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Sunday, 28 April 2019


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My 2 cents. A photograph is a collection of light bouncing off something, usually but not always going through a lens system, to be captured by a sensor (which might be film or digital). In the digital world it is manipulated by software and displayed (at first) on a computer screen. In the film world it is manipulated by chemicals and more light. It might or might not resemble what a human would see. The photograph itself has zero meaning, it's the humans that look at it that imbue it with meaning. Trying to determine the photographer's intent or intended meaning is a mug's game.

This relates to one of Winogrand’s most famous quotes, one that resonates with me: “I photograph to see what something looks like photographed” (that ironically, as the new documentary mentions, is not something he did much of after leaving New York).

I owned a 1965 D-21 and a 1975 D-35. Two really undistinguished guitars I’ve owned. Martin was building so many guitars during that span that it was harder to find a good instrument than one with problems. The value of that instrument is certainly tied to the previous owner. Not unlike vintage cameras, perhaps?

Knowing—or not knowing—the provenance of the guitar isn't that important. It's an excellent photograph of a beautiful guitar capable of making lovely music in the right hands. The photograph conveys that possibility.

Adds to my appreciation of Wish You Were Here

Describe? You betcha Red Ryder. A photo is actual (existing or occurring at the time). Doesn't matter if it's a catalog shot, news or a portrait photo—it's what was in front of the lens at the instant the button was pushed.

Most photos have no significance. A portrait of someone I do not know tells me nothing—not about the person and not why it is being shown to me. Most photos are meaningless without captions telling the story.

Gary Winogrand’s definition/description of photography is amusing considering that many of his pictures are wonderfully surreal.

I watched the documentary a second time, and consistent with Keith’s comment, Winogrand says (at 30:20) that “all a photograph describes is light on surface... that’s all there is... that’s all we see.”

In 1974 I sold my Gibson Hummingbird guitar and bought a new Martin D35. I had it until last year when I finally sold all my guitars because, sadly, I have been unable to play them for more than a decade due to severe arthritis involving my fingers. It was a beautiful guitar with beautiful tone, but not as much fun to play as the Hummingbird. I had lusted after a Martin for a long time, but after I bought it I felt the same way I did years later when I bought a Leica M6 and lenses, but didn't end up liking it as much as my Olympus OM gear.

I played it and sang several songs for my wife at our wedding in 1976--"Something in the Way She Moves" by James Taylor, and "Here, There, and Everywhere" by you know who. I have photos of myself playing those songs in which I can be seen wearing a tuxedo with tails that was cream colored with brown trim! Ah yes, the 70's.

I got what I thought was a fair amount of money for it when I sold it, but when I plugged the numbers in one of those online inflation calculators it showed that I had basically just kept up with inflation, and got the same money back as I put into it 35 years ago, plus I got to use it "for free" in the intervening years. Not being able to play guitar due to arthritis has been a hard adjustment for me--I still really miss it. I will hear some music on the radio and think "I can play that!" but, alas, I no longer can. So, that's what the photograph cued for me.

@hugh crawford

I'm so pleased that you mentioned Matt Umanov. I lived on or near Bleecker St. for most of my life, and I bought my first-ever guitar from him in 1994. I still have it. (Pete Seeger played it once. It doesn't have much else to recommend it.) This year, I bought an electric guitar from Matt over the web, and we struck up a little email conversation.

When I sent him a photo of my 8-year-old son playing that aforementioned first guitar, he responded with a diptych of him and his tiny son playing guitar together, with the son and *his* son playing guitar together — and the two halves of the diptych looked almost identical, though you could tell they were from different eras of photography. Although a "mere" family snapshot, it was a finely observed piece of photo work. I appreciated it and I told him so.

Mike, the guitar is very much a sign for rock and roll and all that that implies (think of Hendrix and Prince's use of it as a phallic symbol). It is because the guitar already serves as a cultural sign that the Gilmore guitar can fetch tens (hundred's?) of thousands of dollars. The price doesn't reflect its intrinsic value; D35s are not especially rare objects. The extrinsic value is directly related to the guitar's status as a cultural symbol - i.e. a highly conventional sign.

It will be a sad day when Mike Campbell's guitars go up on the auction block and are consigned to a life of non-sound: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6g58e4

Guitar lovers should get a kick out of it.

Wish you were here is still one of my favourite songs of all time. Never ceases to move me.

In this video you can see Gilmour playing the initial notes of the song with the famous guitar in his studio.

The interviewer is bad, but Gilmour is great, no-nonsense, straight. The interview is part of a series with all band members about Syd Barrett:


The April 29th New Yorker has a photograph which is both expressive and descriptive.

Heading a piece by James Lasdun titled "Glow. Chasing the aurora borealis" is a photograph by Joakim Eskildsen.

The aurora often looks better in photographs. A camera on a tripod, set for a five-second exposuire, takes in far more light than the human eye does when it looks at something, and consequently it produces a more vivid image.

Thank you, Mike, for linking me to a video I can't access!

If I were a dog I'd bite your ankle. Hard. And deeply. Well, to the bone.



I find Winogrand's definition of a photograph to be incredibly dense: "a photograph is...the illusion of a literal description of how a camera saw a piece of time and space."

A photograph is an illusion. An illusion of a description. Not real. A mirage. A deception. A pretense.

A photograph is not an actual, or real, or definitive, or absolute literal description. It is the illusion of those things - but it is not those things. It's smoke and mirrors. A sleight of hand. A snooker shot. A curve ball or sinker. It looks like one thing, then becomes another - sort of.

You're not looking at a young, mixed race couple carrying two chimpanzees in the zoo. It is an illusion of a description of what existed - and not existed. Who knows what the reality of that event may have been?

Even "fact-based" documents like the guitar photograph is misleading. How does one know for an absolute fact that the guitar in the photograph is the ONE? There is nothing within the frame to prove that. There is no evidence in the photograph to establish all the details the article attaches to that instrument.

Walker Evans may have said it best:

Interviewer: “Do you think it’s possible for the camera to lie?”
Walker Evans: “It certainly is. It almost always does.”

I'd remove the qualification.

Why? Because a photograph is an illusion. Of a literal description. Of how a CAMERA sees. A piece. Of TIME and SPACE.

I'd stopped posting comments here until I saw Hugh Crawford's comment that "..my wife bought a car from someone stopped at a red light in NYC. We were standing on a corner in SoHo and I said how much I loved Volvo station wagons, and one with a for sale sign stopped in front of where we were standing. NYC is like that."

On my first visit to NYC (1984?) from England I brought a little Aiwa pocket tape recorder, to record the sounds of New York for my son. I was on 23rd St. In the far, far distance I heard the wail of a police or fire wagon, so I switched on the recorder. The siren came closer, closer, then the fire truck turned into 23rd St and stopped right in front of me! There was a fire inside that building!

Yes, "..NYC is like that."

I'll echo that. This blog is a treasure.
Especially so for 'men who respond to good, clear "undesigned" forms'.


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