About the Contributors #14

October 1, 2015 § Leave a comment

JOHN WOOD

Not only was John Wood our editor for more than 15 years, he is a brilliant and established poet

from Cracked: The Art of Charles Grogg

Though I am a photographic historian and critic, I am primarily a poet; however, except for writing a few Japanese waka in homage to my friend Masao Yamamoto, I have never written poems inspired by the work of any of the photographers whose work I have written essays about. The photographs, though wonderful, never suggested subjects to me-until I encountered Charles Grogg’s work. It would be improper of me to write about the poetic aspects of my own work, but I can say something about their content as it refers to Grogg’s art.

The fence-mender of the poem “Fence” is, of course, Grogg, and fence-mending is a metaphor for his art making. The poem makes clear that it is his “chosen profession” but also makes clear that he has not chosen it but that it chose him and that his re-shaping, re-forming art is to my eye a profound expression and act of love…

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FENCE
The fence mender’s dilemma is
how to proceed. There’s always
such hostility on either side.
Being in between contorted faces
is distracting, as is avoiding
the flying spittle, the occasional stone.
Rain coats and shields are useful,
especially when he becomes the target,
which is more often than not.
But who would give up a chosen profession?
And for what: becoming a snail driver,
a semaphore man, a town crier,
a berry buster? Certainly not for one
whose profession had chosen him.
There is no choice in spite of rocks and spit,
the cumbersome garb he must wear. And so
he continues buying the costliest needles,
gold-tipped, of course, and iron-strong thread
spun from the silk of golden orb weavers.
His hands dance along the sad shatters
with the confidence of a cosmetic surgeon
re-forming the destines of the unloved and ugly.
Such mending mastery as his is love’s
most profound, best, and final act.

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from The Symmetry of Endeavor

When we look at images as radiant as his wide Calla 3, his tall lean Calla on Black, his Sunflower Rising, which looks like the sun itself aflame, the Nile Lily Bud or his Melinthus in the Rain, as perfect a wet leaf as I have ever seen in any photograph, we see exactly how a master artist manipulates craft to the higher service of his art, how he makes craft the vehicle and servant of his art. His Luminescent Datura seduced me from the first moment I saw it. Besides being a beautiful flower datura, of course, is also a powerful drug, a sexual stimulant, and has been associated with women called witches since the Middle Ages. However, without thinking of any of those things, when I first saw this amazing image, I did not see the flower at all. I saw a lady with a slim neck in an Art Deco gown, her face cropped from the photograph, a curl from her head falling on her shoulder, her right arm bent at the elbow and resting on a piece of furniture, obviously by Ruhlmann, and her hand, though out of sight, holding either a martini or a cigarette. I saw Paris in the Twenties when I would have loved to live there. Such imaginative leaps are the leaps that art graciously allowsand which inspired the poem that follows, even thoughI am certain my lady or thoughts of Mistinguett, the great chanteuse of that time, or the famous club Le Boeuf sur le Toit was nowhere in Rondal Partridge’s mind when he made this work. His thoughts were on capturing a flower. My thoughts were on sex. But great art always transcends the intentions of the artist. That is its blessing and occasionally the artist’s curse.

LADY IN A FLORAL DRESS
A curl cascades, reclines upon her neck.
She stands against a lacquered cabinet.
One hidden hand holds her drink,
the other, a Turkish cigarette.

This Deco dame is surely French
and probably knows Mistinguett.
Would she accept a little pinch,
then smile and say with no regret,

“Was it Le Boeuf sur le Toit where we met?
We danced. You held me in a clench
and called me mon petit pet.
Men like you I never forget.”

He wondered what could be her game.
His, of course, was exactly the same.

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from The Imponderable Heart of Meaning

As we approached our sixteenth year of publication, Steve had the happy idea of our doing a book together-his photographs and poems of mine inspired by them. Though I have been writing poetry for over half a century, I cannot say I know where poetry comes from, but I know it is very hard to make a poem from a work of visual art. I said I’d try and with a great box of Steve’s prints before me, I was surprised to see how words quickly started to appear and shape themselves into lines and eventually poems. In every case it was his visual magic that inspired the poem. So these poems are a real monument to our years of friendship and work together.

I had hoped that this volume would be entitled In the Face of the Electron because that is the title of a poem I wrote for one of Steve’s most amazing and brilliant photographs-an abstract image of the most intense power, an image that allowed me to look into the face or heart of the electron… I’d hoped we would use the photograph because I love it but also because of the poem it led me to. My own work, though sometimes comic, tends to be dark, somber, occasionally even savage. But what Steve’s photograph allowed me see was something rich and affirmative…

IN THE FACE OF THE ELECTRON
In the unstopping spin and swirl
of matter’s uncertainty, it can
sometimes be caught unaware
and resting for a short fraction
just as the more common birds
are often caught, and so
the Nature artist must be quick
and snap it before it flies off
as the fastest light excels,
to snap it before the electron’s
huge and fluffy wings again
begin to beat, driving matter
mad in its motions, and before
its beak begins again to peck
at the atomic shell, and before
its maddening dance must begin
again to hold everything together,
secured in the electron’s hold,
its wide-wings’ generous, spinning embrace,
succoring with no knowledge of its doing so
the imponderable heart of meaning.

