Escape from the Prophecy
Many years ago, when I was a girl and had just fallen in love with the boy I was going to marry, I fell asleep one night and dreamed that I was approaching a strange silo-shaped building. Before it, a frail gray man stood smiling. Behind him, on steps that spiraled into the building, bigger-than-life figurative sculptures were mounted, one after the other. Intrigued, I picked one up and found it light as a feather. I asked the old man if he knew whose sculptures these were. He answered, “they’re yours, if you want to claim them.”
Patricia’s Knop’s recounting of this dream epiphany, rich in allusive depth and metaphor, was a guide into her future life as an artist. Continue reading ‘Patricia Knop: Dreams of Flying, in Clay and on Canvas’
Director Haskell Wexler at one of his beloved Eclair CM3s.
Less than three months after releasing a new DVD of Jean Rouch’s and Edgar Morin’s landmark 1961 cinèma verité documentary, Chronicle of a Summer, the film-loving folks over at The Criterion Collection have unleashed standard-def and Blu-Ray DVDs of Haskell Wexler’s 1969 maverick feature, Medium Cool, newly remastered at 4K under the filmmaker’s supervision.
Like Monte Hellman’s Two Lane Blacktop, also re-mastered by Criterion, Medium Cool has been canonized by the National Film Preservation Board’s National Film Registry. Unlike the more accessible youth movie Easy Rider of the same period, these two maverick films have hovered for decades in a low key but persistent way in the center of consciousness of that era’s cultural and political Zeitgeist. Robert Forster’s Chicago TV news cameraman and James Taylor’s rootless “Driver” are bookends of the existentially disengaged man in a time of smoldering discontent, a time soon to erupt in the Wexler film into the chaos of the 1968 Democratic Convention. The election of 1968 yielded Richard Nixon’s Imperial Presidency and with it a polarized youth movement part of which abandoned urban streets for Weather Underground bunkers and another to the Hippie dropouts of America’s back roads and communes hinted at in the Hellman film. Continue reading ‘MEDIUM COOL: “To Preserve Disorder”’
The evening performance had begun quietly enough with Les Sylphides, a ballet set to music of Chopin. Though only four years in the repertoire of Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, it was a reliable crowd-pleaser.
The audience of Parisians filling the orchestra seats, boxes and stalls had every reason to anticipate a conventional program, with leggy ballerinas in tutus and pointe shoes, fantasies of femininity, a world famously rendered in pastel by Edgar Degas.
“Blue Dancers,” Edgar Degas
Formally dressed gentlemen peering through opera glasses looked forward to post-curtain erotic rendezvous with dancers from the corps de ballet: dinner, perhaps followed by late night dalliance. Continue reading ‘“The Rite of Spring” at 100′
Winogrand on Hollywood Blvd near Las Palmas, photo by David Fahey. c. 1982
I don’t have anything to say in any picture. My only interest in photography is to see what something looks like as a photograph. I have no preconceptions.
Los Angeles, 1980-83
If you take Garry Winogrand at his word, you are left with an odd conundrum. If the act of photography is to him essentially a question in search of an answer that is found only in the photographic print—why was he so indifferent to the darkroom, and even odder, so indifferent to seeing what a print from his negatives looked like? The Leica M4 that was his stock in trade was a venerable non-reflex camera; he certainly never had the ability to see the actual image via screen check right after exposure; had he been able to shoot digitally, you have to wonder if he’d have bothered to look —being so eager to get on to that next exposure.
Los Angeles, 1980-83
Continue reading ‘On the Streets: Garry Winogrand at SFMOMA, Part Two’
A billboard on a passing bus announces a major retrospective of America’s greatest photographer of urban life. Above it, riders sit at the windows, caught in a fleeting moment of distraction not unlike those in Winogrand’s own images. In the right corner, a young blond woman looks down at a book, or more likely, this being 2013, her iPhone screen. Another young blond woman, shown on the exhibition ad below, looks in the opposite direction. This fortuitous juxtaposition and the even more unlikely fact of a major museum traveling exhibition of more than 300 of Winogrand’s photographs, almost 30 years after his death—would have seemed both inevitable, and pure happenstance, to the genial yet morose, public yet reclusive, artist.
Los Angeles. c.1980-81.
