Monday, July 21, 2008

Responses to Creative Destruction

I got a great comment to a previous Creative Destruction post. To save you all from looking back into the blog site to find what I'm responding to, here is what One Way Street says on the topic of Creative Destruction:

Here are some random associations with "creative destruction": Historically I think of the "duotone solarizations" of Edmund Teske, which involved re-working his existing negatives, playing with the chemistry (exposing developers to light before they had been fixed, or after they had been partially fixed) - rendering each image unique. Depending on the papers & chemistry used as well, different tonalities were achieved, as well as solarization effects (negatives rendered as positive, & vice versa). Teske comes out of a very distinct pictorial tradition, dating back to the 1920s, in Chicago & subsequently Los Angeles. The print & its surface were assumed to be mediated - the transparency we assume with modern "straight" prints is a later idea. Teske's patron was Aline Barnsdall, who is known now primarily for her estate "Hollyhock House" designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, which is now a cultural center run by the city of L.A. Teske was also a follower of the Vedanta Temple. Unlike more traditional pictorial materials (gum bichromate overlays, platinum printing, etc.), Teske utilized the effects of "deterioration" of the silver, experimenting with chemistry & light, which I think would fit in this framework. Teske had been a teacher of James Fee, who works currently, who has experimented a lot with the same techniques. Other work that comes to mind: the photos of Sigmar Polke, which use chemicals in a much more selective & delirious manner - such that the image sometimes is barely apparent or unrecognizable. Also, some of the prints of Boris Mikhailov, which employ scavenged or "compromised" materials. I'm thinking of his book "Unfinished Dissertation" which uses an academic dissertation as the matrix of Mikhailov's book. Or his use of cyanotype paper. My understanding of Mikhailov's work is that before the fall of the USSR, it was "officially" unofficial, & was deliberately "poor" & "poorly made" to stand outside the world of sanctioned imagery. Also (to go in another aesthetic direction): the 80s work of the Starn Twins with its folds, wrinkles, spills & cellophane tape, come to mind.

I think this response hones the ongoing discussion about what constitutes destruction. Is it destruction to experiment in the darkroom with chemicals and toners? Is it destruction when any sharp object breaks the surface of the emulsion? I think the Starn twins are in the same category to me as Carlos Garaicoa. The use of pins (in the case of Garaicoa) or tape (the Starns) is sculptural and and of a certain utility. There seems to be no intent on the part of the artist to destroy or mar the object. From a viewer's point of reference, I don't see these works as damaged by the process in the same way as Walead Beshty's process damages his work. I understand that Beshty may not INTEND destruction either, but we certainly see it that way.

In the case of Teske, I wonder if this is related to my questions about any of the artists who use the darkroom as a place of experimentation. Is toning an act of destruction? Is the work of Allison Rossiter with her use of damaged and expired paper destruction? What about all the photogram and darkroom experimentation out of Bauhaus and the I.D in Chicago? For my money, these do not fall into the realm of Creative Destruction.

That being said, Mr. Polke seems to be in a different world. His practice does seem to have some intent by the artist or perception by the viewer of ruin and occlusion. I would compare this practice to the color abstractions and folded paper work of Wolfgang Tilmanns. Here darkroom work seems to be directed towards the "ruin" of the image or taking the paper to the limits of it's viability. Destruction of the object seems a distinct possibility in the process of creating it.

In any case, there is no clear answer, nor any one right one. I enjoy chewing on the idea, though, and I think it would make an intriguing show. More to come........

Pleasures and perils in Arles (Perils)

So, you think you want to be a curator, huh? It looks easy, right? Just find a bunch of good art, hang it in an attractive space, and, Voilá!, great show. Not so fast, my friend. It's clearly not so easy, as Christian Lacroix must have discovered as the commissaire for 2008 at the Rencontres de la Photographie in Arles. We must admit that the bar was not set high. I know whenever I hear that a fashion "personality" is venturing into "high" art, I bring all kinds of stereotypes, prejudices, bigotries, and low expectations to the table. Unfortunately, all of my expectations were met with such generosity that I might have to create some new prejudices and stereotypes. I have to say, I was eager to be proved wrong. I love to see expansion in the world of art that would include anything from vernacular to commercial work. Art can be a big tent. But the fashion world showed once again that it is usually only about itself and its own ego.

I understand the rationale behind why Mr. Lacroix would be invited to participate in the festival. He is a native of Arles. As a celebrated and successful son of the city, it's only fitting that he be fêted and included in one of the city's most prestigious events. Still, if he's going to be included, it should be on the terms of a festival devoted to photography, not as a photo festival turning into a fashion show. This is exactly what happened.

