I hope you won't read this as some big pronouncement or hard-and-fast claim. It might constitute an assertion, of sorts, but I'm not making the assertion aggressively, at all. It's more in the nature of musing—turning ideas over in my mind—.
My thought is that the Caponigros' print will be the only one of our print sales with lasting photo-historical significance.
It has such a clear story. I see it as a future microcosm of 2013—I'll bet even the printing style will one day be recognizably characteristic of the present era. And its status as a rare collaborative work of two well-known photographers who happen to be father and son will never lose interest.
That can't be more than a guess.
My only puzzlement is how to frame mine...and where to put it. Where to put it so I can get to know it.
But I promised to tell the story of my poster.
Many years ago, when I first got bitten (hard) by the photography bug, I was moonlighting part-time in a frame shop. One of the other employees, whom I've long since lost track of, was a talented but impoverished painter. During one of the dead times at the shop he and I were shooting the breeze about our favorite artwork on the walls. "That's the only thing in here that's worth a damn," he said, pointing to this poster.
Curiously, I'd never even noticed it before. It was so visually "quiet" amidst all the louder, more "attention-seeking" work on the walls. I looked at it long and hard that day, wondering what my co-worker saw in it.
It didn't sell; which meant it stayed on the wall, while the "Hang In There Baby!" cat and a certain Fred Maroon photo of Georgetown in the snow flew out of the store, replenished again and again. (This happened back in D.C., where I lived for many years.) I found myself looking at it day after day, and, as I did, it began to grow on me. I began to find a sort of peace and nourishment in the simple forms, the delicate tones, the way the stones mutely conjured a mysterious bygone world. Eventually it was like it was the only poster on the shop walls, the only one I saw; it was the only one I wanted to look at.
At the end of a month or so, I found myself one day walking the two miles between home and the shop, deep in thought, probably feeling sorry for myself for having to work all evening after already working an eight-hour day. But one good thing I could look forward to, I thought, was that at least I could visit "my" poster yet again. Then the thought flashed across my mind—if no one's bought it!
I put a down payment on it that day; I think it took me another thirty days to finish paying for it. I lived in a run-down group house at the time, and I painted my room there at my own expense, picking the color entirely to show off the poster. That would have been about 32 years ago now. (It even looked good in moonlight.)
The poster taught me a lesson, too. That many photographs (many advertising images, for instance) are deliberately intended to catch the eye and provide immediate gratification—but their appeal is often quickly exhausted; and some of the best photographs grow on you slowly , and yet continue to reward long familiarity. I still like photographs that have staying power, and it's something I look for in photographs.
Some music is the same way. I'm sure you know of catchy ditties that you loved on first hearing but soon got sick of, and other music that you almost didn't hear at first but have grown to love, and can return to again and again.
The other thing is did is that it introduced me to the work of Paul Caponigro, whose work in books I soon became very familiar with. Unfortunately, I've never seen a show of Paul's original prints, but I did see a few originals when I published a portfolio of his work in one of the magazines I worked for. Maybe one day I'll finally catch up with one of his shows.
There's always something to look forward to in photography.
And oddly enough, when I had my bedroom painted a few weeks ago, I once again chose the color specifically to set off this poster, just like I did in that grimy group house 32 years ago.
(Thanks to MM)
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Featured Comments from:
Steve D: "Thank you for this. It's timely for me. I'm in my third year of taking photographs (as something other than mere snapshots) and I've noticed that the images I return to again and again are not what I would have 'expected' to gravitate to when I started out. They are not flashy or particularly eye catching but they've 'got me.' I've been trying to verbalize the 'why' of my feelings but it simply escapes me. I like them on an almost primal level and that's that I suppose."
Robert Billings: "I too have a Paul Caponigro poster that has been with me wherever I have lived since the early 1970s. 'Running White Deer, Ireland 1967.'"