About the Contributors #13

October 1, 2015 § Leave a comment

Michael Murray, an unknown, pioneering New York-based artist (originally from the home of Kodak, Rochester, NY) was selling his work at a kiosk on Poet’s Walk in Central Park when he was discovered by Gideon Bosker who then presented his work to 21st Editions.

In Worlds Apart, Gideon introduces us to Michael Murray’s presentation of the world, John Stauffer tells us more on the myriad places where he created his images, and John Wood completes the story with an eloquent poem.

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GIDEON BOSKER from Worlds Apart

Long before I knew Michael Murray had photography wriggling in the helices of his DNA, or that as a young boy he spent family day each year feasting on Nathan’s Famous hot dogs with his father in the Eastman Kodak commissary on Lake Road in Rochester, New York; or that the dreamlike, elliptical beauty of such films as Thin Red Line by Terrance Mallick “changed everything” for him; or that the murky interface of quantum physics and spirituality is consistently in his mind’s eye as he conceives, pre-visualizes, and manufactures his photographs-long before I knew these and all the other things about Mr. Murray and his iconoclastic life, I knew the first time I glimpsed the photographs he was hawking from bins on Poet’s Walk on a frosty, skin blistering November day in Central Park, that the images this photographer had spent years perfecting were digging deep into unchartered territory…

It took only a few minutes of scouring through his images that day in the winter of 2012 for me to conclude that, in his lens, Mr. Murray had the whole wide world…

Under the influence of new technologies, from the first pinhole camera to the razzle-dazzle of digital photography, the camera has always been poised to enrich our engagement with the world. It is on this trajectory, that Murray’s ingenuity stakes its claim. His photographs are testimonials to the power of photography for introducing a new perceptual framework: one based on the melding of technology with the camera arts for the purpose of remaking the world so we might engage it; and so it might stir us and so we might dream about it in new ways.

Aside from the sheer density of information these photographs extract from a single coordinate of longitude and latitude, there is a seething undercurrent of spirituality in Murray’s work: a dimension-call it a portal to another world-that provokes what can only be described as reverential impulses. Perhaps, this is not surprising, since geometric configurations linked to centralized space have deep religious roots and have been used for evocative effect for centuries…

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JOHN STAUFFER from Worlds Apart

Cathedral Gorge, a state park in Nevada, is in Lincoln County, about 160 miles northeast of Las Vegas. Standing a little less than mile above sea level, it looks primordial.

The gorge was created millions of years ago, when volcanoes erupted and deposited massive walls of ash. During the Pliocene epoch (5.3 to 2.6 million years ago), a freshwater lake filled the gorge. By the Pleistocene epoch (2.6 million to 12,000 years ago) the lake had drained. The continual erosion of the soft volcanic ash made plant life difficult but created beautiful patterns on the walls of the gorge that resemble tessellations. Since it was not good farmland, scientists in the mid-nineteenth century began referring to it as “badlands.” Yet for hundreds of years it was also the home of the Fremont, Anasazi, and Southern Paiute tribes. Bison bones were recently discovered in the gorge that are between 400 and 850 years old.

In Murray’s dramatic rendering, turbulent chiaroscuro clouds surround the desolate gorge. There is no sign of plant or animal life. And yet the rocks themselves seem alive. The tessellating cliffs seem like gates of an elaborate kingdom, breathing hymns of the gorge’s history.

Wallace Stevens provides a poetic echo of Murray’s gorge in “Forms of the Rock in a Night-Hymn”:

The rock is the gray particular of man’s life,
The stone from which he rises, up-and-ho,
The step to the bleaker depths of his descents . . .
The rock is the stern particular of the air,
The mirror of the planets, one by one,
But through man’s eye, their silent rhapsodist.

Through Murray’s eye, we see Cathedral Gorge as a silent rhapsodist.

Murray_closeup1

JOHN WOOD Bruegelesque:
A Seasonal Meditation on the Grace of Michael Murray’s Eye

Small black shafts rise
in the surrounding snows
and lean back into the past,
into forgotten dancing days
hard on the ice of ponds
swirling with skaters
in the cold afternoons
of painted near memories.
Smoke rises from the red house
beside the swirling shallows
of the river. There is no sound
but the quiet of silent cold.
Winter will still last longer.
Nothing is yet finished
until the bounding crocus agree
to arise into his eyes.

About the Contributors #12

October 1, 2015 § Leave a comment

The beginning of this year brought a new Editor to 21st Editions, John Stauffer. John’s credentials are numerous (a tenured Harvard Professor with 15 books, more than 100 articles, scholarly awards, and much more). He continues to offer a rich historical context for the photographs and artists represented in many 21st Editions titles.