I fast forward to the evening program on the final night of the opening week. Usually this is an evening devoted to awards for books and artists, video presentations about noted photographers, or a presentation by a noted photographer. The witty and erudite presentation by Joan Fontcuberta a few years ago remains a highlight in my photographic life. This was a wonderful opportunity for Mr. Lacroix to show his relationship to and passion for photography in any number of ways. Instead he had a fashion show. 20 years of Lacroix couture paraded around a makeshift runway while a fast cut, music-video-style montage of musicals droned on a big screen behind the models. It was dull, it looked haphazard, it seemed ill conceived, but worst of all: IT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH PHOTOGRAPHY. Why on earth were we looking at this. Did Mr. Lacroix feel that the photography world needed more awareness of couture fashion? Did he think the one perfect thing he could offer a festival celebrating photography in his hometown was a parade of dresses? It was so sad.

And then, as an afterthought, there was a mumbled introduction to a video recounting the making of Josef Koudelka's photos of the Soviet invasion of Prague. WTF??!! Did anyone planning this event think that maybe, just maybe, fou-fou dresses might not segue so well with a documentary of totalitarian takeovers? Current French international football star Djibril Cissé was also born in Arles. Perhaps next year we can look forward to a soccer match onstage as the culmination of the opening week.

But this was only the final act. The run up to this opera buffa was looking at the other shows chosen and curated by Mr. Lacroix.

At the core of this was his takeover of the Musée Rattu. We are told that this museum is where the young Lacroix first encountered great art, and where his artistic sensibility was first formed. He therefore tried to construct a show built from the holdings of the museum, representations of other artists, and his own couture creations. When this kind of multi-period, group show works, it can be thrilling. Anyone who saw the Artempo show at the Palazzo Fortuny last year can attest to the power this kind of show can have. If you didn't have a chance to go, you can still see it online at . The Fortuny show looked effortless and the works of various periods spoke to each other in easy conversation that sparked new ideas about each work.

At Reattu, the conversation was as forced as a badly planned blind date. And like a bad date, one could see no reason why these "people" were in the same room together. I would happily argue for fashion/couture as art. But like any art, context is everything. In the Reattu show, it seemed that there was a variety of art in the room plus a dress or two. The conversation stalled and died after the first handshake.

Since this is primarily a photo blog, and Arles is a photo festival, I'll only say that the photos in the Reattu show could not have been more dismal. Perhaps this is the fault of Reattu and their archives, but bad iterations of mundane photos could not have been a help to Mr. Lacroix's argument. As with the fashion show, I look to the festival organizers to put some control over the content being shown. If Mr. Lacroix had an unworkable but good idea, there should have been some oversight and editing to bring the level of the show up to the level of the festival.

ok......I'm getting tired of whining about all this fashion stuff. I prefer to be positive. I'll leave off any discussion of the derivative and stereotype-reinforcing shows of Paolo Roversi and Peter Lindbergh. If this work has power and art in an editorial context, it was lost on me in big prints in gallery milieu. And the extended hosannas that were extended to Richard Avedon for his alleged rejection of fashion in his New Yorker magazine "fable" called "In Memory of the Late Mr. and Mrs. Comfort" were beyond my ken. How a shoot that had models, designer clothes, an extensive set with a set designer, production deisigners, and credits for the clothes could be called a rejection of fashion is just outside of my understanding. It was called "harsh" and "daring" by more than one writer. Such pronouncements send my skepticism meter into the stratosphere. What's next, an Ansel Adams show calling him the greatest color photographer? How about a show that calls Weegee the most important studio portraitist of his time. If it looks like a fashion shoot, reads like a fashion shoot, smells like a fashion shoot, guess what it is? Yep, you're right! And no amount of curatorial wall text or theorizing is going to make it into something else, as much as we may like it to be true. Daring? Please.

I'm a big fan of the Arles festival. It has been important to me in my development as a member of the photo community. I root for its success every year. I feel bad about being so negative about the program this year. Francois Hebel is a smart and capable man. I have confidence that, whatever stumbles there may have been in my opinion this year, future years will return Arles to its position of authority and creative interest.

