weeks of doing that I’ve come to a preliminary conclusion. And that’s that I’m not a random kind of guy.
Hold on, maybe I am a random kind of guy, but only in life. When it comes to photo projects I need some kind of hook to hang on.
Of course we all need some kind of hook, even if it’s just I’m-going-to-photograph-random-street-scenes. Or I-shoot-birds. Or yes-portraits-that’s-what-I’m-interested-in.
At the outset of this new project I set out just to see and react, and to bring the results of that seeing and reacting home so I could look at it, think about what I’d done. Then, as often happens, I saw one image and something in my brain went ping! An association was made, some synaptic path opened up and I saw a way forward. Focus was found, or at least intimated.
This is the photo that set it off. I don’t really like this image, will probably never use it.
It did, however, serve a purpose . . . it fixed a word in my brain, one word. And that word, which I am not yet ready to say out loud, has given me direction. Like a sign.
When all this was going through my head I bumped into this description of the process behind Brian David Stevens book: Doggerland. It was timely for me and seems to hit the nail on the head, about how I will pursue this thing I’m doing now . . .
“. . . found images, but images all looked-for : sought, perceived even a little in advance . . .”
The beauty of the camera I’m using is that it facilitates that mode of working. I’ve been enjoying carrying the thing around, and now I have a better idea of what I’m looking for.
The Dave Heath exhibition, Multitude, Solitude, at the National Gallery of Canada is a must-see. A slightly overlarge view of much of the work he did in Korea and, famously, New York City in the ’50’s and ’60’s. Plus recent colour work, book maquettes and a bit of miscellanea.
Perhaps a little too sentimental in places for my tastes, but there is no denying the power and (specific) universality of these renderings. And, having known the man, it must be said . . . the work is true to his sensibilities, vision and outlook. These photographs are impossible not to look at closely, and that looking will affect you. What more can you ask for?
The NGC link here will take you to a place where you can read all about it.
A REVIEW OF AFTER THE FACT
A while ago Jonathan Blaustein, over at aPhotoEditor, reviewed my book: After the Fact.
I have to say, he really got it, not only what it was about, but also the cyclical form of the sequence. Here’s the main bit of his review.
And, by the way, there are still 20 copies left. Go here to see the sequence, and here to buy a copy. Support independent publishing.
The cover is a dream-scape in silhouette of black on blue, with ravens and a tree and the sky.
This will be a repeating motif within, birds, and while I was OK with it, maybe it did seem a bit obvious.
Open it up, and there’s a globe. The North Atlantic Sea is prominent, and I think it’s a pretty damn smart way to ground the story.
Then, a disaffected portrait of a tall guy crammed under a short ceiling.
Then bleak, cold, yet undeniably beautiful landscapes of what I take to be Canada in Winter.
We start with a smart quote by Bertolt Brecht about singing in the face of darkness, which I took to mean that we need to make our art, to speak our peace, to sing our songs, in particular when we think things are going to shit.
(And of course many people regard our current situation as a particularly dangerous one, relative to the Post World War II era.)
Then, some redacted text, and then a slew of excellent images.
Like I said, the bird theme is a bit on-the-nose for me, and I normally don’t use that expression. But I’d also like to ask that people stop including pictures of trash on the street or sidewalk. (We had them in last week’s book too.)
What do you say, folks?
A moratorium on garbage in the street pictures?
But other than that, the photography is spot on.
The portrait of the dog in the muzzle?
The yellow brick road, the policeman’s gun, the bloody bed, the sad portraits, the public places, it all adds up to a feeling of dread and impending doom.
Impending doom is the same as maybe-not-yet arrived doom. You can feel it coming, but is there still time to affect the outcome? To hope?
There’s a guy in camouflage unfurling a wire of some sort. Mennonite women, a power-company worker at night, more sad portraits, dead-people feet, power washing a building, and then that little girl looking right at you, from the side, like a young-21st-century-Mona-Lisa.
Towards the end, the book’s title page, “After the Fact.”
Then, another quote, this time from Martin Heidegger, “The possible ranks higher than the actual.”
Idealism before realism, I suppose?
Next, another portrait of a guy looking away, (behind the hoodie,) the birds, and a cold Canadian landscape.
A last credits page, which quotes Joe Strummer, “The future is unwritten,” and states, unequivocally, “This book is a work of fiction. The real people, places and incidents portrayed are used fictitiously.”
Is it, though?
If you open it in the back, and start here, doesn’t the book make just as much sense?
You get opening quotes for context, and you’re explicitly told to see this as a work of visual fiction.
It opens similarly, motif wise, (birds/landscape/dude portrait,) and this way, it includes the title page in the beginning, where it would normally be.
Plus, it’s just so easy to flip-it back to front, given its design.
There are narrative waves and repeating motifs that work just as well this way, and even better, you can reverse direction whenever you want.
It’s a good reminder, perhaps, that we not get too rigid in our thinking. That books should be made this way. Or that.