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JOHN STAUFFER ON
Todd Webb: New York, 1946

When Todd Webb arrived in New York in November 1945, Henry Luce’s famous prophecy, uttered five years earlier, that the U.S. would become the “leader of the world” and launch an “American century,” seemed to have been realized. The war had made America rich and powerful while decimating much of Europe, and artists flocked to its cultural center. There was now talk that New York might replace Paris as the world center of art and culture, as Serge Guilbaut has noted. But “it was important to find the right image for America and its culture,” which would “mirror the experience of [the] age.” This image would need to resonate with the formal and ideological sensibilities of New York and the U.S., as well as the rest of the art world. In painting, abstract expressionism would become that image. Jackson Pollock’s seemingly random drips of paint evoked an existential angst that mirrored the “experience of the age.”

In photography, the idea and image of the city became the symbol of the new postwar world. In 1946 alone, Webb shared the streets of New York with Helen Levitt (with whom he sometimes photographed), Berenice Abbott, André Kertész, Minor White, Gordon Parks, Aaron Siskind, Paul Strand, Andreas Feininger, Weegee, Dan Weiner, and Sid Grossman.6 Unlike his peers, Webb was comparatively new to photography; he called his arrival in New York “the beginning of my career in photography.” Several people, including Paul Strand and Roy Stryker (for whom he eventually worked), advised him to go back home to a “safe” job inDetroit. “How lucky I was to refuse [their] advice.”

How lucky we are as well. Alfred Stieglitz, Webb’s mentor and friend, was right: there is in Webb’s New York photographs a tenderness without sentimentality that set him apart from his peers. As Stieglitz knew, photographers tended to portray New York as hardboiled or ironic or lyrical or messy, but never with tenderness. The word was not then associated with the city. (It rarely is today.)

There is also in Webb’s New York a sense of regenerative exuberance that stemmed partly from the war. Following the allied victory in Europe and the liberation of millions of prisoners from Hitler’s fallen Reich, people throughout the West began to hope for a unified world (“One World”) devoted to peace, freedom, and harmony among nations. But the exuberance did not last. Visions of “One World” vanished after Hiroshima, the rise of Soviet aggression, and the specter of a third world war. As a result, 1945 ended on “a mixed note of gratitude and anxiety,” as Ian Buruma notes. People had “fewer illusions about a glorious future and growing fears about an increasingly divided world.” They wanted above all to get on with their own lives. “During a worldwide war, everywhere matters. In times of peace, people look to home.” Todd Webb’s New York is a symbol of America’s home in the wake of war, in which people have retained their faith “One World.”

ImoFamily_revised

JOHN STAUFFER ON WOMEN IN PHOTOGRAPHY
Imogen Cunningham: Family

Cunningham knew that women faced formidable social and economic barriers…but she also recognized that as a profession, photography was comparatively open to women. Not only was there the force of Käsebier, but Jessie Tarbox Beals and Frances Benjamin Johnston were prominent photojournalists, and the San Francisco Pictorialist Annie Brigman had recently been published in Camera Work. Indeed women had played important roles in photography from its inception. Constance Fox Talbot, Henry’s wife, was one of the very first photographers; Nancy Hawes hand-tinted Southworth and Hawes’ daguerreotypes; and Julia Margaret Cameron was among the nineteenth-century’s most accomplished portraitists. Before the Civil War there were thirty-nine professional women photographers on the west-coast alone. “Photography is the democratic art,” Cunningham said in her manifesto, because it depicted “the life of the masses” and accepted women.

Photography’s comparative openness toward women was due to several factors. There were few barriers to entry; start-up expenses were modest; and the profession required no formal apprenticeship in which masters could exclude women. Then too, photography did not suffer from the myths of genre superiority that plagued painting and sculpture, whose cultural gatekeepers excluded women from exhibitions and museums.

The main argument of Cunningham’s manifesto, however, was that “women as well as men need to be granted the right of self-expression through work.” Women, like men, wanted fulfilling, creative professions without having to sacrifice marriage and “the care and rearing of children.” Cunningham no doubt imagined herself eventually marrying and having children while remaining devoted to her profession. Photography was in this sense an ideal profession, and it could have “an enlarging effect upon the home.” Why? Because “being devoted to one’s work is much like hearing a great Wagnerian opera with one’s soul open. The energy and vitality of life seems for a time sapped but comes back in renewed quantity and quality.”

…It was as if Cunningham’s manifesto/artist statement prepared her for what was soon to come. Two years after publishing it, she married Roi Partridge, an accomplished etcher. Ten months later, in December 1915, she gave birth to their first child, Gryffyd, followed by twins, Rondal and Padraic, in 1917. Partridge did not share her New Woman values; he taught art at Mills College while also creating his own art, and rarely contributed to childcare. And so for the next decade and more, Cunningham heroically juggled career and motherhood by focusing on subjects at home: her children and the plants in her garden. In this she became a model for subsequent generations of female photographers (one thinks especially of Sally Mann’s Immediate Family).

SM_clsup4

JOHN STAUFFER ON SALLY MANN’S
Southern Landscape

Mann’s photographs, especially her landscapes, are also intimately connected to her Southern identity. In her Massey lectures she emphasized that we cannot understand her art without acknowledging her Southerness. “Maybe nothing so engages the Southern heart as a good piece of family land,” she said, referring to herself. Born and bred in Lexington, Virginia, she lives with her husband Larry on a farm partly inherited from her father, and she has said that she will be buried there as well. Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson are also buried in Lexington. Mann was born in Jackson’s home, and one of her early photographic projects was to restore, print, and file glass negatives of Michael Miley, who is known as “General Lee’s photographer.” Lee and Jackson are of course the twin gods of Southern memory, a kind of Father-Son duo. Their “last meeting” before Jackson was killed at Chancellorsville, with Lee astride “Traveller” and Jackson on “Little Sorrel,” is an iconic image, among the most popular Southern historical prints. You might say, then, that Lexington, Sally Mann’s home, is the Jerusalem of the South.

