"We are the people of the book. We love our books. We fill our houses with books. We treasure books we inherit from our parents, and we cherish the idea of passing those books on to our children. Indeed, how many of us started reading with a beloved book that belonged to one of our parents? We force worthy books on our friends, and we insist that they read them. We even feel a weird kinship for the people we see on buses or airplanes reading our books, the books that we claim. If anyone tries to take away our books—some oppressive government, some censor gone off the rails—we would defend them with everything that we have. We know our tribespeople when we visit their homes because every wall is lined with books. There are teetering piles of books beside the bed and on the floor; there are masses of swollen paperbacks in the bathroom. Our books are us. They are our outboard memory banks and they contain the moral, intellectual, and imaginative influences that make us the people we are today."
I'm intrigued by Samantha Contis' project Between Rivers and Roads but wish I had a bit more context for it. Then again, I feel that way about most work I look at online and of course viewing work online is a poor substitute for seeing it in person. Bet this series is beautiful as a set of prints.
"You do know, you should remember Ji-Hyon ah – love flows down. From person to person it only trickles down."
I tell her I’m not sure I understand. I’d never heard this saying before.
"It’s an old Korean saying. This is one of the ways we understand love. It moves downward, from grandmother to mother, from mother to child – this is how we take care of each other. But the one below will never understand the love of his parent so he cannot love as much. Love is always greater on top. And so is the pain."
Congratulations to Alejandro Cartagena for being selected as a Hot Shot. I've long been been a fan of Cartagena's Lost Rivers project and of his work in and around Monterrey. The image above is actually from a new project titled Between Borders. It's great to see Cartagena on a roll. Hey! Hot Shot is on roll too. Two former Hot Shots were selected for the Whitney Biennial, a very big deal indeed.
We're releasing another pair of Jane Mount's Ideal Bookshelves today over at 20x200. One is a shelf of Tina Roth's (aka Swissmiss') daughter's books, the other is of chef George Weld's cookbooks. Both are supergreat and I recommend snapping one or both of them up.
Because Jane is part of the 20x200 family, I was lucky enough to have my kid's bookshelf painted (see below). Makes me happy every time I look at it. You can have your own bookshelf painted if you are a bit lucky (details on the 20x200 newsletter).
Note: Every time I post anything about children's books I get parents asking me for lists of book names. I've named most of the books in previous posts. I've also put most of them up together on an Amazon Heading East Bookstore.
Update: Tina just updated her site with a list/links for all the children's books in her daughter's ideal bookshelf. Many are European favs, obscure here. It's a great list/print Go and be happy.
While putting my kids to bed last night my four year old asked me to sing "that song about the moon I love." It's a Mexican lullaby I knew from my childhood. I sang it once and immediately received a terse demand from my two year old, "Again," he commanded. So I sang again. And again. And again. We sang the song over and over until everyone was singing it.
"Why do I love that song so much?" the four year old asked, "It's my favorite one." His question struck me, and in a flash, I was back with my grandparents on their red tiled porch on a hot August night watching lightning roll around in the clouds. My grandfather was on his green metal rocker singing the song. The crepe myrtle was full of fireflies and the air smelled of a storm. When my grandfather finished, I asked the same question, "Abuelito, why do I love that song so much?" He turned to me and said, "One day you won't have to ask why you like it so much, you'll know." Now some 38 odd years later, I did know. Now I was sitting in the dark watching my sons. Both had closed eyes. The two year old's breathing indicated sleep. It had been a long pause when Raul Andres asked "Dad?".
I leaned over and whispered to him, "I think you already know why you love that song. I think you've always known." That was explanation enough. Eyes still closed, he smiled, and drifted off to sleep.
It seems that more and more photographers are working at night these days often for no good reason, but partially, I suppose, because over the last few years it's become much easier to work at night because of faster films, and higher ISO digital cameras. I know I've been guilty of this. And much of the night photography out there looks like the work of the handful of photography stars who have made a name for themselves shooting in the dark.
