So, you think it’s out of the ordinary for artists to make images of themselves in a mirror. Painters stared at themselves for hours in the mirror and produced one image. A photographer, spur of the moment, or maybe planned, can do it in 1/200 of a second. Some of the greats have done it, taken a self-portrait in a mirror. I sometime wonder if they were bored or didn’t have a model. You just cannot do it without the mirror and the camera, making it not that all spontaneous. Me, I like to do it in public bathrooms, bathrooms in museums, airports, supermarkets, movie theaters, restaurants. Takes some courage, because I have to wait for the place to clear out to eliminate a fellow pee person’s presence. Don’t want to bring the morals squad. And then, I gotta hurry. But, do I put the camera to my eye or chest? Do I want to see my face or just the act of shooting? One day, I will be more creative. One day, I will figure this out.
For women and revolutionaries everywhere. This Larry Rivers mimics a Delacroix from 1830. It is said to be one of the first posters or paintings to celebrate the then current revolutionary zeal. May women lead the movement and change the world. And may artists be the conscience of the community and continue to unearth the truth.
Believe it or not, the garbage collection here is pretty picky. Need to reduce cardboard to 3×3 size and they don’t take blank newsprint. We had to take it, ourselves, to the recycling plant. Not a bid deal, this time. It’s right around the corner from where we live. In FL, around the corner is 15 minutes.
FL takes recycling seriously. State of the art facilities. Recycling isn’t mandatory, a loophole for people who don’t like regulations. Talked to one the other day, a neighbor. He said that he didn’t recycle carefully: “it doesn’t work because so many people don’t do it.”
No plastic bags.
Now that we have unpacked most of our boxes, we can get into a routine, again.
So, I wonder, where my eye comes from. I know I have the Jewish photography gene. I have done the street, the office, tradesmen. I have shot portraits in the studio and on location. My subjects don’t act out a lot. The look calm and serene, alive, but not active. Few important people let me shoot them. And I have never worked for a paper. I am not Weegee, Arnold Newman or Diane Arbus. No fashion, so I am not Avadon. And while I love Joel Myerwitz, who also influences me, he didn’t shoot in the studio or use lights. Winograd and Gilden are kooks. Annie’s out of my league. Who? Who?
August Sander. Documented a community. Shot portraits. Shot same people I shoot. Lots of straight on. Used props. Posed. No surprises. Always gave the subjects a dignified look. In the Artsy bio, it says, he “lived behind his lens.” His prints are thick and detailed. Not a lot of background.
Shot this in Burlington, just before we moved. Local service station – McCaffrey’s. Important to the community. Everyone knew them, trusted them and relied on them. Would have shot the deli next door at Wagi’s, but the people wouldn’t let me. Hard to replace people and service like this when you move.
Lets hope I have the time to shoot enough with Sander looking over my shoulder and that the lens keeps me alive like it did him.
Someday, you may need this magnifying glass to read the small print in the drugstore. Do they still call these places drug stores? It’s a “FOP” tool. To use it, you got to be able to get to the store, push the cart and find what you are looking for. Aging requires courage.
So, the pills and the therapy period of my life has begun. Had to transfer med, pill and dental plans. Many calls. Medicare. Blue Cross/Blue Shield. At least I got them. Prescriptions can cost a lot.
New doctors. New dentists. Don’t know yet how healthy I am. Aches and pains come with being old. Blood. Colonoscopy. Dental surgery.
So, the doctor sent me for physical therapy for the neck and arm problems. Not turning my head as far as I once could. You will see; happens to all of us. But, the PT place was so depressing. People in wheelchairs who couldn’t sit up. People who couldn’t walk. Soon, it could be me. I will need courage to age.
Had to satisfy the Gov’t I am just not doing this to obtain pain killers. Filled out forms, some of which were not focused enough for my background or present physical condition. I’d rather be in pain than go there. Not going back, yet.
All I want to do is die broke. And, if my money runs out, before I die and I am still able to work, I can always bag.
So, Burt Shavitz died at 80. Another photographer dead, before I could talk with him. I’d like to know what he saw, why he shot what he shot and why he gave it up. I will have to settle for the movie, Burt’s Buzz. And Burt, he probably would not have been too much fun to talk with, even though he was a great man with a big personality who chafed at uniformity and changed the world.
Me. I turned 68 today. I’m alive and well. Couldn’t be happier, as my past drifts farther and farther into the long ago. My wife loves me. Don’t need much more than that.
Who’s Burt? He’s the guy on the box, at least partially. Everyone knows Burt, from his face. But before he made lip balm and other holistic products, he was a photographer who shot the Civil Rights movement, in addition to the street. Another one of those Jewish guys with the photojournalist gene who left the world better than he found it.
Tired of the rigamarole, he moved to Maine, raised some bees and made cosmetics which could be sold to hippies in health food stores. He cared about the environment and hated hypocrisy. Died rich, despite not needing money. He had land and a family. Me, I got no family, except for Sharon and her relatives. Failed living in the Northern New England way. I have toys to play with and a place to live. Still have some friends, though even though they aren’t close by. Now, I just need to be healthy.
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.