Perhaps it is no wonder that Sally Mann is drawn, both in her images and the literature she reads, to the gothic, with its eccentrics, its haunting, and its unruly landscapes. “I think the South depends on its eccentrics,” she has said, and she considers herself one of them. Her work undermines prevailing platitudes, from perceptions of children to the South’s “Lost Cause,” which ignores the horrors of slavery and Jim-Crow segregation and presents the Old South as a utopian paradise. She named her son Emmett, in part after the young Emmett Till, whose lynching in 1955 sent shock waves throughout the country, exposing the savagery of Southern segregation; and she photographed the spot where Till’s body had been dumped into the Tallahatchie River. She aptly revised Flannery O’Connor’s understanding of the South as “Christ-haunted”: “I say it’s death-haunted.” It is haunted by (among other things) the deaths of slaves, the deaths of its white men during the Civil War, and the deaths of lynching victims during Jim-Crow segregation. And she is explicit in connecting her photographs of the Southern landscape to the South’s haunted past: “The pictures I took on those awestruck, heartbreaking trips down south were pegged to the familiar corner posts of my conscious being: memory, loss, time, and love”…

About the Contributors #11

October 1, 2015 § Leave a comment

Legacy Editions and and legacies in music. Quincy Jones writes about his longtime respect and friendship with Herman Leonard. Legacy Editions title Love, Graham Nash includes not only text by Graham Nash but has an introduction by the iconic Neil Young. Legacy Editions includes other important cultural icons, Al Michaels and President Jimmy Carter in Gold, not to mention text and signatures from the entire team!

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Two Jazz Legacies, Quincy Jones and Herman Leonard
Listen: Herman Leonard and His World of Jazz

Today people talk a lot about “reading” a photograph. That means “getting it,” understanding what it’s all about. But, man, when it comes to Herman Leonard, I think a better verb is listen. You need to “listen” to Herman’s pictures. They are full of music and you can hear it. Just look at his great picture of Lady Day {shown below}. If you can’t hear her singing to that little angel over her left shoulder, then you’re just not listening. Herman’s pictures always swing-and always have some special touch, like that angel, that leaves you wondering where it came from. Look at The Duke seated at his piano. It’s Ellington, for sure, but notice how Herman caught him in those modernistic and elegant shafts of black and white light, which echo Ellington’s elegant, always new music.

I’ve often called Herman’s photographs “perfect.” But his perfection was no accident, no piece of good luck. He did have the good luck, or the smarts, to be in a lot of the right places at the right time. But he learned his craft, the notes and scales of his art, just like we musicians did. Before you can go off on a riff, you’ve got to know where the notes are, and Herman learned all his camera’s notes. He realized at a young age the value of studying with a master and apprenticed with Yousuf Karsh, who wrote that Herman had what it took “to be a great photographer.”

Herman and I have known each other since the early Fifties when I was playing with Dizzy Gillespie’s band. Then in Paris in the late Fifties, and right on till today. And he’s always caught that swing, which is why we musicians always wanted Herman to photograph us. He made us look like our music sounded because he had come to his art the same way we came to ours-by finding our own distinct voices. If there’s ever been a musician’s photographer, it’s been Herman Leonard. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, his photographs are music to my eyes. And most of all, I have been blessed to have him as my brother and friend for so many years.

– QUINCY JONES –

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One of two Legacy Editions titles:
Love, Graham Nash

When it comes to writing songs, most songs seem to be about love, but when love and love of man seem threatened, especially by politics and war, then the subject changes. Sometimes it is easy to write a song about war, if young people are killed on a college campus in the USA because they were protesting a war they did not believe in, and were threatened with the possibility of having to go and fight in, then that is an easy thing to write about. It comes naturally and you just let it go. Then the wars that seem to be so wasteful come along, and you may be a lot older now, like Graham and I are, well then it is different. We are grown men with experience in the world. Our ideals have been battered by life, but we still cling to them, even though we have learned that men fight wars because they breathe. That makes it a lot harder. It makes you a preacher, a politician, all the things you may not want your music to be, and you are caught up in the web. Anger, loss, desperation, they all come to you and make you write songs that seem to separate people, and you don’t know whether you have won or lost.

– NEIL YOUNG –

Without the love and support of my mother and father I wouldn’t be here talking to you. My vision for myself would not have come to pass had it not been for their positive attitude towards my passion for rock and roll.

My father first revealed the magic of photography to me when I was 10 years old and I’ve never been the same since. My mother always encouraged me whatever my pursuit, and it’s from her I really gained the confidence to go out into the world with a strong heart. To them both I dedicate this project and I send my unending love.

