Friday, January 26, 2007


This chest cold continues to slow me down. One of the benefits of so much time at home resting has been the chance to watch DVDs like Contacts Vol II, which I rented from Netflix. This DVD features 10-13 minute clips with eleven contemporary photographers such as Duane Michals, Sarah Moon, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Nan Goldin - each sharing images from their contact sheets and speaking about their creative process. It was fascinating.

I turned immediately to Duane Michals, a longtime favorite of mine. I was surprised to learn that in his narrative series, Death Comes to the Old Lady, his father plays the role of death and his grandmother plays the old lady. A whole new layer of meaning has now been added to that piece for me – a sense that as the younger generation grows in strength, it marks the coming death of the older generation. Time keeps marching inevitably forward.

Then I turned to Sarah Moon, another favorite. Her voice, which I had never heard before, was accented and rhapsodic as she unfolded a poetic speech about the act of photographing. She starts with the words “I have been taking the same photograph for twenty-five years over and over...A woman...A dress...,” and she continues almost stream of consciousness to convey her thoughts as she photographs. I was so intrigued by that first line – that sense of steadily working away at one concept in as many ways possible. In the end, maybe all artists simply play one note again and again – refining it and offering variations on that same theme, which is ultimately the essence of their work.

I thought I would just dip into this DVD, watch one or two, and then return to it later. But no. I sat on the floor with my dog curled in my lap, watching every episode until my sick self was full of new inspiration.

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