Charles Harbutt died, another photographer whose work defined an era left the field before I could meet him. Wonder what it would have been like to study with him? Damn. My life wasted in law. I mighta been a contender. Not brave enough or strong enough. Those guys had to run from danger and carry film.
At 23, he was in Cuba at the invitation of the rebels. I was in Law School. Then he shot the Panthers and the Bario. I watched the news. No one had seen anything like it. But, he got access, because they needed images to show off their causes and he needed a profession. He got to shoot what they showed him, not what was really happening. Then, at some point, he realized that the imagery, taken literally, displayed the commonplace, the idiom. He was being used and what he was seeing and hearing was not real, even though it was occurring before him. So, he interposed surrealism to his frames and changed the world of photojournalism.
I don’t aspire to such lofty heights. Magnum will never recognize my trite street images. The present day doesn’t allow for such photography. Too risky. Rebels shoot their own documentary photography and kill people working for the world press.
I do realize that it isn’t real, the scene in my Paris Street series where I confronted Muslim women begging. Are they really needy? They don’t talk, just stare needy. It’s a set-up, maybe. I walked the Champs Elysee and the Left Bank, places where fashion abounds and could not avoid them. They dot the sidewalks, holding their hands out, heads down, a paper cup close by. Behind a lookout lurks, waving her hand to prevent the photo, screaming out with demands for money. A citizen reproaches me for dolling out a Euro, telling me it will bring more of them, putting my camera at risk. The regulars don’t pay them any mind.
Charles must have seen the same stuff over his years, some from his camera and some from the stable of great shooters he oversaw. He must have realized that the scene changes when the camera appears, even if is not immediately recognized. People have a sense that it’s there or will be there and that is why they show up. So, he made his images more arty. Most importantly, he was still there. And, the one thing that separates photography from the other visual arts is that you got to be there, with your camera.
So many photographers I didn’t know that much about. Harold Feinstein shot street, wars, nudes and flowers. Published and showed. Photo League. Political. Artistic. Prolific. Damn. He even turned down a place in history by declining an invitation to put images in “The Family of Man.” Cannot imagine the conversation he had with Steichen.
Not all that much time left to see them all who still live and shoot, those whose images influenced my work. The photographer dies, the images, along with the stories and spirits within, live on. The viewer need not know anything. All he needs to do is look. By sharing their work, great photographers make the world a better place, in addition to making better photographers.
What do Harold and I, or HCB and I, for that matter, share in common? In addition to a love for the photographic image, we feel the pain when the shutter is pushed. There’s a moment, sometimes long, sometimes short, when the decision to shoot has been made that the world stops, except for the operation of the camera. The thinking ends. The camera goes click, speaking to the photographer, keeping its captured image secret, telling the shooter that its time to do it again.
Feinstein and his fellow masters of the craft, especially the women, learned at a time when the revealing moments occurred later. They kept shooting their film filled cameras, not knowing what had been captured, uncertain, yet confident, that they had what their eyes saw. Now, we have digital cameras to confirm our instincts. Some might say they had superior talent, overcoming the shortcomings of their equipment to hone their skills. But, I am sure he would not have, even though I didn’t know him.
Our subjects remain the same and light will always be light. And, though we see the world differently, when we pick up that camera and point it and shoot it, we are no different from all those who came before. We photographers make the images; the camera merely takes it.
So, you go to a movie in Boca Raton and sit in seats that make you feel like you are your Living Room, assuming you have furnished your TV watching room with reclining, leather backed chairs. You can order a drink at a bar to sip waiting to enter and then carry it into the theatre. Very civilized. They show indy movies, have series with speakers and show oldies. You can see the movies, hear the sound and not hear traffic noise or police sirens.
So, exhausted after the first day of reconstruction. Tomas, master builder and redesigner, leads the crew on this not so exciting journey. All we are doing is make the place livable. Included in this are: color, shape and a door of dignity in the bathroom. On our way.
