Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lil' Tony

This is a very factual photograph: taken straight on, an expression of its own illegible blankness. Is the restaurant being painted inside? Fumigated? (either is possible; neither would make me any more inclined to eat there as it stands - it's the kind of Highland Park eatery that's given to sticking a signboard on the nearby lamppost reading "pizzas and kebabs.") Yet it's also paradoxically full of reading material: blow the picture up, and one may read all kinds of decontextualized headlines: "She Saved Pal;" "Killer Whale;" " No, We Said Go." However, reading the printed text makes no sense of the situation: it's superfluous writing. And yet - like the material in, say, a Walker Evans photograph of a store window - will it, and even the typeface, end up dating the image, making it not just an image of urban decline or regeneration (depends on whether the store front stays empty, or re-emerges as a 99c hamburger joint, or turns into a tasty Vietnamese eatery promising lots of things with lemongrass and sticky rice [some hope...]). but of a recognizable time and near-but-not-quite New York area?

1 comment:

  1. This is fantastic, Kate! Reminds me of *The Bill Poster's Dream*, in which, while the bills were intended to be read, raises similar questions about legibility given the slumping, sleeping worker in the foreground:
    David Henkin discusses the image and uses a b/w version of this lithograph as the cover to his book *City Reading*. . . .