I like Astrid Kruse Jensen's work because rather than reminding me of any specific photographer, Edward Hopper's paintings comes to mind. And pretty much any photographer whose work evokes Hopper has my number.
Love this photo of a treehouse in Daniel Augschöll's portfolio. I was just having the thought that treehouses are one of the things sorely lacking in the lives of urban kids. I wonder how far a guerilla urban treehouse initiative would go before it got shut down.
We're headed for a day when static will be a thing of the past. Signals will all be binary, either there or not with nothing in-between. I couldn't be more sad about this.
Truly local radio was once one of the great appeals of a long backroad drives. Dime store preachers in Texas. Blues in Alabama. Punk whenever you hit a college town late at night. Ranchera down along the border. Almost as good as hitting a great station was listening to it fade away. It gave you a sense of that you were going places and it made you feel you were traveling from someplace known into the unknown.
When I play a record I often imagine the stylus bouncing up and down along the grooves of the vinyl moving the magnets that send vibrations up to be amplified. Part of me knows that each play will inflict tiny scratches and bits of wear. One day the records will sound like like grandfathers' obscured by a warm blanket of noise. Play a record enough and noise is all that will remain.
It wasn’t so long ago that most local calls were as clear as a bell, but long distance calls were progressively degraded depending on the distance you were from the caller. It made long distance calls seem special. The static volume determined the importance of the call and as those calls were often from people you loved, the high noise to signal ratio made the love seem that much stronger.
Walkie Talkie Static
We were kids in the woods with walkie talkies exploring alone but together just out each other's of visual range. The static was the tether that kept us safe.
I saw Where the Wild Things Are today: it's a movie for adults about what it felt like to be a kid—a deeply considered interpretation of the book, beautifully rendered, but not a terribly good adaptation. There's a huge distinction in my mind between interpretation, which I see as someone's distinct vision of an original work, and adaptation which is a more neutral transformation of work from one medium to another, one that allows space for you to project your own interpretation. Of course a true adaptation of this book is impossible, so a strong interpretation was the way to go and in virtually every frame of this film you are reminded that this is Jonze/Eggers' Wild Things, rather than Maurice Sendak's Wild Things.
I've been asked if I'll take my kids to the movie. I don't think I will. Raul Andres who is almost 5 has a particularly deep love of the book. I'm pretty sure for him the book is about the joy of rebellion, the power of imagination, and the love of home whereas large sections of the movie are about dread, loneliness, and the inevitable messy consequences of things. These emotions are large parts of every childhood, but for me (and I think for my son), these were not the emotions stirred by this particular book. If I were to take Raul Andres to the movie, I'm almost sure he would be scared by the film but love it anyway. Still, I would hate to have the Jonze interpretation of the story overwhelm the one he has in his head. That's the danger of movies for children. They can obliterate narratives which are still being formed. So I'll wait a few years for Wild Things to become his own. I hope by waiting his ultimate enjoyment of someone else's love for this book made real will only deepen.
I've been a fan of Andres Gonzalez' work for some time. He just posted a new work in progress project titled Golden State featuring work taken around his home town of Chino. I'm eager to see how this one develops.
Don't know why I it took me a year to discover a link to this Gerda Tara show, but I was totally wowed by the work of this photographer I knew very little about. She was Robert Capa's collaborator/girlfriend and they worked together for only two years before she was killed in the Spanish Civil War just shy of her 27th birthday.
The longer you live in a big city, the more the city becomes your own, specific to the people in your circle and the paths you frequent. One of the pleasures of living in a large city is discovering the work of artists who experienced different versions of your city. Good work— whether it contradicts what you know or fits neatly into your schema— always forces you to look at the city with new eyes. I've found this phenomenon to be especially true in Los Angeles which in it's vastness seems to only be comprehensible in small bites. I was there for 10 years and never got a handle on the place. I think you'll enjoy visiting Patrick Romero's LA and I love the evocative title of his project Earthquake Weather..or Stranded in Los Angeles.
