Thursday, January 31, 2013

Book Twenty-Eight

Book Twenty-Eight
February 2002 - November 2004
Handmade Book
Created in Grantham's Landing, Canada
11" x 6.75" 144 pages. 

Above - a mammogram of a sunflower. It is but one of the peculiarities of this book. On the cover - the bridge from my cello is firmly attached. It makes the book somewhat awkward and uncomfortable on the bookshelf. But I like how this book has worn over the years. Sometimes the patina of age is the best thing you can put on a book.

The opening page contains the following text:

Stones. Yesterday Esme and I went to secret beach to collect stones. It was a bright, sunny, windless day. We could walk along the beach, then sit on the shore and drink in the sun. She was happy to be on the shore, out of the house, and she stuffed the pockets of her duffle coat with large round eggs of speckled granite. They sparkled in the sun and she declared the stones that she chose as the special ones.

Stones. When you walk along the shore the stones that you choose to pick up and carry are the special ones. Some have veins in them - like ariel views of highways through the desert. Some are the faintest light hairs on a black field, like the strange patterns formed in the search for sub-atomic particles. Maybe they are fragments of maps. Maps that show a geologic territory, a land distant and unfamiliar to us as we walk the beach in our brief time, our inconsequential shoes.

We take the dog also. But the dog has no interest in stones or rocks unless they are thrown in the water and there is some potential to chase them. The beach has no sound and the stones are a collection of mineral eggs, giving birth to smaller versions of themselves as the waves grind them, endlessly, into each other.

Sometimes you can pick up one of these cartographic stones. A stone with a map, and if my five-year-old companion does not throw it into the sea, or if it does not get left behind on a large piece of driftwood while you talk, resting in the sun, looking at the water which is deeper than any daydream, you can take it home and put it on a table. Days later you may pick it up, curious, as to where its lines directed you. Sometimes you can think yourself into the stone, into its landscape and dwell there for a while. Some may think all stones dull and slow. Inanimate. Yet this day proves them wrong.

Look inside.

Here is a list of books.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Masami and Arthur Yesaki

Masami Yesaki November 5, 1951 - January 10, 2013
Photo taken June 29, 2011

All photographs stop time, it is this quality and this quality alone that makes each one melancholy.

In the summer of 2011 I invited Masami and her husband Arthur into the studio. Masami was fighting cancer and we needed to juggle scheduling around treatments and days when she found she had little energy. I asked her if I could photograph her because there was something indomitable in Masami's personality that the illness had polarized.

When I look back to the shoot it does not surprise me that I was disappointed with almost all of the images. Whatever was happening, whatever it was that came across so strongly when in Masami's presence, it was not visual. I don't know if you can photograph strength of will.

It never left her. I had a chance to visit with Masami for the last time a few weeks before she passed away. She commanded a brightness in the room. The light and the conversation flowed from her to everyone else.

And so now, I am left with this photo, and an absence, and a wondering how it can be that people persist in their photos when they are gone. When I think like this I am always called back to Roland Barthes' Camera Lucida

"All those young photographers who are at work in the world, determined upon the capture of actuality do not know that they are agents of Death. This is the way in which our time assumes Death: with the denying alibi of the distractedly "alive," of which the photographer is, in a sense, the professional. 
"With the photograph we enter into flat Death. One day, leaving one of my classes, someone said to me with distain: "You talk about death very flatly."— As if the horror of Death were not precisely its platitude! The horror is this: nothing to say about the death of one who I love most, nothing to say about her photograph, which I contemplate without ever being able to get to the heart of it, to transform it. The only "thought" I can have is that at the end of this first death, my own death is inscribed; between the two nothing more than waiting. I have no other resource than this irony: to speak of the "nothing to say."
"In 1865, young Lewis Payne tried to assassinate Secretary of State W. H. Seward. Alexander Gardner photographed him in his cell, where he was waiting to be hanged. The photograph is handsome, as is the boy. He is going to die. I read at the same time: This will be and this has been; I observe with horror an anterior future of which death is the stake. What pricks me is the discovery of this equivalence. In front of a photograph as my mother as a child, I tell myself: she is going to die: I shudder, like Winnicott's psychotic patient, over a catastrophe which has already occurred. Weather or not the subject is already dead, every photograph is this catastrophe. 
[I've slightly edited Barthes, removing references to terms he defined earlier in the text]

Here is an index of portraits.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Book Twenty-Seven: Psychic Roadtrip

Book Twenty-Seven
June 2001
Handmade Book, Edition of Three
Hardcover book, one hand-sewn signature,
envelope containing photographs.
Created during roadtrip to Nelson, Canada.

Creation ex nihilo, a phrase most often found in religious dogma, can also be well-appplied to social situations.

In your theology of choice the term identifies how the deity (who almost always exists outside of time and space) creates the cosmos from the primordial vacuum. Creation ex nihilo — the creation of something from nothing. Skilled practitioners of the art in a social setting can also create something from nothing (although in this case they have much more raw material to work with). They create narrative tension, drama and foreshadowing from the seemingly random events of the day. Skilled practitioners of this are are wonderful to hang out with - because everything that happens to you means something.

In the summer of 2001 I went on a road trip to Nelson BC with two friends. It is surprising how pregnant with meaning the events of the day can be if you only let them. Take away rigid predetermined plans, let chance play a part, and open your mind to the re-interpretation of events and signs and before you know it you are being manipulated by an unseen hand that guides you to where you were meant to be ... as if you were not on an ordinary journey but rather ... a psychic roadtrip!

This book commemorated the event. Books like these are what happens if you spend too much time with a wonderful set of dover publications on bookbinding.

Here is a list of books.