Archive for January, 2013

On Meeting Sebastiao Salgado

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on January 12, 2013 by johnbuckley100


Only a novelist — and a South American novelist at that — could know what to make of how, precisely, it came to be that Sebastiao Salgado was able to break free from the life of a photojournalist to commence his exploration, in the 1980s, of Workers, his epic documentation of laborers around the world.

It all began in Washington, where he has been for the past two days, presenting his forthcoming Genesis — last night at NatGeo, and tonight at the Brazilian Embassy.  Providence placed him, 32 years ago, just outside the Washington Hilton  at the very moment Ronald Reagan was shot by John Hinckley, and it was Salgado who captured the images that soon were on the front pages of newspapers worldwide.  Capturing the near killing of the president who led America’s capitalist resurgence left Salgado — who has become the most renowned photographer of our age — in a financial position to document capitalism’s effects on the workers of the world, the army of miners entering the pits, the farmers struggling to fuel the caffeinated West.  Of all the photographers in Washington that day, it was the former economist from Brazil who was able to, well, capitalize on the moment, in service of one of the most ambitious artistic projects of the epoch. What would Garcia Marquez do with those facts, such magical realism?

And then came Migrations, which sought to document how the planet was trod by those pulled to opportunity, or pushed from disaster, or maybe it’s the other way around; the magnetism of cities depopulating the countryside, refugees from war-torn Africa, from famine, from genocide.  And as a one-time exile from Brazil, he had a special eye for those who had to leave their homelands because they were ripped apart.

And now he is back, after an eight-year exploration of that portion of the planet that has not been despoiled by man, and the photos, of course, are nothing less than magnificent.  If Salgado could render starvation in the Sahel in a photograph that somehow, despite it all, contains the beauty that comes from human dignity, imagine what he can do capturing the last pristine places on Earth.

You’ll know soon enough; Genesis will be the most important photographic event of the year, as it launches in April with multiple museum shows on different continents, as two books are published by Taschen, as Salgado’s son and Wim Wenders release a documentary on the making of this, his greatest work.  Get ready.

On the eve of World War II, Cartier-Bresson complained of Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, “The world is falling to pieces and Adams and Weston are taking pictures of rocks.”  Genesis transforms Salgado into a landscape photographer, every bit as much as he was a humanist documentarian, and before that, a photojournalist.  But now as the world is literally falling to pieces — even the rocks are falling to pieces, now that so much of the world is being drilled and mined, with habitat shrinking faster than the glaciers — Salgado has spent eight years capturing it, the glaciers and mountains, the tribes and the caribou.  And in so doing he has produced the most breathtaking hymn to the planet.

From capturing the dignity of people who refuse to be degraded by their conditions, he’s spent his seventh decade capturing the dignity of the planet that still has beauty preserved, in pockets here and there.  Only someone with the stamina of Salgado, and an ability to charter the planes and hire the pack animals, can get to the ends of the Earth, capturing them before they’re gone.

What we learned tonight in meeting him was a) his eyes twinkle, b) he is as warm and patient as only a humanist photographer can be, c) he shrugs off the physical discomfort he had to have gone through, all alone in Antarctica or the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or with the the native peoples in tundra and rainforest, and d) most surprisingly, he’s actually optimistic about the planet.  He described the genesis of Genesis as coming out of the bleakness of photographing the Balkans for Migrations, when he was depressed about the condition of the planet.

But after he and Lelia Wanick — his wife and collaborator who run the Amazonas photo agency, which syndicates his work — began their project to reforest the section of Brazil in which he was raised, ultimately planting two million trees, he began to be hopeful once again.  And he focused on the approximately 50 percent of the planet — from Antarctica to the Arctic, from the deserts to the jungles — that has not been paved over.  And from that he began what may be his final extended project.

Each individual photograph is gorgeous, but the power of the collection is unlike any photographic project you will have ever seen.  If the word “stunning” has meaning, this is when to use it.  The 140 images he showed tonight — a portion of the 500 we will get to see in April — is an aria to the beauty of the planet still remaining.

Sebastiao Salgado is a great photographer because he can frame and illuminate images with an aesthetic sensibility unlike anyone today.

He is a great artist because of his conceptual ambition — not for him the limitation of photographing a gang in New York City, or people at a zoo, or the denizens of the street.  Salgado is intent on capturing the workers of the world.  All of them.  And all the migrations of people across continents and seas.  And now Genesis, for God’s sake.

He is a great man because of his humanism, which is not rare among photographers, though as with his work, Salgado is in a league of his own.

Ten Days Until The Inaugural

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 10, 2013 by johnbuckley100

Leica M8, 35mm Summilux



Man, it was cold that day four years ago.  17 degrees.  Only warmth came from the million citizens around us.  If you’d like to remember what that day was like, go here.

Omigod, The Deathfix Song Released Today Is Amazing

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 9, 2013 by johnbuckley100

We wish we were excited about the Bowie release yesterday.  We’d like to be, but the song’s kinda dull, id’nit?  But “Transmission,” the new track released by Brendan Canty and Richard Morel’s Deathfix is nothing short of astounding.  We’d love to tell you the saga of how Brendan got from powering Fugazi from behind the skins to a song that sounds like Joe Boyd capturing the Incredible String Band jamming with Traffic in Syd Barrett’s basement, but we don’t yet know it.  You wait here, we’ll find out.


Check it out here, courtesy of Spin.

Album is out February 19.  We count the days on fingers, toes, and the digits of friends.

Parquet Courts’ “Light Up Gold” Is Either The Last Great Album of 2012, Or The First Great Album O’ This’n Year

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on January 6, 2013 by johnbuckley100

When you listen to Parquet Courts’ Light Up Gold, you can almost smell the sweat fog in the tiny Brooklyn clubs where the material was honed, and you unconsciously lift your feet from the floor to make sure spilled beer hasn’t affixed you to something far less glamorous than parquet.  We can easily understand why so many people who have appropriately lost their minds in fandom for the young Texan migrants to Area Code 718 keep referencing  the Modern Lovers, but really, there is a far, far more apt mid-’70s comparison to these young garage rockers.  Playing Light Up Gold back to back with Television’s Marquee Moon only reinforced the brilliance of the latter, not least of which how amazing the sound was on the first Television studio release.  But if you have ever heard the Brian Eno demo of Television circa ’75, with Richard Hell still part of the band, you’ll begin to grok the raw’n’thrilling state these tyros presently inhabit.  Yeah, Richard Hell pre-Voidoids, without the showoff articulation of Ivan Julian and Bob Quine on guitar, but the otherwise loss of the ability to do anything but pogo in excitement at the ruckus they’re creating?  You got it, real rock’n’roll, with Light Up Gold being re-released approximately now, giving it a 2013 release date even though it came out nigh on two months ago.

We saw reference to them in the January Uncut Magazine while in an airport waiting room, and downloaded the album by the time Group 37 was being loaded onto the flight.  People looked at us funny as we bounced in our seat, shouting aloud above the headphone roar.  You’ll react the same way too, especially if you go see them this Wednesday night at D.C.’s The Rocketship.

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