Man Ray was the photographer who made me want to be a photographer when I was a 15 year old who had just enrolled in Photography and was trying to make sense of my grandmother’s well-worn Olympus. I think I liked him so instantly because his work seems exotic and intangible when you’re 15 and wishing you were anywhere but where you are (sorry, Omaha in the late 90s). Surrealism is a good place to camp out when reality is SO EXHAUSTING and I think most 15 year olds can identify with the need for escapism.
I’m not sure if this was the exact image that made this click in my brain, but I definitely tried to replicate it the minute I found a friend with an accordion, just as I tried to make increasingly complicated photograms as soon as I convinced my mom our laundry room needed to be a darkroom and she relieved a friend of her barely-used enlarger.
Thank you so much for reading my blogs the past few months. You can view my photos at gvbq.org, you can read my writing most months in the Artseen section of the Brooklyn Rail, and you can find me wandering around New York with a Nikon (until I hit the lotto and finally get that Leica S2)(unless you have an S2 you aren’t using)(please send it to me)(thanks).
Gail Victoria Braddock Quagliata
Estelle Hanania has a brilliant series of images from Purim she took in one of London’s largest Hasidic communities. I found the work fascinating because I’ve lived in Williamsburg for about 6 years and I still find it nearly impossible not to gawk at the strict religious community plunked smack in the midst of our own silly hipster epicenter – and in my nearly 9 years in New York City I have rarely found myself with the balls to point my camera at a Hasidic person, even one in festive masquerade costume, out of some weird respect for the odd, unspoken division drawn between their lifestyle and mine… in spite of the fact that we’re neighbors all. That and the fact that I personally always feel weird photographing kids, because you never know if their parents will decide you’re some kind of perv and flip out on you.
Anyway, Hanania DID have the balls to photograph these children and this community, and her images are glorious and maybe just slightly peculiar.
It’s easy to get old and crotchety and cynical when you’re a. actually rather comparatively old (because you spend most of your time on a college campus and the rest of your time student teaching in an elementary school) and/or b. running on very little sleep and surrounded by peppy kids who think they’ve got these amazing, transgressive, fresh artistic ideas, but you’re too tired to be anything but a surly postmodernist. I recently came across this post by Martin Parr on photographic clichés and it hammered home for me why I love this man and why I find myself so frequently wanting to poke out my own eyeballs when I look at the photographic work that is supposed to be super-cool and interesting today. If you can’t be bothered to click on things, Parr basically states that our magical field is becoming predictable (and even tosses himself in among the guilty) and mentions the new tropes pervading photography, from format – formal portraiture (“smiling is banned… a tripod is also a prerequisite for this method of shooting.”) and long landscapes – to tone, “I am a poet”, etc.
The point is, Martin Parr can do whatever he wants because he is funny (and I happen to love his work, but that isn’t the point). You can hate his work, hate his face, hate Magnum, British people, ring flashes, and every man ever named Martin, but you can’t refute that he’s RIGHT about this.
So let’s look at some of his nice pictures of very rich people in Switzerland, shall we?