Monday, 25 June 2012

Nickel, Nickel, Quarter, Quarter, Penny

There's a bit in a rather unloved American Eighties film, in which Danny De Vito shows Billy Crystal his coin collection. From out of a box De Vito spills a handful of coins, and arranges them on the floor carefully (why, I wonder, do I remember these characters lying together on the floor?). 'This one's a nickel...This one is also a nickel,' etc, spreading them out, until all the coins are in this sacred uniform line. Nickel, nickel, quarter, quarter, penny. How many times, we wonder, has De Vito's character enacted this secret little ceremony? But are these coins actually worth anything, the Billy Crystal character wants to know. De Vito then explains that these are the coins his father let him keep, how his father always let him keep the change.

It occurs to me that we all do this, writers especially. Taking something as banal and everyday as pocket change and making it meaningful. That is, we hold things sacred by arranging them like so, sharing them, savouring them, and saying, 'Here. Look. Look what we're missing.'

Saturday, 23 June 2012

The Art of Direction

Somewhere, there is footage of Leonard Bernstein lecturing an orchestra on the meaning of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. He asks his musicians to remember ‘lying on the ground, in spring or summer; you lie down, face down on the ground, and you want to kiss it. You watch the grass grow and you want it to just enfold you.’

It occurs to me now, that all art might be a seeking out of the sublime. To know what we want, to desire, and yet to allow for a fundamental freedom too, communing with stuff bigger than ourselves. What Simone Weil calls shaking the branch rather than reaching for the fruit.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

For the love of Claire Fisher

The above images were found in various articles in The Guardian over the past two years. The last, of Aung San Suu Kyi (in Oxford?) in the Seventies, is one of my all time favourite photographs.
I was talking with a friend the other night about film versus digital photography, trying to explain that it's the process of film I like. The idea of a semi-accidental chemical reaction taking place, a little annunciation taking place in a box held in your hands. Not only that, but then the lack of immediacy--the having to wait. For instance, I've had a roll of Provia X in my bag for weeks now, and I now have little idea about what's on it. I know that I finished it in London, but where it begins, I can't remember. Months ago, most likely. A visit to the Freud Museum in there somewhere. And, the fact is, I love this. I love the patience and the surprise involved. I think I value the images more because they are embedded in time...And this, I suppose, is the most essential thing. I like memories. Not so much memories as they exist now, but real old memories. What you used to find leafing through old family photo albums, those slightly faded colours, times and places that pre-existed you. That is precisely what I aspire to, what I long for in photography and, perhaps, in art generally. The poignancy of a memory that calls you back, that haunts you from the pages of a family photo album. It's a look, a feel, I think I'm always striving for: the sticky-backed pages turning with an audible gasp, the images reflecting something both lost and found. 
One of mine, California 2010 (while dreaming of Sweden)
 The rest are from photo albums. Of my sister and me, California, 1980-81