For much of my life I’ve tried to share my creations with who ever wanted to take the time to be curious. From the first moment of darkroom magic shown to me by my father so long ago, to this present day, I am driven to express myself mainly through photography and music, and I feel extremely lucky to be able to speak my mind this way. I’m proud to be a part of a society that tolerates my point of view.

The conjunction of two energies, love and pain, is represented here
in these pages. There’s a certain charm about the original scribbling
that seems, in my case, to coalesce into song and image. I certainly hope
you enjoy this journey but please remember that these are my loves . . .
these are my pains. . . .

– GRAHAM NASH –

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The other Legacy Editions title:
Gold: A Celebration of the 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team

It’s been often chronicled that the collective mood of our nation in early 1980 bordered on a combination of gloom and anxiety. The prime rate hovered near 20 percent. Long lines at gas pumps in the 70s portended another future round of shortages. The Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan and, as ironic as it now plays out, the United States threatened a boycott of the Olympic Summer Games in Moscow (which did happen). More than 300 Americans were rounded up in Iran and held as hostages, a nightly embarrassment on Capitol Hill and at the State Department. In sum, the United States had a form of the collective blahs.

Out of that darkening vortex came a group of relatively unknown young men and a coach whose focus was limited to performing at the highest level possible over a February fortnight in Lake Placid, New York. When it was over-and the 1980 United States Olympic Hockey Team had won the gold medal-it was a sports upset of historic proportions. But as anyone old enough to remember knows, it broke through barriers far apart from the worlds of hockey and athletics. It gave our country a collective emotional lift and it came out of nowhere. Three decades later, people still light up at the memories.

One of the best things about that magical run is that the flashbacks are so disparate. What did it all mean? I think the answer to that is another question-how many ways can you look through a prism? I know a lot of people still view it as a metaphor for “anything is possible.” In an increasingly cynical world, I suppose that’s one legacy. But I prefer to think of it as something somewhat arguable but slightly more tangible-the most joyous sports remembrance of our lifetime.

One of my favorite phrases is “go make a memory.”
Boy, did that group make one!!

– AL MICHAELS –

Looking back, the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” was much more than an Olympic upset, more than the underdogs defeating the favorite in a hockey game. It was that these unknown, working-class American young men had defeated the all powerful, seasoned Soviet professional team who, months earlier, conquered a team of NHL All-Stars in the 1979 Challenge Cup. The upset came at an auspicious time as the decade that preceded that moment in our nation’s history truly had tested the character of our country. To many Americans, that game was not only a physical victory, but an ideological, even spiritual triumph-perhaps even a success as meaningful in its own nuanced way as the Berlin Airlift or the Apollo moon landing.

America has always embodied an ambitious philosophy of succeeding even under the most daunting odds. When the American team skated onto the ice all those years ago, the result seemed to be a foregone conclusion. Showing the kind of grit and determination that is the very essence of being an “American,” those boys showed us, showed the world the meaning of the word “miracle.” In 1980 we were in dire need of something to celebrate, and those young Americans responded. In doing so they lifted the spirits of an entire nation, and it is a moment that holds a special place in my heart.

– PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER –

About the Contributors #10

September 14, 2015 § Leave a comment

A rare look into personal reflections and thoughts through the pages of artists’ journals, sketchbooks and an interview.

The Maxims of Men Disclose Their Hearts
The Journal of Joel-Peter Witkin

French Saying
“The maxims of men
describe their hearts.”
This is true of art
because the heart (and soul)
must grow in love and compassion.
The artist’s vocation is to purify
his heart & soul in order to develop
a personal vision,
to create
a sacred dimension.

I make photographs because it allows me to proclaim in the Light what I’ve perceived in the Darkness of my being. My faith and my photographs are the reasons I live!! I know I’m not going to change the world with what I make. But I want to make work that the viewer perceives as the reproduction of my Soul. That is my criteria and I believe is the reason all great art is made!

We live in a lost and dying world. A great deal of art produced now reflects this-an art of total emptiness, meaninglessness. This “Art” is a denial of the wisdom of the past presented in the unformed, immature
philosophy of “Post Modern” sound bites.

I want to penetrate rather than reproduce reality. Photograph (and print) as though that was the first photograph or print ever made.

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Sheila Metzner: Fashion

M. Fresson,
Thank you for the fine prints. It is as though you read my mind. They are perfect. I would like to continue to work with you in this way for a while. And I would like to continue to experiment…

The “soft-eye” is transforming. One minute you are “looking,” suddenly you are “seeing” everything changes, dimension, sensation of colors, a kind of objective discrimination begins. Thoughts are magnetized to the vision. Like clouds congregate at the horizon. Reality and vision are one. There is no separation. You are to believe in yourself and what you see. Enraptured until the other reality which you do neither inhabit nor own, outright, calls you back.

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Imogen Cunningham: Platinum and Palladium

I never photograph ugliness. I am afraid I am a little too aesthetic to be anything but old-fashioned. I agree to that. I let myself be old-fashioned, why shouldn’t I? I have a formula for how to make a good photograph; I think that in order to make a good photograph, you have to be enthusiastic. That is, you have to think about it, like a poet would.