Ok....I'm really done. In penance for all this rant, I promise a minimum three positive posts to follow. Of course, any constructive debate is welcome and asked for.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Computer glitch

On my recent trip to France, my not-so-dependable laptop was not-so-dependable. It decided to stop accessing the Internet 3 days into the trip. So while I was able to continue to write, I was not able to post. Forgive what will seem like a glut of new posts in the next few days. They were actually written at a leisurely pace over the last few weeks.

Pleasures and perils in Arles (Pleasures)

After spending the last week at the opening days of the Rencontres de la Photographie in Arles -- this year curated by the designer Christian Lacroix -- it would be easy to go off on another anti-fashion rant. So, so easy. But rather than foam at the mouth again and risk the label of grumpy, cranky blogger, I'll start with some positive thoughts.

First, I have to say I was seduced once more by Provence, the Camargue, and Arles itself. I know I'm not breaking any new ground to extol the virtues of this spot on the globe, but I can't help but add my voice to sing its pleasures. For example, there is a farmer's market every Saturday. I have rarely seen such wealth of nature's bounty. Raspberries (I ate a whole box myself!), blackberries, gooseberries, peaches, nectarines, melons of all shapes and sizes, apples, and fruits I couldn't name were all out to taste and smell as they were warmed by the morning sun. Friends of mine were given 6 oysters to taste by a generous vendor as we saw all manor of shellfish and seafood. I saw mounds and mounds of these tiny clams called tellines, which I had the pleasure to sample at a roadside inn on the way to the Camargue beach. Served steamed in white wine then finished with a garlic cream reduction, I was in heaven tasting the flavors of the sea with the richness of the cream. Yum. I dare you not to soak up the sauce with the local bread. But back to the market......A dozen vendors selling local, artisanal cheeses, multiple vendors selling locally cured olives and cornichons, lavender scented honey, local mustards, everyone carrying a fresh baguette from their favorite baker. I stopped to greet friends at a portable kitchen called Serge's Pizza. They said that the cook had just complained that he was running low on sauce, so he was going out to buy more tomatoes. He came back 2 minutes later with a handful. Now THAT'S fresh. I sampled a slice of anchovy/olive pizza which was saltycrusty goodness. As I paid, another customer called out to the cook, "See you next week, Serge!". Serge is behind the counter at Serge's Pizza?! I love it.

But after all the homemade sausages, the rougets and sardines, the amazing marbled beef and bull, the hanging poultry, there was still one treat that soared above the rest: poulet roti. Now I know it's nothing really special to see birds of some kind or another roasting on a rotating spit. What made this one special is that they put small local potatoes on the bottom of the roaster to cook in the dripping fat of the chickens, ducks, and geese on the spit. Potatoes cooked in bird on a plate.

........I digress. Back to photography.

One of the most interesting exhibitions was a small show of cartes-de-visite of courtesans in the late 19th century. It highlighted a number of intersections between society and photography. Disderi had only recently invented the carte-de-visite which were soon put to work in a variety of ways. The courtesans used them as advertising, the public bought them in voyeuristic pleasure or as shopping tools, and the police used them as proto mug shots. There were many fine examples by the best studio photographers of the day, but what bumped this exhibit up to a higher level was the inclusion of an actual police log from the period. Next to the photos pasted into the pages were handwritten notes about each woman noting her background, former clients, residence, and other particulars to be used against her. This was a very clever show that combined interesting, early commercial examples with trenchant social information. I would love to see this show travel or to see a book fleshed out it. Fascinating.

Also on my list of great shows was the
"Pictures From the Street" series by Joachim Schmid. I quote here from the gallery text by John S. Weber, writer and dayton Director of the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York. I thought it was one of the most cogent and honest curatorial contributions of the whole festival. I especially admire and agree with his final paragraph about the "anti-museum":

The first thing likely to strike viewers of Pictures from the Street is that the photographs themselves are utterly and unexpectedly fascinating, both as visual artifacts and human documents.

The second thing is that these photographs aren’t really art at all and were never intended by their makers to be seen in a public exhibition.

But since 1982, Joachim Schmid has found and collected over nine hundred photographs which were formerly lost or thrown away. They now form a sprawling conceptual art work that ironically redefines the accepted genre of fine-print “street photography“.

