Members of the State Merited Chorus and the Moranbong Band from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea arrive at a railway station in Beijing. More thoughts on the unsettling ratio of beauty & the dead weight of the state in an earlier post, here, regarding photographs of North Korea by documentary photographer Tomas Van Houtryve. Photo by Jin Liangkuai / CORBIS
Rita Hayworth’s Hollywood Christmas. Photograph by Slim Aarons, 1955. Also, this years edition of For Your Pleasure…, my yearly music roundup, is posted below. Lots of unlikely improbable radness this time around – metal, disco, forgotten new romantics, old punks, singing models, and an unusually high flute quotient. Download & enjoy. Until the new year, then…
Sure, the election hoopla has settled, with the reality based community the world over oscillating between exhilaration and queasy relief. But before we return to our regularly scheduled enthusiasms let’s celebrate an easily overlooked aspect of the the kaleidoscopic nature of American democracy – the polling place. Here in Philadelphia, for instance, you’re as likely to vote in a basement party room, mosque, roller skating rink, private backyard, body shop, or wallpaper store (all above) as a school gymnasium. For documenting these unlikely outposts we have photographer Ryan Donnell to thank. Donnell, a pal, is a savvy, gifted journalistic & commercial photographer based in Philly. Behind the Curtain is his ongoing project documenting the nation’s unlikely polling places. He’s covered Philly and Chicago and just completed a swath of Los Angeles as well. Take a gander, here … and check out the balance of Donnell’s work, here.
Holy cow… these landscape photographs by Kim Keever seem to indicate he’s in possession of the Genesis Device, the terraforming rocket fired off in Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan. They’re like Hudson River School paintings submerged in a lava lamp… and, they’re all composed in 200 gallon fishtanks, thusly, below. Aces. More on Keever here, and here.
This is a weird one, or at least it seems so at the moment. I was checking back in on the work of German photographer Michael Magin the other day. What I love about Magin, who works under the rubric Zeitautomatk, is his gift for framing natural and architectural forms in stark graphic compositions. Color, contrast, negative space, and abstraction are tools that, in his best work, reveal new things about the essential topography of archetypical forms – the female nude, nature, atmospheric vistas, and architectural structures.
In any case, this time, as I looked at his work, certain photos seemed to echo something familiar. After a bit of noggin racking I had it – Andrew Wyeth, specifically, his paintings and studies of his neighbor, German-born Helga Testorf.
Flipping through a Wyeth survey, I found convergence after convergence, echo after echo of poses, gestures, textures, moods, compositions. The weird thing? It’s not exactly clear that these are homages by Magin. The photos are amidst a series with a very different aesthetic agenda, ordered primarily by color tone. The ones that most strongly evoke Wyeth occur randomly in the series. But still, it seems so deliberate. She was German, he’s German… Then there’s the tree… a near twin of the tree from Wyeth’s Four Seasons portfolio.
That what is so intriguing to me, not knowing what’s going on here. I’ve thought about emailing Magin directly. I may, but not just yet. Not knowing keeps this convergence alive, the echos never settling or fading, just pinging back and forth, kept in play by uncertainty.
A little late to the Vivian Maier party, which is fitting, considering Maier never made it to her party either – in fact, knowing her, she probably wouldn’t have gone if she could… Anyhoo – what’s the fuss? It’s that Maier’s photography was discovered in a thrift auction cache a couple of years ago, some 100,000 shots, most not even processed. What scenes! Masterful, poignant and supremely artful street photography, moments equal to and anticipating Eggleston, Winograd, etc… just moldering away in a storage locker on the South Side of Chicago.
Came across her the other day in Slate’s new photo blog, Behold. Besides the sheer impact of the photos, it’s also a nourishing lesson and reminder to anyone who works at making art – that while the desire to show, share and be recognized is a powerful one, the vast share of the satisfaction comes from the privilege of doing.
Amazing! So much purposeful human striving packed into one single frame – the bustling boogie woogie rhythms of daily life…
A fitting intersection, then, for our beloved space shuttle to cross – born of and built by the same energy and industry that powers the streets below. It’s endearing how much affection that ungainly piggyback elicits. The future was not the sleek finned swooped darts envisioned by Alex Raymond or Chesley Bonestell. The future was function begetting form – a spacecraft that looks as it must, to do what it needs to do, more Jeep than Jaguar.
Guided by technology contemporaneous with Centipede, Donkey Kong & Tempest, it broadened the perimeter of our everyday reach out into the edge of space. Because that’s the thing about the shuttle missions… they weren’t shots into the unknown, like Sir Richard Burton setting off to find the source of the Nile, or the Apollo Missions to the moon. They were meant to explore and colonize a frontier, like prospectors setting out westward to California to pan for gold, bend the direction of rivers, to make rockets and movies in the desert.
It’s why the spirit of Hedy Lamarr floats above this scene like a patron saint – a gifted, glamorous actress who, in her spare time, invented new kind of guidance system for torpedos to better fight the Nazis.
This photograph is a profound hymn to Los Angeles and the idea of California. Los Angeles will always be the most American of cities, defined by the lure of ambition and the blank canvas of possibility rather than the grids of Paris or London. Where hidden in the anonymity of deserts and stripmalls someone is manipulating the genome, making planes invisible, or writing Tootie’s dialog for an upcoming episode of Yo Gabba Gabba.
It’s where a young Gene Roddenberry would begin to write a series of TV scripts that used science fiction as a vehicle not only to boldly go where no man had gone before, but to explore the frontiers of the human condition – to muse on love, faith, friendship, and art.
It is no accident that the first space shuttle was called The Enterprise.
[Photograph by Stephen C. Confer]
On the Oswego River in the bewitching New Jersey Pine Barrens, late September…
Hot damn. Everything works here, everything – the framing, the tint, the grain… From a recent New York Magazine piece on Bernadette Peters. The shot is by Pari Dukovic, a young-ish, RIT trained Turkish photographer. More of his excellent work, here.
Reader! Visitor! Information collecting robotic code spider! And, dare I say, friend!?: An announcement: We’re keeping summer hours ’round here ’till Labor Day. Or, more accurately, adopting a intermittent, drinks on the porch, as the mood strikes publishing schedule. Do continue to stop by, new work and occasional enthusiasms will pop up here and there. If you’re here for the first time, help yourselves to anything. Daily-ish posts resume in earnest September 1st.
Room 125, Westbank Motel, Idaho Falls, Idaho, July 18, 1973, Stephen Shore