Gone Fishin': I hate leaving TOP alone for as much as a day, much less a week, but I'm taking some time off to recharge my batteries and, cliché of clichés, work on my novel. I've given myself a deadline of one year to finish my attempt at a thriller, and, despite being a preposterously front-loaded work project with a ludicrously low prospect of ever paying off, I've decided to do it, just for the experience. Like seeing the Grand Canyon. Which I have also never done, unless seeing it from 28,000 feet on the way to L.A. counts.
It's possible that when I get to the second draft I'll post it here, chapter by chapter, so I can get feedback. (That presumes I'll get the first draft draft done, though, which is a big presumption. As we used to say when I was a kid, don't hold your breath or you'll turn blue and die.)
So, anyway, TOP will be quiet for a week. But, like some sort of Socialist-Internationalist-Environmentalist* MacArthur**, "I shall return."
Note that comments will not be posted in the interim. I have to go cold turkey, albeit temporarily.
Vanessa Winship: Regular readers might recall that Vanessa Winship is one of my favorite contemporary photographers (based mainly on her book Schwarzes Meer [Black Sea], which still can't be purchased in the U.S. but is now available in the U.K. and can mostly be seen online [see "Black Sea: Between Chronicle and Fiction" parts 1 and 2]). Amazingly, she's having her very first U.S. show in the city right next door to me, Milwaukee, at Deb Brehmer's Portrait Society gallery. The opening is on Friday, July 23rd, from 6 to 9 p.m. I understand Vanessa will not be there, although she might come for a visit during the run of the show.
The Portrait Society is located in Milwaukee’s Third Ward on the fifth floor of the Marshall Building, 207 E. Buffalo Street, Milwaukee, Wis., 53202. Call 414/870-9930 for information, or see the gallery's blog.
Also opening the same night is John Shimon and Julie Lindemann's "Real Photo Postcard Survey." I don't really know a great deal about this interesting pair of artistic collaborators, but I own, and like, their quirky, thoughtful little book of portraiture, Unmasked and Anonymous (available in the U.S. and in the U.K.).
BP Propaganda: AmericaBlog has been following the dispiriting but oddly entertaining saga of BP's hamhanded attempts to create plausible propaganda photographs to illustrate its narrative of the "American Chernobyl" it created in the Gulf of Mexico. I could do a better job of Photoshop than this, and I'm no good at all with photo illustration techniques.
Quick, how many submarines in Idaho? Did you know Stan Banos got an Amex Grant?
Phil Davis online: Fred Newman, who is truly a nice man, has put up a small portfolio by our late mutual friend Phil Davis, of a selection of the environmental portraits Phil did in and around the town of Dexter, Michigan, mostly in the '70s. Phil was mainly known as an educator, textbook author, and the developer of Beyond the Zone System, which takes Ansel Adams and Fred Archer's fairly crude Zone System to a much more rigorous level as sensitometry. But he was also quite a talented and certainly an accomplished photographer, a fact that is too little known because his philosophical stance was that the pleasure in photography was in the process rather than the result. His commercial advertising photographs of Detroit automobiles from the 1950s and 1960s were wonderful.
Quite coincidentally, as a professor of photography at the University of Michigan he taught Peter and David Turnley.
Piff Paff Puff: I saw a really nice little movie a few nights ago, streamed from Netflix. The title in English is "Everlasting Moments," a phrase which refers to photographs. Photography plays a very prominent part in the story, although it's really a feminist film in the best sense. It recounts the true story told by Maja Larsson, an elderly and distant relative of the director, about her parents, especially her mother, Maria, who, despite heavy domestic responsibilities and an abusive husband, attempted to "find herself" as both a creative and an independent individual by learning and practicing photography.
Stories that are true can have a bracing effect on movies, because reality is a bad writer. Revenge is never quite satisfying, bad characters have their good sides, longed-for events never come about, characters persist in not doing what we can very plainly see they should do, latent romances are never fulfilled, and the wrong people die in the end. Any screenwriter worth his union card wouldn't have been able to resist torquing this story around into sentimentalist piffle. Reality insists on throwing wrench after wrench into the plotline. It keeps the film from falling into formula, gives the narrative a useful awkwardness. I like that.
"Everlasting Moments" (the original title is "Maria Larssons eviga ögonblick") is a 2008 film by the Swedish director Jan Troell, in Swedish, with subtitles. It will seem European to people used to Hollywood—especially Hollywood lately. One internet troglodyte I encountered called it a "mopefest," which presumably means that although it has explosions, carnality, and violence against women, it doesn't have enough explosions, carnality, and violence against women. It does indeed move at a slowish pace, though, and takes time to linger on the purely photographically beautiful, which many directors would dare not do these days. The film was shot on 16mm converted to 35mm to heighten the period feeling, but I think it adds to the photographic interest of the cinematography.
Anyway, assuming you typically don't lack patience for langorously-paced movies with subtitles, warmly recommended. It would probably make most anybody's list of the top ten movies about photography or for photographers.
Addie and Mose, one more time: And finally, speaking of cinematography...purely on a whim, I watched Peter Bogdanovitch's "Paper Moon" again last night. It remains a curious movie, a genre-bender, but I've always liked the fact that it is sentimental, humorous, lyrical, and elegiac while at the same time remaining resolutely amoral. (Such a movie today might be the opposite—harder, more bitter, much more graphic, but sanctimonious.) The combination is just as odd—and as oddly satisfying—as it ever was. A highly structured meander, it never resolves half its story lines, never relinquishes its McGuffins (we never do find out for sure whether Addie is Mose's illegitimate child), and never implies a well-adjusted transition to adulthood in store for Addie, who is, really, a harder criminal at nine than her guardian has the stones to be.
It's also as amazing as it ever was to see an entire movie carried by the virtuoso acting performance of such a young child. To this day Tatum O'Neal remains the youngest-ever winner of a major acting Oscar—and one of the most deserving.
(If you want to read more, there's an informative review at DVD Verdict—although, naturally, it talks about the no-longer-current Paramount DVD.)
I might insert something here like "I wish they still made movies like this," but of course they never did. Even Bogdanovitch's other movies most like this one—"The Last Picture Show" and his attempted reprise with the O'Neals, "Nickelodeon"—are nothing like it.
The reason for photographers to watch it? For the cinematography of the great László Kovács. (Himself the subject of a movie I want to see, called "No Subtitles Necessary.") Although a trifle overlit in spots—possibly the result of the director's intent to mimic the look of real '30s films—generally it is coolly elegant, influenced more by Dorothea Lange and the FSA than by the excesses of film noire. If you have any fondness for the great American interior or harbor any nostalgia for the 1930s, "Paper Moon" is surely one of the prettiest movies ever put on film.
See you in a week, and thank you for reading my site.
(Thanks to Oren Grad, Bob Burnett, and Art Elkon)
*John Camp's fond (?) epithet for me.
**Only without the shades, cool hat, and corncob pipe.
Send this post to a friend
Note: Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site. More...
Original contents copyright 2010 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.