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How to process grief — lessons from an earlier age

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — fifty years later, two kennedy deaths remembered ]
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I had a couple of other posts in the works, but the one that was closest had a mean tinge to it so I set it on one side, sorry to have nothing to offer you this last Sunday, and consoling myself with music.

And so it was that I recalled one work of music, and searching it out on the web, came across another. Here Erich Leinsdorf announces the assassination of President John F Kennedy, and then, as though it’s the most natural thing in the world, turns to Beethoven, to the Eroica, and plays the Funeral March as a lens through which to process the most immediate, intimately Bostonian, grief:

As NPR testifies:

But what is most remarkable to me as as listener, hearing the Boston broadcast from Symphony Hall on that Friday afternoon, is the sense of how those people in that time and place — performer and audience member alike — process this shocking event collectively, in a way that is totally unimaginable to us 50 years later, as we learn each minute’s news within the weirdly solitary glow of our screens. First, we hear the gasps and shushes after BSO music director Erich Leinsdorf utters the words: “The president of the United States has been the victim of an assassination.” Second, a wave of groans and sighs after Leinsdorf continues, “We will play the funeral march from Beethoven’s Third Symphony” — as if the crowd’s shared response is that they couldn’t possibly have heard the first part right, but that then the orchestra’s change in repertoire confirms the awful, unimaginable truth. And then, for the next 14 minutes … utter silence, save for the incomparably somber music.

If we could filter our lives through such music..

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And then as Cardinal Cushing celebrates a Pontifical Mass of Requiem for JFK, it is again Leinsdorf who conducts the music for that celebration — Mozart‘s glorious Requiem, from which extraordinary ceremonial this is the Dies Irae (turn down your volume control, this was recorded at a much louder volume range than the Beethoven IMO):

and, literally and emotionally, movingly tearful, the Lacrimosa:

Dona eis requiem..

If you wish to reach as deep as deep grief and process it, and Boston‘s response to the death of its favorite son President is anything to go by, Leinsdorf is your man, Beethoven the most immediate lens to hand, and the sacramental celebration with Cardinal Cushing as a no less impressive backup..

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I would be remiss, however, were I to write only of high cultural music (no matter how popular) and high ceremonial religion here — of equal passion as I have been reminded recently was the spontaneous outpouring of love and reverence shown on the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, JFK‘s brother, as the train carrying his body passed from New York to DC for burial (a high ceremonial of the military variety) in Arlington National Cemetery. The crowds who turned out, in ones and twos, in clusters, both black and white, perhaps a million or two oin all, were captured by the extraordinary photographer and friend of the family Paul Fusco in close to a thousand images, of which these are but a few:

The train has been much in the news recently, with exhibits such as The Train: RFK’s Last Journey at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, reviewed in The train was moving mournful slow’: Exhibit shows haunting photos of Bobby Kennedy’s final journey and also described with selected images at Robert F. Kennedy’s Funeral Train, Fifty Years Later, along with the DVD One Thousand Pictures: RFK’s Last Journey drawn from Fusco’s work on that train, the publication of Chris Matthews‘ biography, Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit, and MSNBC’s Headliners docu tribute to RFK.

Even the most unexpected moment, infused with love and grief, can ignite a spontaneous, informal ceremony of great power

Sub umbra alarum tuarum..

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[ It has taken me several days to formulate this post, and I’m on fairly strong pain meds for my foot wound, so please blame them for any excessive typos or lack of coherence — I’m sure the general message comes through… ]

Shorts 04: Books, and a personal pic

Sunday, March 4th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — a quick treasury of treasures, what else? ]
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Robert Irwin, The Arabian Nights: A Companion

Abbasid Baghdad did produce its own semi- legendary criminals. Many tales were told of the ingenious exploits of the ninth-century master-thief, al-Uqab (‘the Eagle’), among them the story of a bet he had with a certain doctor that within a set period of time alUqab could steal something from the doctor’s house. Although the house was closely guarded, alUqab drugged the guards. Then, posing as an apparition of Jesus and making use of hypnotism, he succeeded in stealing off with the dcotor himself.

Robert Irwin was an Oxford contemporary & fellow-traveller.

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Kim Wagner, The Skull of Alum Bheg: The Life and Death of a Rebel of 1857

In 1963, a human skull was discovered in a pub in south-east England. The handwritten note found inside revealed it to be that of Alum Bheg, an Indian soldier in British service who had been blown from a cannon for his role in the 1857 Uprising, his head brought back as a grisly war-trophy by an Irish officer present at his execution. The skull is a troublesome relic of both anti-colonial violence and the brutality and spectacle of British retribution.

