In those irregular opening-ups of space and sky in midtown winter’s pall is heavy on the building tops and piling thick and brown and ominous on the horizon of 5th ave looking north and glowing like a theater set gorgeous with the low sun looking south all of it revealing not aggrandizing but outlining true the immensity of this city the girdles of glass and steel wrapping the spindles of iron and stone saw-toothing the horizon above the avenues and streets stretched into the haze of an old Dutch master and below even the ground belches and shakes and spews its own breaths of chthonic redolence and amongst this most noticeable of all are the small silhouettes of coats and hats moving without waver or end or start for that matter lighting cigarettes turning abrupt to and fro zig and zag talking loud and quiet hello goodbye shifting and rattling and pounding and grabbing and hunching lots of hunching the afraid and the more afraid the greed the hate the hope all in a dance that is based equally on reason as on unreasonableness but for all the affronting of this place this place where love is rare bears neither question nor answer neither opposition nor allegiance in itself but simply is and simply functions so floating in and out of it and realizing it as spectacle or machine or necessity doesn’t matter at all but what does count is the lone and the summation of individuals struggles and remnants that remain in the guts heart minds of people at any given instant amidst the confrontation of it all with this place I suppose.
In case you haven’t been, you can see more of the NYC Journal on my portfolio page.
W. Eugene Smith (w/ Magnum) is one of the outstanding old guards of photojournalism. Many know him for his seminal project on Pittsburgh – which I’ve heard incredible stories behind of endless work and obsession and amphetamines – but maybe they’re just that, stories – I don’t know. But mostly I go to Smith’s work to see his printing, b/c it’s expressive and dramatic and necessary for the total effect of the images. This is something common place today in photojournalism, but I don’t believe it was so when Smith was doing it. In the case of Smith’s work it is something that takes a good picture and turns it into a great picture…a narrative, an idea, a dream-scape.
Julian Tulip is a singer+song writer. He’s also brilliant, crazy, and a firm believer in conspiracies.
It’s been hard lately to find the time to work on the NYC journal. It is the short days, the small window of light before it’s too dark again, that makes for problems in shooting. Still, when I manage to get out, I think this is probably my favorite time of year. There’s a passiveness to NYC in the winter that allows intimacy with it more easily. While the summers are hot and aggressive and dangerous. Plus, the winter light is beautiful. So much so that I can enjoy it equally without a camera as with.
There has never been any reluctance in sharing personal thoughts here; the pathos, the bathos, neither go unnoticed by me…ever. And, yes, I’m aware of perception, acutely, but, well, an old arbiter once spoke to me at a very appropriate time saying, this ain’t no dress rehearsal, and being in agreement with that, why fake coy?
Still, with that even, this particular post is, how should I say…more in earnest than usual.
I approach it wary. Very wary.
It’s about my youngest kid brother, Ian, and his misfortune, his tripping on that unseen and ubiquitous crack in the sidewalk and finding on the other side a rabbit hole to tumble down, to be consumed by… To shambles. To disarray. Know that my heart clamors. My mind grits. B/c even Alice was guilty of curiosity. She sought. She was asking for it. Ian didn’t ask for anything. Ian really just had some terrible awful horrible luck. Moreover, and unfortunately, unlike Alice, Ian isn’t dreaming…
We are all excruciatingly awake.
Wary, very wary.
The reason this is hard for me to talk about is b/c I simply don’t know what to say. There aren’t words for it. Or if there are words they are many; they are a book; they are a treatise; they are probably not mine; no; probably they’re words of poets… And I hate speaking when it’s gratuitous. I hate speaking when I know what I say will not be enough…not nearly enough.
It occurred to me just now that expression is the string of a belief cut into a hundred pieces and then spun into an endless knot of folly.
Or what I might say right now could be laconic and without compassion, perfectly pragmatic and utterly unfair. This is useful, but then what happens and what is said doesn’t matter at all… And things like this should matter. They should be made to matter.
So I’m left stuttering, and people I worry for are left ragged. Like all, they muster what can be mustered, what must be mustered… Still, it breaks my heart on a number of levels, and breaks it thoroughly.
My lips purse. My body purses. My heart purses… I shudder and shrink.
A thousand pieces spun into an endless knot of folly.
Sure, it’s going to work out in the long run. Scott, my other kid brother, reminds me of this, and when necessary, I remind him. Not much is said, never has been, never will be, b/c not much needs to be said. We understand one another. We grimace. We force laughter.
But I think we both have a distinct notion that nothing is laughing back.
So now all I can think to do is to hug my brother, Ian, pat him on the back, and take his portrait before his entire life is turned upside down and before he takes a deep breath to climb his way back out of that rabbit whole.
I envision Sisyphus.
I envision a void, perfect and very very simple. A child can’t see it, or sees past it – I don’t know – but older eyes, squinting, pleading, speak of it, scream into it…what remains is just whispers, infinite pieces spun into an infinite knot of folly…
After all, it is that which is ineffable.
This is all old news. The same stories are yellowing memories and mythologies predating our histories. Ian doesn’t know it, but he is a parable. If he learns this, he will be indestructible. In his shades fading, his outline will grow bolder. Bolder and bolder. He could, I believe, glow… I hope that he molds suffering, and that it doesn’t mold him.
But then these worries and hopes are all feeble, academic garnish, abstract fillings. Because I imagine a fixedness that is inscrutable, a trajectory that is singular…I said that he may be a boulder that we all risk breaking ourselves upon.
So portraits. Ha! All this shit and I bring to the table some platitudes and portraits…and here no less… Hope springs eternal for whatever the antonym of absurdity may be… But I’m growing more skeptical…and I fret as millions have fretted before, pacing those same vast halls, the halls cognition has kept sparse since antiquity.
Even so, I mean to rue nothing. Or am so inclined. And hope the same for my brother, my brothers.
These are portraits of my younger brothers and I.
Keep your chins up little brothers, because this will all roll off someday like a fog off a mirror, and know for now that you’re there whether the mirror reflects you or not.
While lighting this portrait Benjamin watched me slump focused over a freshly pulled Polaroid.
You don’t like it, he asked.
It’s not enough, I responded staring at the Polaroid…I mean it’s not human enough.
Well, he said, I’d just like this picture to show how tired I am, how exhausted the last few years have left me.
Exactly, I said.
Two more Polaroids and then we shot these,
This is a man named Gordon who I used to stop in and talk with; within the 2 year time frame that I visited with him he transformed from an old eccentric still having one foot in reality to delusional and living in a near entirely fabricated world. I remember a mixture of sadness and fear the last time I stopped in to say hi b/c I saw that he – his sane self, that is – had almost entirely dissipated. That’s when I took this portrait. It was an intense situation, surreal in retrospect.
Go to John Divola’s site.
Click “dogs chasing my car in the deserts”
Click “High Resolution”
Enjoy what I think is a really beautiful picture series.