So, when you move, you need health care providers: doctors, dentists, massage therapists. Anxiety producing. Fill out forms. Connect with insurers. Get used to new hands probing your mouth, anus, ears and all the other orifices that make your system work.
Dentists! Bad experiences. Small teeth. Bad gums. Years to get the mouth under control. Don’t have all my teeth. Implants have cost a fortune. Periodic visits to periodontist, dentists, endodontists and tooth crafters whose jobs I cannot describe have worked on me. Root canals! But if I want to eat something other than knishes and Ensure I need to go.
Here is my new hygienist, Stacie. She did a great job as I gripped the chair. But, how many of us look at the people working on us? We shut our eyes, hoping it won’t hurt, but feeling better when our teeth are clean and our mouth feels good. She may look like she’s from outer space, but she did a great job on my mouth.
So, in Burlington, we lived in a condo on the third floor. No grills allowed, at least not ones with charcoal or gas. Had an electric grill which sort of boiled stuff. No lines or burn marks. Now, back in a home, I got a grill.
Now, I am not one of those champion grillers. I like chicken and steak, veggies, corn. Don’t have dry rubs or special marinades, except for one made with Jack Daniels and maple syrup. I can turn out a meal for two, eliminating the need for a giant unit. Not really invested in the skill, but love to cook.
Have given away all my tools. Need a fork, spatula and tongs. Wire brush. Cutting board. Cover. All new stuff and an extra tank. Feel like I live at Home Depot.
Bigger question: will we cook. Down here, everyone goes out to dinner. Early bird specials. Off season reductions if you pay cash. Not so easy to find locally grown stuff or prime meat. But being home has its benefits, especially since we pay so much for Comcast and A/C. Best thing: no drinking and driving.
So, always good to leave the world better than you found it, however you do it. Don Featherstone, a man whose name you don’t know, did. His art graces lawns from here to everywhere, unless you live in a gated community where uniformity trumps art. You see the plastic forms and without knowing why, you feel better about life. And, we owe the feeling to some guy who, one day, sitting at work, in a plastics factory, far away from the Everglades, but obviously close to Wonderland, created a flamingo.
My Father died on Father’s Day. He’d been sick for a long while. I was a kid. Didn’t get to know him all that well, though people said I looked and acted just like him. Bought him a present to give him when he came back from the hospital. Don’t remember what I bought him or what I did with it. Don’t have many images of him. I can see myself in his eyes. He wouldda loved Sharon.
Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris has several areas honoring Jewish dead. The French didn’t do enough to save Jews when the Nazis invaded. Selfish and self-absorbed, some helped load the trains headed to the death chambers. Somber as it may seem, this sculpture of a death procession reminds us, “never again.”
So, what does this have to do with today, DuckToday? I am sad and depressed about the killings in Charleston. A friend brushed it off saying that had there been a Temple near-by, Jews would have been killed. To me, that avoided the point. Racism and anti-semitism, while rooted in hatred, irrational hatred, aren’t the same things. Hey, we were all slaves! But to hate because of the color of one’s skin, thinking one person is better than another, that their bloods shouldn’t be mixed, that they don’t deserve a place on the planet, in the valley of human kind, that is unfathonable.
I mourn the 6,000,000 as much as I mourn the 9 who died needlessly. Acts of terrorism, both, man’s hatred of his fellow man never abates. Very sad.
So, we went to Paris for a month. Planned a while ago, we just wanted to hang out, not jump from a Viking River Boat or a bus. Rented a pied a terre in the Marais, the traditional inner city home for France’s Jewish population. We found it alive and vibrant, not hidden and Jews not afraid.
Now, that’s not to say they publicize their home. Doors and windows don’t have any Jewish images – no stars, no tablets, no lions or lambs.
You can still wrap with a Lubovich, rebbe in training.
And, you can buy falafel, if you can figure out who has the best and are willing to stand in line and eat standing up.