I think everything you do is something of a contribution, unless it’s no good. Then you better hide it. What I like to see about a photograph, is everything smoothly in focus-or if it’s out of focus, for a purpose. And, the quality and gradations of value, rendered, more nearly and accurately in a smaller photograph. I don’t mean tiny, but I mean, not too big. I think still photography has more of an aesthetic appeal, that is the single photograph.

For some people history is a great adventure, for others a great bore. But for me it is overpowering. As far as the history of photography is concerned, I have lived more than half of it. But it still gives me pause.

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About the Contributors #9

September 4, 2015 § Leave a comment

For a few titles the photographers were also the contributing poets or writers.

Sally Mann, authored entirely by Sally Mann, includes her provocative introduction, early poetry and photographs which were made prior to the many published books that follow her career. A livre d’artiste first from the 21st Editions Collection.

Measurement has become useless
there in the peak, lush summer.

The winds call out the distances
and the fast clouds sound out the heights,
dive for the great, rolling dark
of the hills, weigh with the balance
and pull of the water, condense
on the wineglass perfection of elm.

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A rare look into a piece of Louisiana history. Metoyer’s poetry and photographs are autobiographical and show an unusual blend of talents by one artist. Metoyer not only conceptualized the images that reflect his history and creative mind, he too wrote the poetry and printed four different processes for this book: platinum, palladium, cyanotype, and kalitype. Celebrated in 2008 as our 10th anniversary title for 21st Editions, it was acquired and resides in 13 collecting institutions in the U.S

MADAME ZUZUSKA
Augured by the planets’ gravitational whirl,
Madame Zuzuska spoke to him of omens.
She ciphered his numbers,
whispered he was born
on the cusp of a fateful day.
“Decline, my child. Anguish and decline.”
Then the blackened cloud of prophecy
loomed in the pupils of her apostle’s eyes
as Zuzuska warned of his life’s maddening gyre
and the destructive seduction
of a swelling lunar cycle.
Now, every stubbed toe,
every unanswered call,
every initial sliver
of the phosphorescent moon
transforms to premonitions
of grisly things to come.

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Jamie Baldridge’s unique talent marries a short story and fictional journal entries from a character whose artistry as an image maker is unlike his peers. Authored and printed by the artist, academics and historians focused on this for their collections as a piece of great inventive literature, new technology image making, and binding made from patina’d brass.

“Sometime around noon, for I still had not the capacity for counting the Gear Shifts to tell time, I found myself hopelessly lost in the candle lit warrens below the Arcadian Convent. After what felt like hours of switchbacks and dead ends, I began to panic and surrendering to my fears fell into the first open door I found, unintentionally interrupting the work of a lovely scribe occupied with quite the longest scroll I had ever seen. I vainly attempted to salvage what was left of my pride, and after dusting myself off politely asked where I might find the Mother Superior’s offices. The girl continued to work as if I were not there. Before I could make my inquiry again, this time perhaps in a more desperate timbre, a gentle, but firm hand grasped my shoulder and a voice somewhere near my navel said, “We really shouldn’t disturb her.”

Chronicler-#63

Each of the 16 artist printed silver prints in Crowd (comes as a two-book set with Shadows of the Dream) is accompanied by a poem by Latvian artist Misha Gordin. Each book in the set is bound with multiple leather in-lays that echo back to early European livre d’artiste design.

In a unity of dream and reality
From the darkest corners of the heart
Like a shadow from the murky past
Emerges a call for a lonely prayer.

wood-posts

About the Contributors #8

August 28, 2015 § Leave a comment

John Wood in his introduction to The New City stated: “…Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg. Along with Hart Crane they were the great epic rhapsodists of America and the American experience, and MacLean Gander is one with them within that same tradition.” We were fortunate to publish two great epic poems: Hart Crane’s The Bridge, with Sheila Metzner, and MacLean Gander’s The New City, with Jefferson Hayman.

Coda: The New City
BY MACLEAN GANDER

This new city is so perfectly described it ends the past,
Not like a death but like the end of a story
That you remember always, in the fondest way, without regret.

This new city holds a lantern against the moon & illuminates it.

The walkways share a fragrance of undiscovered flowers,
Children carry balloons like talismans as they play their games,
Invented & forgotten each day, like rumors of forgiveness.

This new city is a firefly—one of the fireflies that return each summer
So that fireflies come back even though each one dies.

This new city is a place without you, a place where I knew you
But now you are gone. My hands hold a river. If you were water

I would drink you so deeply my thirst would be endless, to drink you.

In this new city we watch the sun rise & set, golden claims
On the sky, indifferent to anything but its endlessness & perfection.

HaymanCloseup_copy

The Bridge
BY HART CRANE

As John Wood wrote in his introduction: We look at the gothic arch, that high window of the American cathedral, at those steel, harp-string cable wires, and we see the spiritual side of the vision that Crane addressed in “To Brooklyn Bridge,” the opening poem of his epic. Here the altar of heaven and the music of angels are conjoined:

O harp and altar, of the fury fused,
(How could mere toil align thy choiring strings!)
Terrific threshold of the prophet’s pledge,
. . . we have seen night lifted in thine arms.

