Topic: Aaron Siskind (2 posts)


Is that it? Am I desensitized to new pictures? Or is it that I've been here, the peninsula that starts in Rockland, Maine and ends at Port Clyde, so many times I've done it all before? (I wrote most of this when in Maine in September.)

I was trying to play it out that what I found two weeks ago in Utah was so over the top incredible that it made me less prone to find things to photograph back in New England but I don't think that's it. 

Great Salt Lake, Utah, 2015 Shoot 2

Great Salt Lake, Utah, 2015 Shoot 2

I think it is simply that I have hunted here for pictures so many times. I have rented here for several years, either in Port Clyde itself or where I am now in South Thomaston. Years ago, I also taught for several summers at what used to be called the Maine Photographic Workshops, now called the Maine Media Workshops.

I even came up here a few winters on a grant to study at the Eastman Kodak digital research facility in the early 90's.

No, what it is partially is that I am having surgery in November.

As I anticipate hip replacement surgery in early November the will may be there but the body isn't able to deliver. I find I consider going out to shoot someplace as a balancing of the pros and cons. How much walking? How far? And, of course, is it worth it?

I remember Aaron Siskind having this same dilemma as he got older. Of course, he fell and really hurt himself on a photo trip to Turkey. This was such a life threatening crisis he was flown home to Providence to have a skin graft in the repair of his broken leg. After a long time in recovery he was able to walk again and made these pictures:

not far from his home in Pawtucket, RI. These were nicknamed the "dribbling tar pictures" as that was what they were. Wonderful abstractions and made with the 2 1/4 single lens Rollei that I had as well. In fact, I still have it. One of my mottos, developed over now a long life of massive amounts of physical activities is: Don't get hurt.

For now, my process is: what you can do with what you've got. Working within a set of limitations as a sort of compromise or a deal with myself. 

As young man I didn't think this way, of course. There were really no limits. If I needed to hike with the 8 x10 slung over my shoulder to the top of the cliff in Southern France to get that one picture, I did it. If I needed to schlep the big camera to the bottom of Cava Romana in northern Italy near Trieste to be able to photograph the walls of the marble quarry in 100 degree heat, I did it. If I needed to climb the scaffolding on the outside of the Zakim Bridge in Boston while it was under construction to get the picture of the three guys raising the US flag, I did it. Finally, if I needed to photograph Chetro Ketl at Chaco Canyon in New Mexico from above and hike the trail that took me up there, I did it.

                                                               • • •

As I now conclude this post, back in Cambridge for a few weeks, I am off again to Martha's Vineyard to stay for a bit before heading home to Boston for surgery. Next few posts will be from the Vineyard, which is exceptionally beautiful in the fall, with yellows, oranges, deep purples and rust predominating. Can't  wait.

Topics: Aaron Siskind,Utah,Northwest,Digital

Permalink | Posted October 12, 2015

Aaron and Fred

The blog is back, after a break of ten days or so to work on adding new series to the site. 

In the mid 70's I was a few years out of graduate school and living north of Boston in Manchester (sometimes referred to as Manchester-by-the-sea). I was married and struggling to find my way as some sort of wage earner and also creatively. I was working for a couple of architects photographing their designs and teaching a few evenings a week at Northshore Community College in Beverly. 

At one point I heard that Fred Sommer was going to be at RISD (RI School of Design) in Providence so drove down to see him. By this time I'd had him as a teacher for a few weeks while studying at RISD but hadn't yet had the top of my head blown off  when visiting him in Prescott, AZ, where he lived (see Fred Sommer, which continues as Parts 2, 3 and an Addendum). That would happen a few years later.

At any  rate, the presentation was a "conversation" with Fred, Aaron Siskind and Harry Callahan. It took place on the 2nd floor of Benson Hall, where the Photo Department was. Aaron and Fred and Harry sat at a table in the front of the room and students and guests sat in fold-up chairs facing them. My memory is vague from so long ago but I'd guess there were maybe 25 of us in the room.  Some students, maybe a couple of faculty and a few people like me who'd heard about it and returned to the school to listen to these three old friends reminisce about their times together.

I remember they did just that, with Aaron telling a story now often repeated about how he and Fred went photographing together in the Southwest at one point and Aaron shot several rolls of film only to return several hours later to where Fred was to find that Fred had made just one picture.

As the time together drew to a close I made one poorly exposed picture with a Leica of Aaron showing Fred where his new pacemaker was and how it regulated his heart beat.

I love this moment between them, two old friends reunited for a brief time, sharing in the effects of growing older. Sometimes we glorify our heroes and forget that they too are human. I think it is good to remember that they had lives apart from their art, strengths and frailties, tragedies and successes, just as we all do.

Topics: Commentary,Fred Sommer,Aaron Siskind,Harry Callahan

Permalink | Posted April 27, 2014