The extra winter issue of this lifestyle/fashion photography-oriented magazine features part of my House Parties series as an editorial. The subtitle: New Symbols for a New Age hopefully puts a new public on the right track in looking not just for appearances, but for intentions and possible meanings. The fin-de-siècle mid-1990’s dance scene in the Netherlands, as shown in these pictures is still visibly an indicator of the changes of an increasingly urbanized population looking for new ways of expression for their common feelings in spite of all cultural and social differences. Values and traditional roles are challenged and tested out, while the relentless beats of the new music never stop. Somehow I felt like it would always be 1996….
….”We can’t be looking at the same things, can we…. We’re all on our own….
Do we know what an empty room looks like ?….
David Hockney (about his Yorkshire landscape paintings).
Two more of Garry Winogrand’s quick (and often funny) remarks. I had not heard these before, and think they are too good to miss.
When he was photographing on the streets with a photographer friend (as he sometimes seems to have done), a lady suddenly notices them and says loudly and with clear irritation, “O, look, shutterbugs!” Garry looks at her, answering “Yeah, and what are you, DDT?….”
Garry Winogrand had his own “subtle” way of showing his disinterest in questions about rules in photography or how-to kind of questions. He once said: there is actually ONE rule in photography, now I come to think of it …. NEVER DROP YOUR CAMERA ….
Lisette Model (who also taught Diane Arbus) talks to Eugenia Parry about her photography students: [….] “Most of them were lazy. They photographed superficially.[….] When they hung work for me to look at, I said they all had one thing in common – MEDIOCRITY. [….] I wasn’t interested in tricks or technical perfection. I explored fear. I knew a hell of a lot about that. [….] Respond to the impact of what’s coming toward you. That’s what leads you. You don’t make the pictures. They arrive. They make themselves.”
(from a narrative autobiography “Spitting into the Mirror” ©2009, Steidl, Göttingen/©2009 Lisette Model Foundation, New York/©2009 Eugenia Parry
“I want to photograph the considerable ceremonies of our present because we tend while living here and now to perceive only what is random and barren and formless about it.
While we regret that the present is not like the past and despair of its ever becoming the future, its innumerable inscrutable habits lie in wait for their meaning.” [….]
Diane Arbus, start of 1963 Guggenheim Grant proposal.
It was January 1970 when suddenly I felt like doing something very seventyish (and that’s what is still feels like). I guess it’s because technical development such as calculating complex lens systems by using computers became available. The dawning of drugs driven hippie awareness and the need to express accompanying new visual and mental states hitherto unknown somehow helped a great deal in introducing that new phenomenon: the fisheye. I did not really need one, but was eager to explore its possibilities. So I bought one I could afford; it wasn’t very sharp, but did “the magic”.
Thinking back I recently tried to remember what I used it for. I only remembered a few subjects and in fact no remaining results. So I looked it up in my old negatives. And there it was: believe it or not, the first thing I did was a funeral. Although I was serious about it, I felt uneasy using it, because of all the attention I was getting. The results were eerie, the funeral looked like some incomprehensible happening with extraterrestrians swarming around. Then I photographed caravans near a football stadium: more ET-activities and distorted faces. Then a series of nudes, which turned out more acceptable since that subject historically has had its share of distortion (Kertész, Brandt), offering a way to accentuate shapes and spaces. Fortunately the negatives I have made in London during that period, as well as the Kralingen (Rotterdam) Popfestival are without the fisheye, as are a large series of French gypsies. Some fisheye pictures of architecture, a few sparse portraits and some nature/landscape experiments were the last results before the fiseye was ultimately forgotten. I sold it soon afterwards…
“Their questions made me too aware of a thousand certainties I never possessed: sound visual training, perseverance, hard work in the darkroom, thousands of great, technically perfect photographs spanning a lifetime. That’s what Americans admire. Of the 25,000 negatives I shot (another fact I concealed), the few hundred pictures I call good are a drop in the bucket.”
Lisette Model (Diane Arbus’ teacher) , being interviewed about being interviewed, Eugenia Parry: “Shooting off my mouth – Spitting into the mirror” ed. Steidl ©2009 Göttingen, Germany.
Overheard this on a train. A boy tells his friends, students by the looks of them, who are taking pictures of each other with their cellphones: I bought a camera with lots of pixels and a very good lens, showed it to my younger brother. He asks me “has it got internet”, so I say no. He goes on “so how much you paid for it”. I say seven hundred. My brother looks at me like I’m an idiot and shouts “seven hundred and no internet?! Can you play games on it?” So I look at him and tell him, no you can’t play games on it, it’s a camera! He walks away as he mumbles “he pays seven hundred no less and it doesn’t even have games…”
Looking back on the year 2011 I remember all that moved the world, revolutions and wars in the Arab world, and the west that couldn’t believe its eyes, hesitant at first, confronted with what it saw as being so “western”: a secular mass movement demanding democracy, spilling over from one country to the next, Tunesia, Egypt, Lybia, which next…Seeing and hearing their brave and fair demands did more for understanding and sympathy than many years of th so-called multi-cultural society have achieved so far.
Then there were natural disasters, terrorism, the economic crisis. There were demonstrations over here too, especially in Amsterdam. I went to a Spanish demonstration, students who realized there was hardly any future in their home country with no jobs for more than 1/3 of young people and numbers rising whilst the country remained deep in debt, its Mediterranean coast lined with empty white hotels. I photographed those proud young people full of life, and the girl behind the banner, with the white flower in her hair, aware of her act and visibly enjoying every moment of the comradeship and common goal. I kept hearing vague memories of songs from the Spanish civil war and Charlie Haden’s plaintive bass lines with the Liberation Music Orchestra.
The second image that still stays with me is from another demonstration, supporting the people on Tahrir Square, Cairo. I was photographing an Egyptian family in Amsterdam and concentrated on an older couple. The woman was not looking at the men, who were waving an Egyptian flag, but at the baby in the pram she held. Amidst all the noise and shouting I could not hear what she muttered, but I tried to understand, because she cried. Then I suddenly heard what she said: “Misr habibi….Misr habibi” – my dear Egypt.
“Photography is now more than a century and a half old, and on most days its tradition still seems woven of ignorance and incoherence. Its most revered practitioners, even in the twentieth century, seem to have appeared spontaneously, as volunteers, from no known seed, and to have produced their work merely out of talent, intelligence, and will. But this is surely an illusion. Photographers are marked as deeply as painters or poets by work that startles them to high attention, even if that work comes to them without a name or a formal introduction. [….] Perhaps the relative simplicity and transparency of photographic craft helps disguise the process by which photographers learn from their predecessors.”
John Szarkowski: “Atget” ©2000 MoMa, New York