While leafing through a recent book on still lifes by The Getty’s Paul Martineau, Still Life in Photography, I discovered a couple photographs that made me realize I had an unknown connection to certain photographers whose work I admire but never saw these specific images. I have purposely created images that are homages to favorite photographers, but there are also images that I’ve created, not knowing that they echo an image created long before mine. Such is the case with André Kertész’s image of a drooping tulip.
Melancholic Tulip, André Kertész
My Broken Tulip was created because of the way the morning light hit this unfortunate bloom. The way the light hits a certain object often stops me in my tracks and I run to get my camera. Such was the case with this particular tulip that was long past its prime.
The Broken Tulip
The same is true of an image created by Manuel Álvarez Bravo, another photographer whose work (along with the work of his wife, Lola), I greatly admire. Books, however, have been
Libros, Manuel Álvarez Bravo
a frequent subject in my photographs since I am always surrounded by stacks of them, so it’s not unlikely that I would create a similar image. There are other photographers who photograph books beautifully as well (Morrell, Mansfield), even as they decay (Purcell).
Martineau claims, “The revival of interest in the genre at the dawn of the twenty-first century comes as the digital age is transforming the medium.” My own still lifes feel less transformative, but rather contemplative, leaning back on those from whom I have, knowingly or unknowingly, drawn inspiration.
“Threats to freedom of speech, writing and action, though often trivial in isolation, are cumulative in their effect and, unless checked, lead to a general disrespect for the rights of the citizen.” –George Orwell
And he remembered it no more….
I found this small, leather-bound SwedishPsalmbok in a used bookstore in Ventura, CA. In addition to how lovely it feels in the hand, its leather softened by the hands of another, its delicate weight, the fact that it is written in Swedish was intriguing. How had that book made a journey from Sweden to southern California? Moreover, who is Kris Lind, whose name is embossed in gold on the bottom right corner of the front cover, and how did he or she end up in California? Did his or her effects end up in this bookstore after a death, both book and man to be remembered no more (a line at the edge of the page reads, “Och han minnes den ej mer…” meaning, “And he remembered it no more……”)? Although I can’t read Swedish, I recognized the language on the page as some of my ancestors emigrated from Sweden to live in the northeast region of the U.S., where my maternal grandfather, Bernard Oscar Sandquist, was born. Growing up, I was told I was named for his mother.
Kris Lind may not be related to me in any way, but his or her Psalmbok now lives with me, no longer stripped from memory.
Vila väl, Kris Lind. Inte alla är glömt.
Feather On Book
“You know, though, there’s a crack between reading and becoming. One thing is not the other. A seam, it seems, and here it’s brought to life. Through it we are aware again of light.”
–Ander Monson, from Letter to a Future Lover.
I found this old adding machine tucked into a forgotten, quiet corner of a used bookstore in Ventura, CA. I didn’t know that this particular brand of machine was invented by the grandfather of Beat writer William Burroughs, who wrote a collection of essays called, The Adding Machine.
Technology changes so quickly these days…..people are lining up outside Apple Stores for the iPhone 6, and when I was growing up, a family had one phone that sat on a table, or it was mounted on a wall and required spinning a rotary dial to register a specific number. Zeros were the longest to dial because they were required to travel the entire circumference of the rotary. I can still hear that distinct, mechanical sound, and, oddly, I can remember the smell of my grandparents’ old, black rotary phone…an interesting mix of resin and cigarette smoke.
I never worked an adding machine. By the time I was in high school, early pocket calculators were replacing the slide rules that most students of physics had sticking out of their back pockets. Still, I love the typewriter-like faces (another machine now obsolete) of these adding machines, now relegated to the quiet corners of memory.
The Photographs of William S. Burroughs
“There is only one thing a writer can write about: what is in front of his senses at the moment of writing… I am a recording instrument… I do not presume to impose “story” “plot” “continuity”… insofar as I succeed in direct recording of certain areas of psychic process I may have limited function… I am not an entertainer…” from Naked Lunch
Apparently, Burroughs recorded life using more than a pen. A new book has been published, Taking Shots: The Photographs of WIlliam S. Burroughs, the catalog that accompanied an exhibit of William S. Burroughs’s photographs at The Photographers Gallery in London. It seems there are more than a few writers who also took pictures, including Jack London, Eudora Welty, Ralph Ellison, Wright Morris, and William Faulkner.