Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sherlock and I are awake...

and it's impossible to lie there, trying to get back to sleep when I'm exhilarated, either from too much coffee or the sheer pleasure of teaching that three hour class that I swore I'd never teach again. Right now I'd like to teach one class a week for the rest of my life....to see what on earth those folks are going to do in 13 weeks. We have 36  more hours of class-time left...  There is a Carrie, a Rose, a Maxim and a Melissa, among others...

I haven't heard the name Carrie since it referred to an aunt Carrie, a contemporary of my grandmother, Laura... in the backyard of that house in Liberty, Indiana, fireflies and darkness, listening to them talk, hearing her ask about my half-brother who I hadn't, until that moment, understood was different than a 'real' brother. I was eight.                

It's doubtful that this group understands my sense of humor and it must be very difficult to understand what I'm getting at if English isn't the native language and that cement floor is death on my back, sending shooting pains after an hour and a half of standing, but here I am, awake and thinking about photography. And glad to be teaching again.

(Unfortunately I can't find my camera and transfer the illustrations, but it will turn up. They are very dull images, but record the chair I always sat in and the new building appearing outside of the catwalk....)

Part of what is keeping me awake is thinking about a Robert Coles book. He taught at Harvard and was something of a rage when I moved up here, though I never liked his writing very much. But he did one book about Eskimo people which was illustrated by a guy who had studies at RISD in those Harry Callahan days. So he produced very formal, large format, photographs, beautifully composed, these somber people staring into the camera. And he had the good sense to write an essay about how different his photographs were from those taken by the Eskimos themselves and to publish their snapshots which were just all over the place, no straight horizon line, no standing and staring into the camera, just a jumble of laughing faces, mostly outside, in snow, on sleds. They were, to my mind, fabulous and gave a glimpse at the enormous fun they were capable of having, of the natural groupings and clusters of friends. He was well aware that those images had much more vitality than his did, though his gave information about the interiors and the clothing in their formal way.

I know I bought that book, at least I think I did, though it's been years since I ran across it.

Partly I've been thinking about this in relation to most of the Zoe Strauss' images which do, to me, seem very much what I've seen before, except for that glorious image printed on the book covers, hidden under that bland dust jacket. Those two men, an illusion of those moments of tenderness or happiness.

At any rate, I seem to be longing for photographs that express that joy that the snapshots taken by Eskimos on their trips and hunts...while my own photographs are dull as dishwater.... Much as I'd like to stop it, I do use right angle and I do take photographs as if I'm staring straight to the horizon and I edit out those on a tilt...  I remember hearing about one fellow teaching a workshop of old camera club people, who certainly always photograph in an upright way, and suggesting that they just toss the camera in the air, spin around, loosen up.

On the other hand, when someone, like Gene Richards, uses the intense 28mm lens to emphasize the poverty, or addiction or danger of a situation, his predictable style becomes editorial...though it's a passionate editorial....

But I am muchly inspired by having read the introduction to her 10 year project that Zoe Strauss wrote...it has the quality of those eskimo images...funky and lively and thoughtful and crammed with ideas...  and want to do a gorilla show with the class, if I can prod them in that direction... and want to do a scattered project myself..more about that later...when it's day light and I can take photographs to illustrate what I'm trying to write about.

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