Pictures from the Street is the longest project that has occupied Joachim Schmid to date, and it remains arguably the most radical piece he has yet produced. It is conceptually crucial that Pictures from the Street encompasses all the photos Joachim Schmid has found since 1982, hung in chronological sequence according to when they were found. He does not edit the series according to aesthetic criteria, preferring to offer an unbiased, sociological sample of imagery lost or thrown away by its owners. Nearly all of Joachim Schmid’s street photos depict people, and more than half of them have been ripped to pieces. He has commented on the violent energy these tiny image fragments still contain, and it is impossible not to read these torn figures as deeply personal and perhaps desperate attempts to purge memory. For in a society that relies on photographs to record the past, memories cannot be banished as long as photographic evidence survives. This belief, so apparent in Pictures from the Street, underscores the deep-seated psychological role photography plays as an expected, almost compulsory accompaniment to modern human relationships. Intervening in the life of these images, Joachim Schmid has recuperated them as testimony to the extended imprint left by photography on the modern city and modern life. Beyond that, Pictures from the Street also tells the story of his own peripatetic urban travels for two and a half decades. Each picture is labeled according to the time and place he found it, thereby serving as a route-marker in Schmid’s journey as an international “photo-flâneur”. In this sense, Joachim Schmid is indeed the artist behind Pictures from the Street. Yet by including every photograph he finds, Joachim Schmid deliberately explodes the notions of personal style and expression that we normally associate with art and photography. This in turn points to the peculiar dual register on which Pictures from the Street operates: it is simultaneously a sophisticated commentary on our obsession with photography, and a collection of images visually seductive in their own right.

Approached as a whole, Pictures from the Street is a genuine “Salon des Refusés” – an anti-museum of throwaways, and an archaeological sweep through the streets of modern life. Simply by picking up what other people have dropped on the ground, Schmid has compiled a sprawling, evocative, disturbing, hilarious, utterly familiar, yet uncanny artwork of simple means and surprising depth. In refusing to play the “photo-auteur”, Joachim Schmid has told a far more ambitious story about the life and afterlife of photographs.

I looked at all 900+ pictures in the show. It was mesmerizing and instructive. I found myself thinking about how much trust an exhibition like this asks of the viewer. It would be so easy to scam this kind of idea and "find" photographs to include rather than really scouring the streets for the real thing. I am assured by both the artist and those who know him well that this IS the real thing. Knowing that it is truly a vernacular Photographie Concrète akin to the Musique Concrète of the 40s and 50s invests these images with veracity and directness that is unique.

The tragic news about this show was that, after a heavy storm during the night, water leaked from the roof damaging many of the pictures. The exhibit was closed. I have not heard what the long-term effects will be on Mr. Schmid's monumental work, but I hope that the work will survive - as it survived long enough for him to find it and present it to us.

One of the few engaging, non-sycophantic fashion contributions was called "From the Street to the Blog". Both the content and exhibit were innovative. The content was from 20 international fashion blogs that document citizens on the street that the blogger deems to be fashion forward. Taken with cell phone, pocket, or disposable cameras, this is the polar opposite of the high production, glossy fashion shoot. I loved how they showed that fashion lives in the real world and could be accessed by anyone, not just the rich, thin, and beautiful. The 20 blog sites were:
Buenos Aires:
London by night:
Los Angeles by night:
New York
San Francisco:
Tel Aviv:

What was innovative about the presentation was that we saw it as it was meant to be seen: on computer screens. On the wall was a bank of small monitors showing a slide-show of images from the various sites. On a table in the center of the room were 2 computer screens with a click-able menu of the 20 blogs. One could search, read, and browse as this work was designed to be experienced. I found it to be a wonderful synthesis of commercial, vernacular, and artistic work presented in a manner that avoided hype and curatorial over-reaching. Very Satisfying.

Stay tuned for "Perils of Arles", my return to cranky blog mode in response to the completely mundane and disappointing fashion contributions at the core of this year's festival.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Avedon at Jeu de Paume

The re-examination of commercial and fashion photography seems to be in full flower. Curators are racing to find new philosophical feet on which to prop up the careers of various commercial artists. I don't know whether museums and galleries feel that there's a dearth of bankable new exhibition ideas, whether they honestly believe that these are artists on the scale of the best the field has to offer, or perhaps curators are intrigued by the challenge of reformatting how we perceive commercial work with a novel or creative argument. In any case, I remain unconvinced.