Continue reading ‘On the Streets: Garry Winogrand at SFMOMA—Part One’
Ever since acquiring the first proof print more than ten years ago of Joe Rosenthal’s iconic photograph of the raising of Old Glory on Iwo Jima’s Mt. Suribachi, Houston Museum of Fine Arts photography curator Anne Wilkes Tucker has been on a mission. It has taken her and colleagues on a worldwide search into collections and archives for photographs of war. The result is a deeply moving and comprehensive exhibition of 165 years of conflict photography, from the 1846 Mexican-American War to June 2012 and the war in Libya.
Vietnam War photojournalist Don McCullin in front of Louie Palu’s portrait of Sgt. Carlos Orjuela.
David Hume Kennerly and Nick Ut at the opening.
Continue reading ‘WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: At the Annenberg Space’
In 2005, a Palestinian farmer named Emad Burnat acquired a cheap consumer video camera. His intention was to record the day-to-day life of his recently born fourth son, Jibril. The rapid growth of his three other sons had given him a keen sense of how quickly childhood is lost in the hardscrabble, rocky hills of his West Bank hometown, Bil’in. About the same time, construction crews under the aegis of the Israeli military (IDF), descended on the perimeter of the town, ripped open the earth, and began construction of a chain link and razor wire fence that bisected the traditional Palestinian farmlands. Beyond the fence and on higher ground overlooking the community olive grove, breakneck construction of multi-story, multi-block housing for new Israeli settlers was underway. One of the earliest scenes in what was to become Burnat’s six-year filmmaking odyssey shows Israeli surveyors with their tripods and theodolites, standing on a rocky but grassy Palestinian hill. A few shots later, a bulldozer uproots and cranes away olive trees from their adjacent valley, like amputating limbs from the villagers’ bodies.
Burnat soon began shooting footage of his and his fellow villager’s non-violent protests against the Israeli land grab, the erection of the illegal fence (and later, of the concrete separation wall that runs through the West Bank). Their non-violent but impassioned demonstrations were routinely broken up by IDF forces, who launched thousand of gas grenades to disperse them. Continue reading ‘FIVE BROKEN CAMERAS: Two Directors Under Fire’
This sculpture from the third millennium B.C. rests on a sunlit ledge in my office. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. It is in my office, but it was carved in the 21st century after Christ, not before —a reproduction of a similar piece that rests in a vitrine in the Classical Greek galleries of the Metropolitan Museum, New York City.
Marble head from figure of a woman, in gallery 151.
When I first saw this Cycladic sculpture and several companion pieces such as this harp player decades ago at the Met—
Harp player, gallery 151.
I was astounded at how modern they were. I thought immediately of the early 20th century Roumanian master, Brancusi, whose work is also on display in the Met, and whose sculptures I knew far better. Continue reading ’82nd & Fifth: The Met Online’
This image appeared above the page one fold in the NY Times Arts and Leisure section on Sunday March 3, 2013.
It is both an amusing and a disturbing mash up graphic: that often debated link between screen violence and real life violence that continues to haunt us. This simple image prompted me to look again at how I, a working cinematographer, consider the violent imagery in movies I photograph.
Love may be the great enduring theme in movies but so is hate, and the spawn of hate is violence. Love and hate are sometimes so inextricably linked in life and movies that any simple parsing eludes us. I think of that great scene of Robert Mitchum in Night of the Hunter when he dramatizes with intertwined fingers the eternal struggle for man’s soul.
Right hand “Love;” left hand “Hate.”
Continue reading ‘Killing Them (Not So) Softly’
The Chinese polymath artist Ai Weiwei was only one year old when his father Ai Quing, a revered poet who had run afoul of government censorship, and his mother, Gao Ying, were forced to leave their home in Beijing. For the next sixteen years, the family lived in the northwestern city of Shihezi in Xinjiang, with Tibet to the south and Mongolia to the north—a kind of internal exile bordering the Gobi desert. They were not allowed to return to Beijing until 1975; three years later, the young Weiwei enrolled in the Beijing Film Academy where two of his fellow students were the director Chen Kaige and cinematographer Gu Changwei. One can only imagine what a cinematic dustup Ai may have created had he become a filmmaker. Instead, he became a multi-faceted artist/provocateur whose works may seem on first viewing to be innocently beautiful—but are, in fact, charged with multiple, metaphoric political messages. Continue reading ‘Ai Weiwei: “According to What?” — “Never Sorry”’