Under thy shadow by the piers I waited;
Only in darkness is thy shadow clear.
The City’s fiery parcels all undone,
Already snow submerges an iron year . . .

O Sleepless as the river under thee,
Vaulting the sea, the prairies’ dreaming sod,
Unto us lowliest sometime sweep, descend
And of the curveship lend a myth to God.

TheBridge

About the Contributors #7

August 28, 2015 § Leave a comment

John Wood continues to discover exciting new poets: Ana Cristina Rudholm y Balmaceda and Keagan LeJeune offered two unique voices for different titles with Josephine Sacabo (of which one, Gilded Circles and Sure Trouble, is available). Daniel Westover was an early discovery published in our silver series title, Toward Omega, with Vincent Serbin.

Trinidad del Cielo at a Train Station
BY ANA CRISTINA RUDHOLM Y BALMACEDA

Death flashes me a thin-lipped grin
behind arched windows where I wait
with desert lilies and songs.
In the cantina, promises spill from goblets
and will soon be forgotten-
or remembered forever.
Ghosts open satchels seeking letters and tickets
lost among blue paper birds.
I wait for love sunk long in silver-hewed marbled caves
beneath the river where I hear your cries
lying beautiful and broken-
like tiny, discarded thorns.
You never arrive
so I drain my heart of blood
and offer it to the wind-
who claims it with long fingers
burning in gossamer gloves.

Sacabo2

Bentwood  
BY KEAGAN LEJEUNE

The food all gone, the dishes cleared,
the table’s centerpiece is all that’s left:
a rosewood bowl with a clutch of eggs,
each a marbled shade of brown or red
and too beautiful to be what they are.
All fact grown fragile as a finger bone,
we ponder them-half in awe, half in dread-
and ache to hold such oddness against our palms.

In the hand, their weight says they are not eggs.
Stones? If so, all rocks are jewels; all earth’s a prize.
Awe and wonder number as pebbles on a shore.
No, we realize the truth rests hidden in the grain.
The showpiece is nothing but a woodwright’s trick:
the spheres aren’t eggs, the eggs aren’t stone,
merely copies spun from a craftsman’s wrist
and lathed with skill enough to dupe the brain.

The carpenter knows best the curse of wood.
His chair never comes out quite the way he’s planned,
and though the board shapes when carved or bent,
what he has made will never stay made for good.

For a moment, though, beauty gathers in that curve,
and there, we hear the whir of his machine,
smell the pine, feel the thatched nest of a bird,
see a host of gilded feathers upon a golden bough.

Sacabo9

DANIEL WESTOVER
From the introduction by John Wood

Daniel Westover, a poet as brilliant in his art as Vincent Serbin is in his, had long admired Serbin’s work and shares a similar vast and evolutionary vision. In “The Physics of Angels,” the best poem about angels since Rilke’s Duino Elegies, written to accompany Serbin’s Earth Angel, Westover writes,

They travel fast as photons,
having long ago eclipsed terrestrial speeds
though they once tread on the ground,
wingless as you.

But now they have “broken clear of fettering flesh” and “realized the spirit’s relativity.” Westover tells us they were once like us. They learned “that suns explode and fizzle, that starlight / can lie, concealing a burnt-out source.” Like us

. . . they learned equations, formulae—
mechanics to explain a cosmic clock
and numb them to the gravity of faith.
But when they swiveled skyward,
reason fled beneath that astral tapestry,
for spirit knew what calculus could not:
the universe is more than lifeless flames
and dusty nebulae; it is an orchestra
of life, an iridescent possibility.

And finally in a stanza of intense poetic beauty Westover, like Serbin, weaves physics and metaphysics into one as he writes,

They orbit us, unbound now
by the mind’s lust for quanta, untroubled
by the frequencies of unbelief.
They navigate by their imagination,
and what they see is instant fact.
For time dissolves at light speed,
and fruits of faith are ever-ripe, ever consumed.
Each glimpsed omega is their now,
is wrapped within their wings’ geometries,
and heaven burns with angel lights,
becomes an ever-breathing hymn,
a universe of singing, silent fire.

Serbin6

About the Contributors #6

August 19, 2015 § Leave a comment

Moving from the classics to prize-winning contemporary poets: Morri Creech & Steven Brown.

We first published Morri Creech in The Journal of Contemporary Photography. John Wood then invited him to create a collection of poems for two books to be published with the work of Robert ParkeHarrison, Listening to the Earth and The Book of Life (with Shana Parkeharrison). This collection of 20 poems were subsequently published in Field Knowledge (Waywiser Press, 2006), which won the Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize. In 2014, Creech was one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

The Music of Farewell
BY MORRI CREECH

Descending for the last time to the underworld, The soul of Orpheus addresses the audience.