Langdon Lane in 1969 Same house via Google maps
We lived there for 3 years. It was a little house—we always called it the little house, even back then—but it was the first house I remember, so in my memory it is vast. The front yard is an endless stretch of the greenest grass. The sky is always blue. My room is chock full of books and toys, and monsters live under all the beds.
Traveling back via Google Maps is probably just as ill advised as driving back when passing through Houston and standing in the yard, but I visit from time to time.
Here in Brooklyn we live only 4 blocks away from the place we lived for the first two and half years of my 4 year old's life. We walk by on the way to his preschool, and sometimes he asks to sit on the steps. He knows he can't go inside anymore, but sitting gives him comfort. Normally we don't talk, and after a bit he'll simply get up and continue on. Do I tell him he'll always want to sit on those steps, and that over time they will grower smaller even as they grow larger?
I think this was my 2nd or 3rd super 8 flick and the last one I'll force upon my readers here (more flix will be posted on vimeo. The stories I think are self explanatory. I'm the super dorky kid in the purple who shows up near the end of the film at about 2:36.
So it was 1979. I had been taking pictures with my dad's Pentax for a few years and had a serious camera bug. I had always asked to shoot with the super 8 (a Canon 814 Autozoom), but wasn't allowed. The movie camera was off strictly limits and of course the forbidden status gave it a special pull (I even loved the smell of the case). One summer my parents went on vacation leaving us with our grandparents. I had recently learned about stop motion and was desperate to experiment. This was my chance. I secretly brought the camera to my room and shot a stop motion test. The next day my brothers were recruited for a guerilla shoot. I didn't have a story, I just wanted to experiment and see what happened. The movie above is the result. I was actually so scared of getting in trouble that I left the exposed film in the camera bag. The film wasn't developed for months, and when it was it became part of our family lore...That little crude shoot gave me a passion for movies that has lasted a lifetime.
Sidenote: I've always thought it would be fun to add sound to this. I'll probably take a stab at it. I'd love for someone else to give it a try. The source is downloadable for a week on vimeo.
Ed makes magic
Use dove soap 21 secs
Ed wake up
Ed jumps off of Mr. Dixon's Winnebago 1min 26secs
Can't shut the camera off
Christopher turns into an old lady
Ed Falls backwards
Razor ad w/ Christopher
Ed lays down a long skid on his bike 2min 35secs
I catch Ed and Christopher fighting (my Grandfather intervenes)
Very bad baseball special effect
Ed jumps off the roof. 3 min 05secs
More stop motion
Stop motion shoes
A brief appearance by me (Tigers shirt) 3min 52secs
Football special effects
Bozo the neighborhood dog
Stop motion tree climbing
Ed as Chaplin 4min 19secs
Christopher as a mariachi
My grandmother 4min 37secs
More stop motion
A watermelon we were growing
Bad pine cone special effect
More roof jumping
Practical joke on Mr. Sullivan 5min 18sec
Replay of the practical joke, but "funnier"
Delayed football reaction special effect
I've been digitizing family home movies. This is the earliest I've found. It's my Tia Olivia's 15th birthday. The year should be 1958/59 if my calculations are correct. There is no sound although I've been thinking I should add some period music... Love the bit around 3:10 of all the men sitting on the porch. That's how I remember parties from my childhood in the 70's. Same porch, same cowboy hats. It would be different now. Most of the adults in this video of my grandparent's generation are gone. I miss that world so much and this little movie—more than any movie I have of my own childhood— brings the world of my grandparents all back to me.
Someone asked me today if there's anything I miss about LA. After my wife's kitchen garden, morning swims in my own pool, and the good eats, my final answer was stopping by the Richard Heller gallery. While it's been a few years since I've been back to LA, at I can at least visit the gallery online for inspiration. Their artist lineup is top notch... hard to choose a gallery favorite, but if you forced me, it might be Norway based American painter/sculptor Charlie Roberts. I've wanted to own one of his paintings for years.