This post was motivated after seeing the Richard Avedon show currently on view at Jeu de Paume in Paris. It seems that Mr. Avedon - like his colleagues Irving Penn and Annie Liebowitz - has already been canonized by large-scale shows at the most prestigious museums. These shows incite my cynicism and skepticism. I am not saying that Mr. Avedon and his peers are without talent, craft, or inspiration. They have all of that. They are VERY professional. Do they create a personal, recognizable style? Yes, and I have tremendous respect for how hard this is. Are these photographs that should be seen and judged on their own merits outside of the pages of magazines and books? Yes, absolutely. But are these artists our generation's August Sander, Julia Margaret Cameron, Diane Arbus, Bill Brandt, or Paul Strand? In other words, are these artists the defining portrait photographers of our time? I think not. I think a better comparison is that they are our generation's Nadar, Disderi, Laurent, or George Hurrell. But, as we've seen, major museums mostly don't offer one man, blockbuster shows of this work. Why does Mr. Avedon get special treatment?

Readers of past posts of mine will remember my enthusiasm for Bill Brandt's show in Houston. Even though I had seen a number of shows devoted to Brandt, even though I had seen dozens of his works in galleries and auction previews, my estimation of his genius was undiminished. In fact, to my surprise, even though I already regarded him as one of the best photographers ever, my sense of his genius was ever expanded. But not all artists can survive the scrutiny of seeing so much of their work at one time. When I saw the Irving Penn show at the Morgan Museum this past year, I found myself thinking less of this artist when confronted by so much of his portrait work in one place. The most exciting and engaging part of the show was tracing the discovery of a signature style. These early creative attempts had true inspiration and the sense of searching for something beyond the image. But then, once the recognizable style is set, I see 30 years of repetition using a template that is commercially approved and utile no matter who is in front of the camera. The interest lies solely in seeing a recognizable visage. Do we care anymore who the subjects are of J-M Cameron? Not so much, because the pictures speak so eloquently on their own.

But Richard Avedon comes off much worse in this show than my thoughts on Irving Penn. Both artists created projects outside of commercial portraiture, but it's Mr. Penn's that have some real weight. His still lifes have real power which don't seem to be extensions of his magazine assignments. By contrast, "In the American West" seems to be a fashion shoot without models. It strikes me as the conceit of a photographer unfettered by critics or finances trying to do something "artistic". While not as bad as the dismal attempts by Karl Lagerfeld to make serious work, it is still far short of the claims of importance by the curators and, most loudly, by the artist himself. Just as in the Penn show, we see the development of a nascent style, watch it grow in a full-fledged device, and watch as it is used for decades without question and without asking much from the viewer. Once the memory has faded of the identity of the sitters in these photos, will we care about these pictures?

A NYC dealer for whom I have much respect confided to me that he has less and less interest in photographers who make "cruel" photographs; pictures that have no sympathy or empathy for the sitter. Diane Arbus weathered this accusation, but I think she comes out on the positive side of the argument. She lived with her subjects, enjoyed them, endeavored to show their humanity no matter how freakish or marginalized they were by society. Mr. Avedon seems to delight in showing his subjects at their worst. He reveled in his control over how the sitter would appear, and yet seemed utterly capricious in how bad he could make that person look. He claims that he is showing some "true" side of the subject that other photographs have not limned. Yet this "truth" is almost always grim, sad, and unflattering. Didn't any of the sitters have an unknown sense of humor, sense of empathy, or inner beauty that had formerly been unrevealed? No, I think Mr. Avedon betrays a fashion world bitchiness in these photos using his celebrity-photographer status to throw tomatoes at his fellow celebrities. In the many self-portraits, he had the opportunity to show us more of his "true" nature. I don't see much truth there. He is invariably portrayed as a lion-maned icon of masculinity and beauty. He claimed to fascinated by age and aging. This was manifested in his portraits of his dying father as well as many photos of aging celebrities. Did this artistic searching extend to himself? No. I would be much more impressed if he had had the courage to also chronicle his own decline. Again, claims about the work are not matched by what is in the work.

I'm reminded of the recent show of Rosalind Soloman. Turning the camera on herself, she confronts her own aging and mortality with a forthrightness that lifts the work above a mere self-portrait. Suddenly the work is about mortality and aging itself, not just her mortality. It is about more than just the image. We see that she is searching for something and asking questions. Does she find herself beautiful? Faded? Angry? Wistful? Content? We don't know, but the work inspires these questions. We search for the answers because the pictures aren't easy. And look at the variety. Not just portraits or self-portraits, or documentary....a whole world shown in her work. She doesn't need a PR team and a press conference to convince us she's looking for meaning. It's in the work. Rosalind Solomon has never had a one woman show at Jeu de Paume, yet her work shows a sense of craft, honesty and imagination that leaves Mr. Avedon's in the very distant dust.

