Saturday, October 3, 2009

passion and dispassion

This had to be in black and white, in homage to Robert Frank: we went to the Met to see the New Americans show. Good, of course, to see all of the 87 images hanging on the wall - with an intelligent commentary about how they spoke in dialogue to one another in the book itself; better yet to see the working prints, the contact sheets, and all the other contextualization of the selecting and sorting and weeding of the 27,000 images that were whittled down to these select few (whoever said only digital image taking led to profligacy? what was so fascinating was how Frank would take two, four, seven shots of one scene, knowing that it had potential - and then just one image would, due to a trick of light, or a person suddenly looking up at the camera, or pausing in a shop doorway, be the one.

And of course, for all his Guggenheim-funded travels, Frank was looking around him, at ordinariness, and finding what made the ordinary extraordinary, and in his wake inspiring a whole school of street photographers, taking images as they find them (strange to think back to how shocking this seemed in America in the 1950s: the British tradition of Picture Post, the work of Bill Brandt, was much more demotic than, say, the more upbeat ordinariness peddled in Life). So I looked around in the C19th French gallery outside, for quick homage-making inspiration... here's a be-capped, flannel shirted young woman staring rather morosely at the heterosexual rapture of Jean-Léon Gérôme's Pygmalion and Galatea, flanked by Rodin's Eternal Spring (also known as Cupid and Psyche), with its same entwined passion (rather like Frank's picture of couples making out in a public park in Ann Arbor, Michigan).

It was so very good to be away from New Brunswick, but I don't know how to photograph that feeling...

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