You can find a good interview of Roberts at Beautiful Decay. A radio interview can be found on KUHF.
The LA Times art critic Christopher Knight's article titled Fighting over Frida Kahlo is the best summary I've read yet on the controversy raging around the book Finding Frida Kahlo which documents a purported cache of Kahlo ephemera. As always Kahlo is a polarizing figure and if anything the article understates the ferocity of the politics around find. The debate is curious to me as cache is broad enough that serious scholarship should be able to provide definitive answers. Many of the items documented are simply knickknacks—the type of thing an obsessive collector has a hard time throwing away, only valuable because they belonged to an icon, but the letters and drawings should be placeable within the known canon if they are legit. Full disclosure, while we haven't seen them in many years, Carlos Noyola and his wife, Leticia, the art dealers who found the cache, are family friends. The Noyolas are art obsessed, a couple who live a life almost absurdly chock full of art, and who have intimate knowledge of each of the thousands of pieces in their homes
I tend to be wary of found caches of art and found diaries, especially when they are purported to be from famous figures (most especially when the found work contains salacious material that confirms things we already believe about those figures). Double scrutiny is reserved when the origins of the artwork are shady, but then again then again the Mexican art world is small, clubby, and strange and it's easy for wonderful things to sit in boxes or hang on walls for years without a paper trail. Frida's life was not ordinary and it's certainly plausible that she would hide boxes of drawings and papers away. The Noyola's involvement has only heightened my interest as they would be the first people to be be skeptical of something that seems too good to be true. I concur with Knight, only serious scholarship will tell the tale and I look forward to seeing how this one plays out...
Sidenote: For years I've heard that there is a Diego Rivera mural under several layers flat colored paint on the wall of a dining room 79th and Park Avenue. No idea if the story is true, but it would be fun to investigate someday.
I have a weakness for western landscapes perhaps born of childhood of 16 hour drives between Texas and Mexico. This was the era before parents used car seats or seat belts and we would turn the back of the station wagon into private forts padded with sleeping bags and stocked with binoculars, Hardy Boys, and flashlights (the flashlights were for shining out the window at night). In my memory of those journeys, after the initial excitement of the trip had worn off, and after we had counted our 100th Volkswagen Beetle and spied everything we were going to spy with our purple eyes, my brothers would always lie down staring out the back window engrossed in endless debate about the nature of things whereas I would gravitate to the window obsessing over flashes of light, large marooned rocks, strange trees, and lone figures out in the distance. I don't remember ever getting tired of that rolling view and even today a long western drive nowhere is one my my favorite things in the world.
Many of Allie Mount's polaroid projects work for me as visual mnemonics allowing me to trace backwards in time to that view from the station wagon window and for this I am grateful.
Carlos Jiménez Cahua graduated from Princeton last year with a thesis exhibition was titled Lima. Of this body of work he writes:
"I am Peruvian by blood and birth, but I've grown up an American. In the US, and in most places, I feel like I am in a city, region, or nation—those intangible creations of people. But in Lima, I felt not like I was in a city, in Peru, or even South America, but atop the Earth herself."
It's 4am. Edward Kennedy died a few hours ago. On hearing the news, I immediately thought back to second time I saw the man in person. It was a black tie event here in New York. He was stuffed into a tuxedo, red faced, tired, and seemingly bored with the gaggle of bejeweled dowagers surrounding him. This was in the early 90s. I had seen him many years earlier on a junior high trip to Washington D.C. We were on a tour of the Capitol building. This was well before the era of 9/11 and you could pretty much roam the halls. The group was looking for our local congressman's office, and while navigating a narrow hallway, Kennedy hustled by, a man in a hurry, carrying nothing and being trailed by several young aides. A teacher in my group shouted "Senator Kennedy!" Perhaps it was her thick East Texas accent that made him turn. He brightened, "Welcome to the Washington everyone," he said in that voice. That voice was startling, it made him real. I waved and he waved back. I could have sworn the wave was for me even though the rest of the class waved as well. That stuck with me.