Many older celebrities were not lucky enough to benefit from the goodwill of Mr. Avedon. Truman Capote, Dorothy Parker, Oscar Levant, and others all got portraits that would emphasize unattractive features. His friend Andre Gregory certainly has the materials in his face to be the recipient of a similar treatment, yet he is shown with dignity and grace. I think this again shows a crevasse between the artistic claims and what we see. As arresting and shocking as the Levant and Parker photos can be, I am mistrustful of the honesty behind the photos because of this gap between What I'm told I'm looking at and what I see. Mr. Avedon shows his hand. This is the National Enquirer overlayed with the gloss and glitz of Vogue. Like the Enquirer, he trades on our desire to see celebrities brought low while he hides this fact behind a facade of artistic intent and polished photographic craft. The signature all-white background claims to be neutral, something to focus all of our attention on the sitter, yet Mr. Avedon is anything but neutral. I think he hides behind a commercially easy visual device and then claims that he is revealing a special truth. There is more truth in the headline, "Britney Back In Rehab".

Fashion and advertising photography always need to bring us something new. Often, they do this by seeking to shock or surprise. Art, too, sometimes shocks and surprises. Yet the character of the two should not be confused. Fashion shocks with a bared breast in a Prada ad; Brad Pitt as jedermann in a Steve Weber campaign. Art shocks by changing the way we see the world. Once we have seen what the artist shows us, we cannot see the same thing the same way again; the world is changed. A show of shocking art leaves me with a taste for more. I am hungry to know more, see more, learn more. A show of shocking fashion work makes me want to see less. Much less. After I saw the Bill Brandt show in Houston, I went to the library, I asked questions of knowledgeable dealers, I bought books. I was hungry for a meal that I would be happy to have go on and on. After the Avedon show, I felt I had gorged on a meal of french fries. The kind of meal that leaves you resolved to never eat like that again, a meal that provides no real nutrition. In contrast to my reaction to the Brandt show, my curiosity was more than sated. I would be happy to not see this work for a long time. Richard Avedon has certainly taken some great photographs. It may be possible to take a single great photo by accident, but it's not possible to take four great photos by accident. The photo of the former slave, Andy Warhol, and some of the early fashion work come to mind when I think of his truly standout work. But as good as these photos are, less is more. When seen in a grand, solo show, the work is diminished not augmented in my mind. Let's preserve the legacy of these wonderful commercial photographers by keeping them in a measured historical perspective without hype or self-aggrandizement. Then the work will stand without any help at all from any of us.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Thinking about generations

Today I read the post on Alex Novak's e-newsletter about the passing of Cornell Capa. I have not written anything about Mr. Capa's death even though he's the founder of an organization to which I'm very close. I felt that, since I never met him, I wasn't in a position to speak about him. Then I read in his column that Alex only met Cornell once! Somehow this information liberated my mind to think and write about the subject.

I wonder whether it is a common thought to feel that an important previous generation was just missed? In my former career as a violinist this was very true for me. Colleagues who were 25 years my senior had all met, performed with, or heard live Jascha Heifetz, David Oistrakh, Vladimir Horowitz, and their ilk. I was lucky enough to play in an orchestra behind Nathan Milstein, but he was many years past his prime. I know that these names will be foreign to many readers of this blog, but please take my word that this was a golden age of classical performers that has not been reproduced today. Have I similarly missed a golden age of photographers?

When I speak with friends in the photo world just a few years my senior, I hear stories of their encounters with Henri Cartier-Bresson, André Kértesz, Harry Callahan, Bill Brandt, Ilse Bing, and on and on. Is there a qualitative difference between those photographers and the ones than preceded them? is there a qualitative difference between those photographers and the artists alive for me to meet? Those are squirrelly questions that evade objective answers. My gut response is that there is not a real difference. I mean, I cannot talk to Walker Evans, but I could talk to Robert Frank. I missed John Szarkowski and Garry Winogrand, but Lee Friedlander and William Eggleston are here for me to enjoy. It speaks to the depth of the genius contained in the photo world that there is such an enduring legacy of greatness and accomplishment. Speaking to my experience in music, this is not true in every field. One has only to look to sports to see that there can be fallow periods.

Still, with the loss of towering figures like Mr. Capa and Mr. Szarkowski, one cannot help but be a little nostalgic for a generation passed. Though I am happy to experience their contributions to the field through their writings and the anecdotes of those who knew them, I am jealous of those who got to experience working with them first hand. Granted, my nostalgia is a selfish and solipsistic one, but I miss them nonetheless. Their absence is felt.