If you juxtaposition the Casey Stengel quote, "There comes a time in every man's life and I've had plenty off them" with Garry Winogrand's' "Being a good photographer is no more that finding a good place to stand" then a summary of what I do is near complete. Barry Hannah, the great late writer was recently described as a "postmodern hick." Never having cared about labels, time periods or art curators trying to stay employed by tagging things with one or the other....I buy into me being a hick but I don't know what modern is, let alone the horse that rode in on or what the horse left left behind.
A good man. A wonder of a ball player. I saw him interact with hundreds of fans last year, including myself. he sat in a sweltering conference room on a Birmingham summer day and continue to sign until he had to leave to catch a plane.We had spoken the night before about his playing days at Fenway Park. I don't gather autographs, that isn't something I do, but a friend had him sign a poster for me that I now covet.
I was so spent by the time that I finally hit the podium, I will have to watch the DVD to remember what I said. The Color of Baseball: From Birmingham to Boston. A presentation at Harvard University on March 30, 2011. One more time, I am convinced that I am going to retire from all of this stuff.....
Coming to Harvard university on March 30th at 6:30PM,a panel discussion and a lecture (by Billy Boy, hisself.) When I get everything in line, I will post a in-depth comment about it. Race and baseball have been a large part of my focus for the last ten years and this will be a nice summary of everything that I have photographed and issues that need to be talked about. Reginald Howard, a former Negro League player, will be joing us, coming up from Memphis for the event. Details to follow....
January 8, 1935 was dead center of the time in American history called "The Depression." Abject poverty, shotgun shacks, breadlines indicated a depression for several reasons. Of the many births and deaths that day, there is one we remember. The most popular entertainer in world history was born in Tupelo, Mississippi. Popularity doesn't account for much. It is more like asteroids blinking on the horizon, particularly in our current age.What made Elvis special and more than a radar blip on an overpopulated screen were many things. Most notably, he was the agent of social change in the 1950s. I have read him referred to as the man who destroyed culture forever. So many things changed after he hit the stage and before he hit the screen. For two, think of Paul Newman and Andy Warhol. For three, think of a crewcutted boy in Brookline looking to stay meek to garner approval but rebel to get out from the weight of his own burdens.
Moesia Davis, my good friend in Birmingham, Alabama...yes, I could have typed AL but some states need to be spelled out. Having been asked to submit my fave pic of the year to a blog, I felt the knife in my hand and she laughed no more. No, not Moesia..not even Delilah....Every once in awhile, Pops gets up and shows them how it is done....I'm in that soul saving army beating on the big bass drum.
I find it difficult to still reverberate with the enthusiasm that I had when I started this junket around the American basepaths twenty years ago. In that twenty years, film photography has been thrown out at the plate as have darkrooms available for same. Galleries wither and eighty percent of all photographs are viewed on the web. You no longer get to say, "Nice print." It would update to "Nice photoshop technique." Kodak has morphed into Epson....As I cascade towards being sixty....I should be settling down. Nu-uh. I just haven't figured out what is next.
A tumult of a year.My late friend, Marit, said that I have legs like tree trunks and they keep me grounded. Last week, I asked myself, "What next, my house burns down?" The antidote lies in music. "You can't resist it, when it happens to you." Lyle Lovett.
Humphrey Bogart seems to have disappeared. As a matter of fact, all of the icons of that time frame seemed to have fallen out of the adoring public’s eye. James Dean, Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, Jackie K don’t garner headlines or memorabilia sales as they once did. The only one that seems left from that bunch is Elvis and he appears to be slip sliding back into the flower arrangements at Graceland. Is this because everybody that had cherished this crew has passed on or just passed on memorabilia? Or, probably closer to the answer, nobody cares about memorabilia in this day of disposable icons? A Bogie autograph can command up to 10Ks, something that I found on Ebay, with 2 or 3Ks being the norm. A Sheryl Crow will set you back $40 or as Groucho said, for another buck and a half, you could get Minnie.
Culture seemed to evolve around the time of the cave paintings. The Hoi Polloi existed as a Greek form of derision, made popular here in the USA by the Three Stooges as a title for a 1935 film short. Pop culture seemed to spring forward at the time Warhol did and was applied to things both forward and backward in time. Roosevelt’s dog, Fella, was pop culture, FDR was not. Elmer Fudd was, Huckleberry Hound was not.
There is always that nice symetry that baseball has which goes far beyond the actual design of the diamond. THe American League trophy was presented to Nolan Ryan last night by jackie Autry, whose husband owned the California Angels. of course, in addition to being a baseball owner, Gene Autrey was known as the "Singing Cowboy." He recorded "That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine," "Frosty the Snowman, "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and "The Yellow Rose of Texas." His money from his recordings gave him the do-re-mi to buy the Angels. Nolan Ryan's money came from a golden right arm and integrity. I was glad that the playoffs didn't become a "Win One For George-fest." Besides, they didn't.
My photographs have wound up in a lot of places. Books, galleries, museums, refrigerator magnets, kids rooms....My favorite location is the wall of Ben Mondor's office. When I was kicking and struggling to get back on my feet, the PawSox gave me a chance. I took it and ran with it but the crowning glory was to walk into Ben's office and see five of my photos framed and taking up an entire wall of his office. I had many conversations with him over the years. Sometimes seeing the twinkle in his eyes was enough and spoke innings of knowledge. He liked me and my work. I saw him for the last time about three weeks ago, sitting in his box and he flashed that smile. He did much for many.
That day, I was in the sub-basement of a university art art museum was a likely next target, forced the real ground zero workers there, custodians, operations museum, helping a phone guy do what he does - install telephones. The word trickled down from a security guard, a kid of maybe twenty years old. "There had been an explosion at the World Trade Towers in New York." Fair enough, cars blowing up around major buildings were not quite commonplace but self contained incidents, the most heinous being the 168 deaths at a Federal Building in Oklahoma City at the hands of Timothy McVeigh in 1995. As American tragedies pile up, a sense of sorrow but also a hardening of my spirit has crept over me. BANG! JFK! BANG MLK Jr. BANG! RFK. More news trickled from our guard wearing an uniform and pimples. The phone guy, my age and a vet of Vietnam decided he was going to dye his hair and reenlist to go after the criminals responsible for this deed. American tempers flared, Americans perished and there were new boogey-men. The entire university was dismissed at noon. The whatever his title was that week, "Most Cruel to Those He Deemed Inferior to Him" will suffice, decided that the ground zero workers at the small art museum - custodians, operations people should say in case, after the WTC attacks, a Picasso was next. I complied for an hour or so but decided to walk out. Mr. Prissy was long gone and he was no different than I. If after the attack, bathrooms at the museum weren't clean, well, I am sure that somehow, someway, America would forgive.