Hi, I'm Mike and I'm back.
You (in chorus): Hi, Mike.
I had a nice vacation. My brother, his wife, and their daughter, my niece, came to visit. It was lovely having them here. But it's a long drive for them.
It mostly rained; naturally. Because when one person takes an unscheduled vacation and a family drives seven hours, it has to rain. The Universe has laws. We all expected it, and nobody was surprised. We ended up mainly just hanging around here.
A few updates:
Anders Petersen book: Have you ever bought a photobook you're just not in the mood for? I received Anders Petersen the other day and I have good news and bad news. The good news is that it's a richly produced book of superbly seen photographs and would be more than a safe buy for anyone interested in the photographer—more likely a must-buy, I would guess. The bad news is that I wasn't in the mood.
It's full of pictures with a particular aesthetic slant: like an unending rain, page after page offers up a grimy, gritty, "unflinching," peering-into-the darkness-with-flash, seamy-underside-of-life look. You know, dead animals, damaged or strange-looking people, pubic hair, tattoos, stark carnality and the frailty and transience of the flesh. The "ugly is cool" and chaos-is-rampant kind of outlook on life that for a long time was much beloved of certain kinds of European magazines.
I had a somewhat dyspeptic subjective reaction.
...Which of course is no fault of the photography. I've definitely appreciated that kind of work in the past, and I'm not averse to it—in many ways it's much more interesting than the kind of photographic sensibility that just goes out and mines the visual world for scenic clichés and fests of color. It has grabbed me at times and I'm not immune to its power.
With a whole beautifully-produced book of this kind of work on my lap, though, Petersen's sensibility struck me (most likely unfairly) as an affectation. I'm sure it's only because a Petersen photograph was used as the cover of the Tom Waits album "Rain Dogs," but his photography struck me the same way Waits' music does—not only noirish because that's the way reality happens to be, but because noir is cool. I mean, c'mon, Tom Waits is a successful musician...I'm sure he could afford a nice tidy three-bedroom tract house in the suburbs and a new mid-level SUV if that's what he wanted. At some point, pork-pie hats, soul patches, and gravelly-voiced songs about low-lifes becomes a choice, doesn't it?
It's a good book: I'm just not "into" its worldview at the moment. So I've put the book on the shelf until its time is ripe; there, it will await future delectation, at some point in time when I can fully resonate with the particular strings it plucks.
The British Are Coming! The British Are Coming! Er, well, one came, anyway. Just this afternoon TOP reader Tom Burke came by for a coffee from Sheffield, in the UK. He lives on the very southernmost border of Yorkshire. He's the first reader to visit TOP Rural Headquarters in 2016 and the first ever, I believe, from Old Blimey. Tom is thoughtful, exceedingly well-informed, articulate, and soft-spoken—which I believe is the only kind of humans they grow in the UK. (It's possible my experience of them is somewhat limited. As we know, all TOP readers are well above average.) He has flagrantly good taste in photography blogs, having been a faithful reader since the early days of "The Sunday Morning Photographer" on Luminous-Landscape.
Tom, who retired a year ago, is in America "swanning around," and he said those of you who are British would know what that means. He left his wife at home—she still works. He brought as a gift a book by Denis Thorpe, for no other reason than he thought Denis is a photographer I should know about. That was nice.
Mid-Priced? Pah: As a P.S.: Remember how numerous readers objected to my characterization of the $3k+ VPI Classic turntable as "mid-priced" in a previous "Open Mike"? Take an inside look at how U-Turn turntables are made, mostly by hand, right here in 'Murrica—Woburn, Massachusetts to be precise. Here's a loaded version—at the expensive end of the range.
You (in chorus): Is that all?
Of course not. More soon!
(Thanks to Tom)
"Open Mike" is the editorial page of TOP. It appears on Sundays.
Original contents copyright 2016 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Stan B.: "I also found the book overwhelming, but for different reasons—though I'd still highly recommend it. Petersen's prints are uniformly contrasty in nature with dramatic, domineering blacks, and most face each other in this book like competing crescendos in a symphony—they're all high drama without a moment's rest to catch one's breath. It's all high notes with little ebb and flow, and after a while, one begins to feel bludgeoned by the sheer intensity and impact of his photos—good as they are! The book has a plethora of images, and it's pure insanity to try and take them in all in one sitting. There's more than enough there for several essays, several books, several lifetimes...."
Mike Plews: "Thanks for the U-turn link. These turntables are both pretty and very reasonably priced. They remind me of the old AR XA turntables, simple and elegant. Made me smile."
David Sculthorpe: "Old Blimey?? Cor blimey, perhaps you meant Old Blighty?"
Mike replies: Just trying to make Ailsa laugh.
robert e: "I'm not convinced that even successful musicians these days could afford the suburban SUV lifestyle. Someone like Beyonce, sure; Tom Waits—a name most people won't recognize—I'm less sure. But your point is taken—he's been too comfortable for too long to write and sing convincingly about the low life. And I'm dismayed that I agree with you, because I also agree with you that the characterization is likely superficial and unfair."
Crabby Umbo: "Unless I'm wrong, I believe Tom Waits lives in California bliss in the upper middle class enclave of Petaluma...not exactly dirty New Jersey...."
Maggie Osterberg: "Re: 'I mean, c'mon, Tom Waits is a successful musician...I'm sure he could afford a nice tidy three-bedroom tract house in the suburbs and a new mid-level SUV if that's what he wanted. At some point, pork-pie hats, soul patches, and gravelly-voiced songs about low-lifes becomes a choice, doesn't it?' You've made the mistake of confusing the artist with the artist's work. I mean, Joel Sartore doesn't live in a zoo or in a lodge built of sticks in the middle of an Amazon tributary, just because he photographs animals. And there's this weird fetish surrounding 'authenticity' with songwriters and musicians that other writers don't have to deal with. No one bags on a novelist that she has a teaching position at a university, even though her books are about growing up in the [insert non-academic setting of your choice here]. Stephen Speilberg is neither a horse, nor was he a soldier in The Great War, yet, he made a picture called 'War Horse' and no one complained about his lifestyle. Tom Waits and his wife, who is also his working and songwriting partner, probably have a lovely house together, where they dream up all the wonderful songs and theatre that goes into Waits' shows."
Mike replies: Fascinating point, and it sounds right. And it's certainly pertinent. Thanks Maggie.