Thursday, August 15, 2013

The View from Here: On the Snapshot Part 1

It's the personal snapshot I'm going to dwell on. Not the intriguing, or ironic, or unexpectedly fascinating, no. Only the picture whose sole purpose is to remind and reawaken, provokes this inqiry.

The availability of inexpensive cameras and better film in the mid twentieth century, left many Americans with plentiful, usually colorful, paper totems of memory never intended for any other purpose than the personal document. Some artists explore the personal, casual and intimate photo as their theme, but I refer to the unintentionally ordinary.

 And to how they resonate and evoke beyond their appearance, beyond just the trap of the visual. Unbound by concerns of form and freed of trends, our snapshot albums let us do a little time travel, and the veneer of style peels away with laughter at our confidence and comfort among the hilariously outdated. It's one of the pleasures of time travel in the shoebox. As great art, they fail - all, but retain their unmistakable grip, molding our memories and charming us with the light and shadow of a vanished world.

These casual snapshots are the dual of my striving as an artist, and examining their meaning is like trying to see the back of my own head, so woven into my mind's fabric of self have they become. Its an inquiry of words. I wont need to mix color on a palette

Friday, August 9, 2013

Matsushige's 17

If I could just let it go, forget about that picture.

Aug 6 2013

As usual, I try to distingish the importance of this morning's essences. As usual, around 8 oclock, I peer outside into the bright eastern morning and sparkling currents of the river below, reconfiguring what I see to another location and time. Then, at 8:15, the required moment, I'll note it all before my eyes, the angle of the sun across roofs, New York's own awakening. I'll compare the similarities and dismiss the differences quickly. Its an annual ritual. Then later, as usual, I'll linger and scrutinize the forms and shades of the bridge embankments of Manhattan, looking odd I guess,  even odder than usual, as I stare at what, to others, is nothing at all, but project on these ordinary, urban, functional and gray angles, an emotional echo. August 6. Its a strange personal ritual I share with very few, if anyone else at all, I imagine. As usual, I'll quietly, futiley tell myself to bring my camera there  sometime one August 6th, to the Manhattan embankments with their thick railings, to start an art project to mimic or re-enact...that picture... that is seared into my soul, as though my familiar Manhattan surroundings were Miyuki bridge. As though I was Matsushige- the person who made that picture. Or maybe someone else, some lower ranked Military photographer who might have recorded a few on that day too, maybe hidden away even now, forgotten somewhere in a Hiroshima warehouse. As usual, I'll shake my head wondering why I'm so regular in my thinking about these matters around August 6th. That day.That picture.

Dreadful anxieties about annilation flow from that picture.That smudgey, rectangle of distant fires, broken windows and burned victims seems like a detailed imprint not only  from the past, but of a possible, awful future too. I grew up in the 1960's, and vividly remember sitting in a school hallway, shoulder to shoulder with my class, ducking and practicing, molding ourselfs to a suitable position which might better resist the impact of a Hydrogen bomb. One morning an odd picture appeared in the lobby of my family's apartment building. That toxic looking, yellow and black fallout shelter icon, directing us to an imagined safety.

During World War II,Yoshito Matsushige was working in Hiroshima as a photographer for the local newspaper. Soon after the atomic explosion, he had the presence of mind to dig out his camera from under the debris of his home, as well as two rolls of film - 24 possible pictures. And at the end of the day, 17 potential shots remained blank.