What sense in listening to the sun-shot wind
croon through the autumn branches, once the song
behind the song is finished? Always you listened
with your heads tilted toward the absolute
as if the gods would sing to you, while the long
phrase of my sorrow held your world together,
your world of stripped fields and the ripening fruit
that weighs each thick bough earthward. Everywhere
you turned, the lavish music of farewell
lent consequence to things, so that desire
itself became fulfillment to your ear.
And though the mist that swept the cold laurel
was neither Apollo stroking Daphne’s hair
nor Ceres weeping at the doors of hell,
though nothing I sang could raise Eurydice
up from the mute depths again, note by note,
it makes no difference now for me to say
the gods are silent, or that the world seems less
for what the hours and seasons claim from us.
More than the sounds that set the stones and trees
in place, and that arrange both shade and light,
a sad music ripens in the heart; caught
between oblivion and paradise,
it enters the world as loss, though in such ways
that the cadences of grief resound as praise.

parkeharrison9

Beginning

And so God spun the wind to tick time forward.
It teased gold from the leaf, flung spores and seeds.
The beasts’ fur billowed; long-legged shore birds
swung their hunger above a froth of reeds.

The restless trees leaned, bent, all pitch and wring.
Not yet the serpent’s tryst in the grass; not yet
Abel slain in the field, the Lord’s voice calling.
Still, the earth toiled toward its purposes:
the fret
and seethe of larvae started in the mud.
Rain scoured the stone to spill its mineral dust.
Straight rivers cut their convoluted maze.

And as the mouse twitched in the owl’s long gaze
God wept, and wept for the mosquito’s lust
as it rose up toward the heaven of the blood.

Uelsmann5

Steven Brown is a poet (finalist for the Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize), photography critic, and utopian scholar who writes for some of the world’s leading photographic publishers, including multiple titles for 21st Editions. He was selected as one of the Best New Poets of 2010 and is currently working on his doctoral dissertation at Harvard University.

Embrace
BY STEVEN BROWN

Tongue, you’ve loosened up the cry
in my head like a bird’s, or like a bird
you’ve tried the touch that a sky
and breath can melody with Xesh.

Bone, it has been worth it, yes?-the breaks
that as a boy reversed the music
of our motion, and taught our body
sincerity of awe with every step
against the universe of fated falls.

Eyes, what have we seen
that wouldn’t stir or bend the brain
of The Architect’s mother,
whose tooth Wrst struck the egg,
the egg that still feels
like wonder in our hands?

Hands,
let us raise the egg to our lips,
kiss its shell until we’ve broken through
to kiss her wings, her face. Nothing
is exempt from our embrace.

The Angel Oaks

Our fathers called it Heaven. Their fathers,
the Vault. Whatever the vernacular,
all chambers have one. And so the heart?
And so the heart. Our fathers called it
Temple of the Faithful Bones. Their fathers,
Dwelling Place of the Lord.

We call it, ungracefully, the cardiac arrest.
The atrophy and stress of the valves,
the veins’ limp pump and stoppage, or else,
an attack. Our fathers called it failure.
Their fathers, the Fall. Whatever it is,
it breaks apart the wall and vault together.

A thousand thousand bloodless branches
reach but cannot reach. It never was their fault.
Born without simple skin to keep pace
with loneliness and pain, love’s sudden rush,
their end was written from the start.

Nixon2

About the Contributors #5

August 18, 2015 § Leave a comment

Night Wind
BY GUILLAUME APOLLINAIRE

Oh! The tops of pines crack in colliding
And one hears so much of their lamenting
And from the river a voice thick and loud
Elves laugh at the wind or at gusts blare out
Attys Attys Attys disheveled with charm
It is the elves at night that mock your name
One of your pines falls to the gothic wind
The forest flees like an ancient army
Whose lances Oh pines are stirred in turning
The faded villages are now planning
Like the virgins the old men and poets
And wake to the feet of no one coming
Even when vultures descend on pigeons

Tress_adaminthe-park

From the Introduction for Flowers of Evil
BY JOHN WOOD

After reading Les Fleurs du mal Victor Hugo wrote Charles Baudelaire, “Vous dotez le ciel de l’art d’un rayon macabre, vous créez un frisson nouveau” (You endow the sky of art with a macabre gleam, you create a new shiver). Some Victor Hugo of photography could easily have written those same words to Eikoh Hosoe a little over a century later when he began publishing his equally radical books of photographs, especially since frisson also implies both shudder and thrill.

The Death of Artists
BY CHARLES BAUDELAIRE
(Translated by John Wood)

How often must I play the sad jester
And kiss the low, dull brow of travesty?
Or spend arrows in wasted archery
To strike the mystic mark of Nature?

We’ll break or crack our heavy armature
And wear our souls out in conspiracies
Before we gaze upon that grand Creature
Whose hell-made desires are our misery.

But some have never known their Idol:
The cursed artist branded with disgrace
Who beats his chest and tears his face

Has but one hope, O strange, dark Capitol,
That Death rising like a new star
Will flame his mind into flower.

Hosoe4

The Odes of Pindar
from OLYMPIAN 1

Olympic fame gleams from far away,
when swiftness of foot and strength’s vigor
boldly strive in the races of Pelops.
The victor finds surrounding him
honey-sweet peace all of his days-
at least as much as victory can bring.
But man’s best blessing is daily fortune.

Now I must crown him with Aeolian song,
as the horseman is honored.
There is no better host, I’m sure,
no one more worthy to adorn
with glorious song, intricate hymns,
no king more worthy of power,
more familiar with beauty. . . .

Gorman11

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