Ooh, grue! Cf. the food of that served in the Arkansas penal system.

^^

Simon Armitage, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: an introduction

We know next to nothing about the author of the poem which has come to be called Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It was probably written around 1400. In the early 17th century the manuscript was recorded as belonging to a Yorkshireman, Henry Saville of Bank. It was later acquired by Sir Robert Cotton, whose collection also included the Lindisfarne Gospels and the only surviving manuscript of Beowulf . The poem then lay dormant for over 200 years, not coming to light until Queen Victoria was on the throne, thus leapfrogging the attentions of some of our greatest writers and critics. The manuscript, a small, unprepossessing thing, would fit comfortably into an average-size hand, were anyone actually allowed to touch it. Now referred to as Cotton Nero A X, it is considered not only a most brilliant example of Middle English poetry but also as one of the jewels in the crown of English Literature; it now sits in the British Library under conditions of high security and controlled humidity.

Hat-tip: Hanne Elisabeth Storm Ofteland

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Rennie Davis, The New Humanity: A Movement to Change the World (Volume 1 of 3)

This first book returns to ‘Our Roots’ with a behind-the-scenes look straight from the eye of the social-change hurricane that swept North America during the turbulent times of the 1960s. Rennie Davis was the coordinator of the largest coalition of anti-war and civil rights organizations during that era. Now in vivid detail, he explains how the Sixties movement ignited and expanded, growing in strength and staying power. A compelling, riveting story, it was written to inspire today’s generation to stand on the shoulders of those who came before and arise again to change the world. Like a snowball tumbling down the mountain to become an avalanche that takes out the concrete wall of fear and divide, today’s movement will not be ignored or stopped.

This book is today’s must-read gift to yourself and your friends to uplift humanity and change the world.

Rennie is an old friend, story for another day. Hat-tip: Rennie Davis.

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This just in:

Bernard Faure, The Fluid Pantheon: Gods of Medieval Japan, Volume 1

Written by one of the leading scholars of Japanese religion, The Fluid Pantheon is the first installment of a multivolume project that promises to be a milestone in our understanding of the mythico-ritual system of esoteric Buddhism—specifically the nature and roles of deities in the religious world of medieval Japan and beyond. Bernard Faure introduces readers to medieval Japanese religiosity and shows the centrality of the gods in religious discourse and ritual; in doing so he moves away from the usual textual, historical, and sociological approaches that constitute the “method” of current religious studies. The approach considers the gods (including buddhas and demons) as meaningful and powerful interlocutors and not merely as cyphers for social groups or projections of the human mind. Throughout he engages insights drawn from structuralism, post-structuralism, and Actor-network theory to retrieve the “implicit pantheon” (as opposed to the “explicit orthodox pantheon”) of esoteric Japanese Buddhism (Mikky?).

Hat-tip: just in from friend Gilles Poitras.

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Enough of books — heres a personal photo — friend Neil Ayer with a Rothka at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston:

Au ‘voir!

Face to Face, Google-style reSemblance

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — cross-posted from Sembl.net ]
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Google, apparently, has an app that some people, apparently, believe responds to a selfie with a same-looking portrait from one of the world’s great museum collections. It is, in short, a Sembl-like app for faces. Uh-oh.

The Washington Post titled their piece on the topic Somewhere in the world, there’s a painting that looks like you. And Google will find it.

Though the Google Arts & Culture app has been available since 2016, the find-your-art-lookalike feature was released with its latest update in mid-December. …

“We’re always trying to figure out cool and interesting ways to get people talking about art, and this was one of them,” Lenihan said.

In recent days, scores of people — including plenty of celebrities — have shared their often hilarious results on social media, helping Google Arts & Culture climb the App Store’s charts to become the most downloaded free app.

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I thought most of the examples shown disproved the assertion in the WP post’s title. TThe museum items Google suggested didn’t look anytthing like the selfies people had submitted. My apologies. Until I saw Sarah Lyn Rogers‘s tweeted example:

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Sembl! That really does strike me as a fine case of resemblance!

Okay, Renaissance photography?

