Garry Winogrand – New York 1969
I would never dispute Al Pacino’s skill as an actor; I just don’t really ever respond to his performances– perhaps that’s the virtue. (Bear with me; I promise this comes back around to the image.)
Pacino is one of those actor’s actors–a notion I find intolerably snobbish, as if someone were saying you need to know something about what it takes to be an actor in order to understand.
Something not unlike being a photographer’s photographer–minus the snobbery–is true of Winogrand.
Saying I was initially nonplussed by his work would be putting it nicely. It seemed too random, chaotic and unpolished. I remember thinking anyone could have shot these.
For nothing else than my perpetual tossing around of that famous Picasso quote in defense of the modernists, this sentiment should have set off alarms.
Alas, I remained off put by Winogrand until a dear friend showed me this image recently.
I’d never delved deeply enough to have encountered it. The precise composition– the couple kissing, the smoldering cigarette pinched between fingers, the Tortilla Factory sign, the what-are-you-looking-at-motherfucker glare and the go-ahead-and-watch-you-motherfucker glance–made my head explode a little. The image appears almost accidental, unmediated.
You know that moment when you glance at something and look away without really seeing it? And suddenly, the scene registers and you have to do a double take to make sure you saw what you thought you did. This photo is a photographic approximation of that first seeing but unseeing glance. It inspires an instinct to look back at the image again to see if what you think you saw is what you really saw.
That is really what makes this image so extraordinary. The skill of the photographer is on display only to the extent that the camera is no longer an extension of the eye but the eye itself. It’s all so vital, so gleefully transgressive.
Clearly, my initial estimation of Winogrand was wrong. I don’t necessarily like all his work. But I can appreciate it and I do get what all the fuss is about now.
I don’t like being wrong. But the wonderful thing about admitting your mistakes is that little else motivates learning and growth quite as effectively.
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Received wisdom maintains that a boy willing to hold a girl’s hair back is a ‘nice guy’.
Isn’t it more complicated than that? What if a girl doesn’t want her hair held back, wants to hold the boy’s hair back or wants another girl to hold her hair back?
If I were a boy I’d a girl to hold my hair back and were I a girl, I’d want to hold another girl’s hair back.
But I am neither/both and all I have are hair ties.
Wasn’t it Blake who noted the naked body of a woman is more a measure of heaven than any man deserves?
The first thing I notice here is not the very attractive—and even more naked—girl looking over her left shoulder at the landscape beyond the window against which she is leaning. What I see is a photograph taken inside a train.
I love trains. I am not a ‘railien’ or ‘railfan’, not by a long stretch. But there is something about trains that makes me smile. You would think this would have lessened some after spending around six hundred hours a year for five years traveling via rail.
Admittedly there are good days and there are bad days but over time I have learned a simple fact: I am rarely as focused and alone with my own chaos in as when I like this lounging Aphrodite stare out as the passing landscape blurs.
Commuter trains do not offer opportunity for much repose. And being naked on a train is not really something I had considered; however, the prospect of lurching vibrations shivering every inch of skin does is incredibly appealing to me.
And oh Jesus fucking Harold and Maude Christ, to make love and then savor the scent of shared bodies while everything around you hums until you start to make love again.
There is a lesson here about sharing everything.
Even the loneliness of being together.
UPDATE: Another image likely from the same series.
UPDATE 2: And another…
I spend a lot of time preoccupied with notions of community—how to foster, improve and sustain them.
I was raised in an insular, religious cultish community. It was neither the best nor the worst situation; it was just another thing that happened to me.
Somehow, I managed to survive it.
It’s now just shy of two decades since I cut ties with that life. It has been for the best, without question.
But I would be lying if I denied frequently feeling rootless—a tumbleweed tossed wherever the fuck the wind blows.
It’s not the group sex that gets me—although I am not opposed to that by any means; it’s witnessing the shame and stigma my former community directed toward any expression of sexuality transmuted into a sublime collective experience.
Wonderlust Photoworks in collaboration with Ingrid Fong
Al Buhayrat al Murrah as Sughra2009
Silver gelatin print
Created by an analog fetishist who works at a glacial pace.