So when I saw him all those years later, stuck at that table I had the ridiculous thought that a wave from the crowd would lighten his mood. I convinced my date to wave with me. Kennedy seemed to notice us for a second, but then quickly went back to looking bored. The second memory started to color the first.
The third time I saw Kennedy in person was a few years later, I had flow to Hyannis Port from from California for a fall wedding. After arriving I escaped the hotel/wedding party for a walk along the shore. It was drizzling and cold, not good walking weather, or good beach weather, but I needed to stretch my legs. The beach was empty save for a solitary figure in the far distance. I wasn't until I got close that I realized it was Kennedy. He was wearing a windbreaker and staring out to sea, hands in his pockets. He was a big hippopotamus of a man, wind whipping his hair around, but he was calm. He stood there for a very long time. What does a guy with that much incident in his life think about in those moments? Policy? Fending off enemies? Family? His aches and pains? I thought about how in the tiniest way I had been part of the noisy background of his life and how nice it must be for someone like him to look out into the empty ocean without yappy people constantly vying for attention.
Later that weekend I remember trying to take pictures of the sea. This is something virtually everyone who owns a camera does at some point no matter how banal the results. Virtually all of us have sat there staring out at the sea and wanted to hold on to that feeling. The sea connects us in some strange way because that mental frame of sky / horizon / water is so powerful. Sugimoto suggests (rightly) that that frame is one of our most primal visions.
Here are three seascapes. I could have just as easily picked 6 or 16. Here are 3 more and some more. I believe we all carry these images around even when we are landlocked, even when can't take solitary walks in the rain.
1. Koreans of a certain generation/ilk dye their hair into their 80's. It's normal, like cutting your fingernails. So anyone with grey hair, especially anyone under 50, at least in the eyes of this group, looks a) ancient b) ungroomed to the point of being disheveled.
2. My mother in law is Korean and of this certain generation/ilk.
3. For almost a decade she's been urging me to "Look younger. Feel better."
4. For a recent family wedding I decided to make my mother in law happy.
5. And that is how I found myself in the Jung Won Beauty Salon. The dying procedure was observed by my mother in law, her father, her sister, her sister's husband, a Pastor, and a couple of kids.
Mother-in-law: "You look sooo handsome now. Not like old man. Before you look sooo old."
Grandfather [laughing]: "Before you were older than me. Now, not so bad."
Mother-in-law's sister: "Yeah, you looked terrible. This is so nice."
Pastor Shin: "I really like the reddish color." It looks great!"
7. I forgot to mention that the hair lady decided to make my hair an unnatural looking dark red color. Yup.
1. After 3 weeks of hiding under a baseball cap, the correction.
Jason Florio's portfolio site is full of top notch reportage. The image above is from a set titled Beijing Artists. I also especially like a set he titles "The Poets of Bagdhad". He writes in his bio:
"Over the past nine years I have been arrested by the Taliban and enjoyed a tea with them, I have ridden into far-flung Afghan valleys in search of nomads with mujahideen as my security, dressed as a woman to cross a border, was at the foot of the Twin Towers as they collapsed, enjoyed the ‘comforts’ of a Cuban hospital, hunted bats in Surinam, chatted with Somali pirates over Coke and biscuits and danced like a fiend in Beirut nightclubs…..........among other things."
"With all respect, the personal home page is not a private expression; it's a public billboard that people work on to say what they're interested in. That's not as interesting to me as people using it in their private lives. It's exhibitionism, if you like. Or self-expression. It's openness, and it's great in a way, it's people letting the community into their homes. But it's not really their home. They may call it a home page, but it's more like the gnome in somebody's front yard than the home itself. People don't have the tools for using the Web for their homes, or for organizing their private lives; they don't really put their scrapbooks on the Web. They don't have family Webs. There are many distributed families nowadays, especially in the high-tech fields, so it would be quite reasonable to do that, yet I don't know of any. One reason is that most people don't have the ability to publish with restricted access."