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Holes In The Net Of Time

Part One: Photography and Time in Observatory and Forest Reflections on two recent books of photography and text: ‘From The Observatory’ by Julio Cortazar and ‘December’ by Alexander Kluge and Gerhard Richter — When I was in my twenties and making films, I read Eisenstein’s writings about the dynamic principle of montage -- the ‘third thing’ that can happen if images are juxtaposed such that new meanings emerge, as in the classic example of Potemkin in which a statue of a lion seems to sleep, awaken, roar, the images together becoming  a metaphor for previously somnolent masses roused and rising up against oppression. I thought then -- and still do --  that this principle of tertius (Eisentstein’s term) explains … [Read more...]

Thank You For Looking

Peter Nadas, Victor Erice, Photography, Words, Trees, and the Passages of Time — At the corner of Calles Hernandez Macias and Quadrante in San Miguel de Allende is a craft shop where, on either side of its door, these words scroll across the windows: one side, Thank you for looking; on the other, Gracias Por Mirar. Each time during the fourteen years I have been going to Mexico, I’ve gone back to photograph these words. What is this going back, I have been wondering, this returning to the same site in order to make different images? I have been thinking about Hungarian writer and photographer Peter Nadas (most recently author of the novel Parallel Stories) who each day for a year photographed one wild pear tree in his … [Read more...]

La Vida: Photography and Time at the Center

Thoughts sparked by: RETURN TO CENTRO HISTORICO: A Mexican Jew Looks for His Roots by Ilan Stavans (Rutgers University Press, 2012) – 'Ilanchik, what do you think?' In his photographic memoir, Return to Centro Historico, Ilan Stavans begins with direct address. His father has unexpectedly e-mailed him a photograph of the Angel de la Independencia, the sculpture that sits at the top of a column at the center of the Paseo de la Reforma roundabout in Mexico City. The height of the statue, placed 118 feet above the column’s base, makes it difficult to discern its details in any way other than through the close-up lens of photography. 'Did you know it was a girl? A bronze girl, half-naked?' The father asks his son for his … [Read more...]

On Her Own: Photography and Time in Maine

A Meditation on ‘Chansonetta: The Life and Photographs of Chansonetta Stanley Emmons, 1858 - 1937 ’ by Marius B. Peladeau,  with an introduction by Berenice Abbott, published in Maine Antique Digest, Waldoboro, Maine, December, 1977 – Chansonetta with camera at the beginning of her life as a photographer Chansonetta Stanley Emmons (1858 -1957) packs her camera, a 1904 5 x 7 inch Century capable of speeds from 3 to 1/100th of a second—along with her tripod, carrying case and glass plates, it is a bulky load but she is setting off with a helper, her daughter Dorothy, sometime model as well. They load the equipment into a Ford motorcar given to Chansonetta by her two brothers, both inventors, one of the Stanley Steamer, the other of the … [Read more...]

Three Suitcases: Walter Benjamin; Agusti Centelles; and the Hypothetical Suitcase of Baltasar Garzon -Part Two

“Photography and Time at the Border,” by Janet Sternburg, is a multi-part series of essays that explores issues surrounding history, memory, exile and home. The Museum of Exile is the opening essay that focuses on the Museu Memorial d’Exili, in La Jonquera, Spain, juxtaposed with the music of Paco Ibanez. Three Suitcases, a two part commentary, continues this exploration by linking the lives and work of three pivotal figures: Walter Benjamin, Agusti Centelles and Baltasar Garzon, juxtaposed with the music of Lluis Llach and Joan Manuel Serrat. 3. UNCOVERED Metaphors don’t always line up: a suitcase can be an emblem of belonging to a place, and of ensuring the safety of one’s belongings; it can also signify something less benign -- a … [Read more...]

Three Suitcases: Walter Benjamin; Agusti Centelles; and the Hypothetical Suitcase of Baltasar Garzon – Part One

“Photography and Time at the Border,” by Janet Sternburg, is a multi-part series of essays that explores issues surrounding history, memory, exile and home. The Museum of Exile is the opening essay that focuses on the Museu Memorial d’Exili, in La Jonquera, Spain, juxtaposed with the music of Paco Ibanez. Three Suitcases, a two part commentary, continues this exploration by linking the lives and work of three pivotal figures: Walter Benjamin, Agusti Centelles and Baltasar Garzon, juxtaposed with the music of Lluis Llach and Joan Manuel Serrat. This is a tale of three suitcases, two real, and one hypothetical, each journeying at different times and in different directions, but bound together by a shared history and … [Read more...]

The Museum of Exile

“Photography and Time at the Border,” by Janet Sternburg, is a multi-part series of essays that explores issues surrounding history, memory, exile and home. The Museum of Exile is the opening essay that focuses on the Museu Memorial d’Exili, in La Jonquera, Spain, juxtaposed with the music of Paco Ibanez. Three Suitcases, a two part commentary, continues this exploration by linking the lives and work of three pivotal figures: Walter Benjamin, Agusti Centelles and Baltasar Garzon, juxtaposed with the music of Lluis Llach and Joan Manuel Serrat. ***************************** On January 26th,1939, Barcelona fell to Franco’s troops. With the defeat of the Republicans in Catalonia, the Spanish Civil War was in effect … [Read more...]

Salvage and Sabotage

Maya Zack, W.G. Sebald, Walter Benjamin and Chris Marker, A Further Inquiry on Image and Text – With Living Room, an installation I sought out at The Jewish Museum in New York, Israeli artist Maya Zack is salvaging the past of a particular man, Manfred Nomburg, and through his memories of the pre-Holocaust past, the Jewish experience in Germany. Zack is honoring what once was, what was lost and now remembered. But something else is at work, subtly undermining that formulation. Living Room combines the immemorial impulse to salvage with a more contemporary impulse to sabotage, and suggests ways that artists and writers are bringing these impulses together, not as separate and opposite, but rather in generative conjunction. On each … [Read more...]

The Ambidextrous Artist

The Photograph and Text, An Inquiry My fascination with words and images began when I was a teenager and encountered I Am A Lover, a book of photographs by Jerry Stoll with accompanying quotations selected from various sources by writer Evan S Connell, Jr.. For me, living a provincial life on the East Coast, I was enchanted by these black and white photographs of bohemian life in the San Francisco of the fifties -- poets reading their work, jazz musicians in clubs, artists’ studios, street life, photographed not as documentation but as smoky evocation. And then to read, next to, above, under, on the opposite page, words that were sometimes humorous, sometimes lyrical, always apposite and oblique to the image —this was revelation. … [Read more...]