Guest Blawwger, re: Gato Loco de Bajo

Last weekend, in Brooklyn, we went to Barbes to see Gato Loco; Linda was shooting a lot, as always, and for the last number of the second set she also shot this video. Dig it:

Check ’em out:

The intimacy of photographs and the limits of black

In 1989, John Szarkowski wrote:

From a commercial point of view the ideal gallery picture is a wall picture, meaning the kind of picture that can claim a room. Any picture can of course be hung on a wall, but some pictures are at their best only at close range; if they belong on a wall at all it might be the wall of an intimate corridor, or near one’s elbow at a writing desk. Many photographs, including many of the best photographs, are best when held in the hand, and it must be said that pictures bigger than one person can hold with comfort have been a difficult challenge for photography. Part of the problem has been a technical one, and relates to the photographer’s traditional insistence that there be detail in the shadows. The trouble with empty black shadows is that if they become bigger than, say, a thumbnail, they stop representing a dark place and begin representing merely a black shape, thus calling attention to the coated surface of the paper, which, especially in its modern manifestations, is not an intrinsically beautiful material, like bronze or marble or rubbed wood or oil pigment on linen, but instead resembles something made in a factory from petroleum derivatives and soy beans.

Ansel Adams, whose technical prowess was legendary, devoted considerable thought and energy to the production of exceptionally large prints. The best of them, seen from far enough away, look as good as his smaller prints, in fact look like his smaller prints. From up close, they are not as good.

Perhaps Ray Metzker, in the mid-sixties, was the first photographer to make big pictures that were not simply enlargements of small ones. His photo-collages were designed to lead a fundamentally abstract life when seen from a distance, and a highly particularized one from up close. In spite of their split character, the pictures are good to look at, at both ranges.

But there is perhaps a deeper reason why photographers have had limited success with wall pictures, a reason that touches the issues of privacy and specificity, and perhaps even the matter of secrecy.

Only a small fraction of the world’s pictures have been designed to be seen on walls, and those are expected to speak in a more or less public and forceful way, expected even to declaim, unlike a picture that is held in the hand, as in a Book of Hours, or a magazine, that speaks to one person (or to one person at a time) and thus can speak in a more confidential, and perhaps in a more dilatory, elliptical, or conversational tone, because the message is not being shared with all those others. Diane Arbus said that a photograph of two people in one bed is shocking because a photograph is private, whereas a movie showing two people in one bed is not shocking because a movie is public.

A photograph may also be private in the sense that there is no designated public access to its meaning, no catalog of its constituent parts, its iconographic and formal resources. Each viewer, including the photographer who made it, must devise for the new picture a personal and provisional place among the other pictures and facts that the viewer knows. It is of course true that all good pictures contain unfinished meanings; only perfect clichés are perfectly complete. Nevertheless, good photographs are often more richly unfinished than other pictures, are wilder, in the sense that they have in them more elements that are not fully understood and domesticated. James Agee, pretending that the photographer was a fisherman and that the truth was a trout, said it was the photographer’s task to bring the fish to net without too much subduing it.

Pictures like those that Agee wanted are not easy to make; they are even more difficult to make large and simple, as a poster is simple, or a fresco in city hall. Those who have tried to make the kind of picture that Agee spoke of have tended to think in terms of books—a relatively private, provisional, contingent kind of form—rather than of walls.

So much for *our* little excuses

 “I remember seeing myself from outside my body. Not a religious experience but intense heat and fire and the strangely calm sense of flying through the air.”

“I could see clearly, I had my right hand. I could think. And what I thought was, I can still work as a photographer.”

(Self-portrait photograph by Giles Duley)

The New Carpe Diem

Consider what Walker Evans told students at Yale in the sixties: “Work alone if you can… you want to concentrate; you have to. Companions you may be with, unless perfectly patient and slavish to your genius, are bored stiff with what you’re doing. This will make itself felt and ruin your concentrated, sustained purpose.”

Case in point: our last trip. Five days outta town. Quy tonestly, except for an episode involving cyclists on a bridge, the stuff I was shooting wasn’t getting the concentration it deserved–plus, there were late nights that removed the option to shoot at dawn—until the last day, when I was able to arrive at a target site before sunrise (sort of). That session was the payoff. I got to do it my way, Don Costa.

“Don’t wait for the stars to line up.”

W. o’ W.: Tom Waits

“I want you to play like you’re seven years old at a recital.

I want you to play like your mom’s in the room.

I want you to play like you’re miles from home, and your legs are dangling from a boxcar.

Or play like your hair’s on fire.

Play like you have no pants on.”


Didja ever wonder whence came the word?


An inspection report by Confederate captain Walter Bowie to Brig. Gen. R. H. Chilton, inspector general, dated May 10, 1864, used the term to describe the line over which prisoners were forbidden to go. In it, Bowie wrote: “On the inside of the stockade and twenty feet from it there is a dead-line established, over which no prisoner is allowed to go, day or night, under penalty of being shot.”

Ideally, everything that’s to be shot has already been shot.

Filter Festival

Every suburban adolescent should find a way to attend some of the events at this “festival.”

…especially the presentation about Harry & Aaron:

(Or do you say Aaron & Harry?)

Don’t blow this off as a marginal thing. Seize the day. Every event matters.

Theodore Walter Rollins, Octogenarian

Sonny Rollins did as a jazz musician what Harry Callahan did as a photographer: he created a sabbatical for himself (two, actually) to do some “woodshedding.” He has a lot to say about creative work that applies directly to all of us:

“I’m still payin’ dues, even though I’m in the high cotton.”

An Illustrated Version of Tuesday’s 2-D AP Field Trip Handout

We’ll meet in the “Alena Laube Lobby” of the Richard C. Johnson Auditorium at 7:30, so that we can hoof the attendance down to… Attendance, and board our bus by 7:35.

Show your student ID whilst you buy a round-trip ride (2 one-way tickets) to Ogilvie for half-price.  At some point, gimme yer $2.25 for the rapid transit ride card (or make your own, to keep and to use in the future). You get to read preparatory material on the train, so that you won’t be confronting work cluelessly, and to give you a start on the assessments and reflections that will account for your day.

We’ll walk to the Gage Gallery on Michigan Avenue. After that visit, we’ll ride the Brown Line of the “L” (that’s the elevated train) to the River North area, to see work at the Catherine Edelman Gallery and the Schneider Gallery. Also in this neighborhood, we’ll bolt down a little nourishment…

…before bolting to the West Loop to visit the Tony Wight Gallery.

At 12:55, we sprint back to Ogilvie. On the return trip you may work on your cleaned-up notes and responses to prompts on the ride home (your epiphanies will be posted here). We arrive in our home town at 2:32. Hitch me a ride back to the Huge School; thanks!

That’s gallery hoppin’: hoofin’ & boardin’ & ridin’ & walkin’ & boltin” & sprintin’ &

More Class Pictures, Encore

…both Photo and AP. As before, the rosters here are works in progress.

Welch, Dunham, Wane. I told you there used to be a correct proportion of males in Photo.

Taylor, McWilliams, Nwankwo, Ostrem.

AP: sooooooo many names. Carpenter, Mrs. Elsner, Yokoyama, Haas, Destree, Thalheimer…

Samoa AP, only five or so years gone. New York, LA, Massachusetts, Indiana (!); mini-pets & muscle cars. (NG: that’s Kevin Overby.)