Archive for April, 2019

A Street Photography Location Nonpareil

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on April 23, 2019 by johnbuckley100
All images Leica M10 with 35mm Summilux FLE or 21mm Summilux

I saw a provocative headline recently that asked “Is Instagram Killing The Great Outdoors?” Of course, Betteridge’s Law of Headlines states, “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered no.”

Still, it’s a pretty good question. Ten years ago, Horseshoe Bend near Page, Arizona was a lovely place to stop and reflect high above the curvature of the Colorado. These days, hundreds of people arrive in busses in order to get selfies they post on Instagram.

There are people falling off of Yosemite cliffs, trying to get that Instagram post that will generate likes. One instinctively recoils from what we perceive to be a desecration of nature — going to the right place, but for the wrong reason.

But what of buildings, street corners, locations that seem made for photography? The Occulus is the Santiago Calatrava-designed train station built as the nexus for all of the lines — PATH as well as MTA — that used to flow beneath the World Trade Center. After 9/11, when all the lines were crushed by the weight of the collapsing buildings, they had to rewire them, and someone had the brilliant inspiration to hire Calatrava to build a station that is, in its own way, far more spiritual than the outdoor memorial a block away.

I wanted to see it, and photograph it, because it is beautiful. I had no idea it is the NYC equivalent of Horseshoe Bend, a place to which thousands flock in order to have their picture taken, and for good reason.

It has lookout points on both ends that are perfect locations for selfies.

I thought it was cool, and it is certainly a gorgeous structure. But while standing there, suddenly the sun must have come out from behind a cloud, because it was transformed. For the next approximately five minutes, it was a street photographer’s dream come true.

It took about two seconds to realize this was an ephemeral playground. If you look all the way up to the top image, try finding the couple making out at the top of the stairs. They weren’t there to be photographed, they were there to make out before bidding farewell, he back up the stairs, she headed down to the 1 Train. They were every bit at home as lovers on Point Neuf, or at least the Point Neuf as it existed before last week’s fire at Notre Dame. And they were a street photographer’s dream come true.

To me, among the most interesting things to photograph are people standing at some distance below: dolls in a doll house, going through their day with no recognition that a camera is turning them into, as Daido Moriyama wonderfully put it, “fossils of light and time.”

The Occulus would be one of those perfect photography locations from which Rene Burri would have created a masterpiece.

As it was, I was there just long enough to work within its magnificent quality of light.

I can’t wait to go back.

The Mekons’ Miracle in the Desert

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 2, 2019 by johnbuckley100

Thought exercise: try imagining the Rolling Stones, 42 years after their founding, releasing the strongest record of their career — a record that at once harkens to their 1964 debut but also their strongest work from their Golden Age. By this math, the record would have to come out in… 2004. Lord, forgive us as we write on the very day that Mick Jagger has announced he’s to have heart surgery, but is it in the realm of possibility that the Stones’ could, in 2004, have put out a record on a par with Beggars Banquet, Sticky Fingers, and Exile on Main Street?

We think you know the answer. Yet on Deserted, by our count the Mekons’ 20th album since their formation in 1977, this dearest of bands haven’t just touched upon their former glory. They have produced the greatest album of a long, cursed and hilarious career.

There is a technical term for this: a fucking miracle.

Thirty years ago, the Mekons released Rock and Roll, which always seemed likely to be their high-water mark, artistically. I (Heart) the Mekons (from ’91) may have had as many great songs, but the production was so harsh that to this day, we put gauze and vaseline on our earbuds before playing it. The run of albums that stretched from Me (’98) to Journey to the End of the Night (’00) to OOOH! (Out of Our Heads) (2002) had between them the greatest batch of Mekons’ songs and recorded performances, but boil all three recs down to what’s essential and you have a single Long Player.

From wild start to beautiful finish, though, Deserted has not a single weak moment. It is the apogee of the recorded output of this grizzled, sprawling spawn of the punk-era. It fill us with hope and gratitude. It is adding years to our life. It revives our faith in the art form.

Singers Jon Langford and Sally Timms don’t fully commit to their vocal chores the way the warble-voiced Tom Greenhalgh does, but make no mistake, this is the Mekons in the finest of fettles, fit as an old bass fiddle. Sequestered in Joshua Tree to produce an album, they chose to write songs with desert imagery, the usual nod to the lost “glory” of the British Empire, a recognizable dissonant squall, and some of the prettiest songs ev-er. From the start, it’s been hard to get the Meeks to take things seriously — I remember interviewing them on New Year’s Eve 1980 and could barely get a useable quote — even though, underneath it all, you don’t keep a venture like this going for 40+ years without a decided commitment. On Deserted, the Mekons mask their ambition inside the usual antics, but this greatest of punk-era bashers have produced an artful delight we plan on listening to for just as long as our batteries last.

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