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — Caravaggio at Berkeley, maybe ]
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So, David Burge has tweeted that this photo looks “like a Renaissance painting of stupid”:

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First, let’s get Karl Popper out of the way: I don’t think that’s a fa;sifiable statement. But does it ring true for me?

I’d go with Caravaggio, maybe, a bit of a street-brawler himself, who can project himself into the brawl of the arrest of Christ —

— and notice whose hands, fingers interlaced, are calm amid the hurly-burly,

Caravaggion himself fled Rome to escape a death penalty for murder, perhaps that’s a pre-requisite for his tenebrist style of painting, perhaps not, who knows? And the photographer? Dare I ask? Apparently the photo credit goes to Marcus Yam/LA Times via Getty Images.

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The photo again, since it may have risen out of screen, out of mind.

The photographer certainly (my view) has an eye for framing, but that’s largely what photography is all about, isn’t it?

That slashing diagonal — powerful. Who’s the guy standing, left, a bit detached? Not a Buddhist, I think, in that balaclava. Is that individual. isolated, or the entirety of the clash, what Burge sees as painterly — forget the Renaissance for a while here — ?

Black-clad anarchists attack conservatives at Berkeley rally runs the headline in the South Chibna Morning Post, and they’d know, right? South China, Northern Cal..

I’m weary.

The brush strokes — there are no brushstrokes in photography. Unless you use an app to put them there. Is there a brish stro0kes equivalent? Chiaroscuro — light-dark contrast — arguably, the sun’s too bright for much of that in Berkeley, and the anarchists’ black will have to make up for it. Not so when Christ is arrested — that’s simply dark, and Caravaggion illuminates the players.

How much light-dark contrast does the headline’s reference to “black-clad anarchists” add to the viewer’s perception of the image? Is it the word “black” or the word “anarchist” that does it?

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Following the news is a complex affair.

But a lover affair in any case, if that’s your preference, as it is mine — it gets me from Berkeley and stupidity to Caravaggio and Chirst, okay?

Picking up on symmetries observed

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — after Scaramucci on symmetry ]
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It’s encouraging — heart-heartening — to see Doreen St. Félix at the New Yorker picking up on An Image of Revolutionary Fire at Charlottesville:

Two points about her commentary strike my interest. The first had to do, specifically, with symmetry, an old hobby-horse of mine as you may know:

Steve Helber shot an image of peculiar symmetry, in which a man of fortitude was bearing a different light. Two men extend weapons: one is the Confederate flag, furled, hiding its retrograde design, and the other is an aerosol can, modified to eject fire. The figures stand in a classical configuration, on the diagonal, as if a Dutch master has placed them just so.

The second made reference to theology..

The composition of this photo is fiercely theological. The black man is wielding what the black theologian James Cone, quoting the prophet Jeremiah, might call the “burning fire shut up in my bones,” what James Baldwin would have identified as “the fire next time.” (Cornel West, a student of Cone, has advanced the liberatory concept of “black prophetic fire”; West travelled to the city to march with members of Charlottesville’s faith community on Saturday.) It is a pose that upsets a desire for docility; it’s a rebuke to slogans such as “This is not us” or “Love not hate.” This graceful man has appropriated not only the flames of white-supremacist bigotry but also the debauched, rhetorical fire of Trump, who gloated, earlier this week, that he would respond to a foreign threat with “fire and fury.” The resistance has its fire, too.

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I don’t think I see that image the same way St. Félix does. She sees fire on both sides — the fires of the tiki torches in the hands of the supremacists, though they are absent from this particular pohotograph, and the fire visible in the photo, wielded by the “man of fortitude”. Using an improvised flame-thrower strikes me as, if anything, more menacing than waving a furled flag, to be honest, and even though flame-man is in the lower position, his flame makes him, in my eyes, the dominant figure in the composition — and flag-wielder, correspondingly, even though holding the higher ground, more the underdog,

While my sympathies would naturally lie with those who protest supremacism rather than those who proclaim it, this image at first saddens me with the spectacle of fire-power unilaterally vielded by the guy I’d otherwise cheer for — and it’s only when I read a little deeper —

Long said that the protest had seemed peaceful until “someone pointed a gun at my head. Then the same person pointed it at my foot and shot the ground.”)

— that I began to understand why he, rather than the supremacist, might be the one who has feeling most threatened.

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I feel ambiguous, then, about St Félix’ reading of the photo, but grateful that someone has an eye out for form, art, symmetry, in the photo-reporting of a vile, incendiary event.


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