Walls That Speak

Finally I am moving forward with a project that somehow has eluded me for several years. When asked why I don’t put these pictures together in a book I always just whine and mumble. I do that because I am ashamed to admit that I’m scared to try to do it. I am afraid that I want to be able to do the project justice. I don’t quite know why, but that’s really the truth. The project is a wonderful story of two little boys and an extraordinary mother who helped her two handicapped sons make their home truly “their PLACE.” The brothers lived there for more than sixty years. Eventually age, family demands, and state cutbacks created a situation where it was time for them to go to a sheltered adult care home. I have seen them out and about since they moved and they are doing well. Happy, cheerful, and enjoying their new place. Last week I decided to make a Blurb book that told the story of how as children they papered the walls of their home with their drawings and cutouts from magazines and catalogs. I have a basic structure now, what I learned from Sam Abell is called a “blad.” Basic layout and design. I have learned a lot about the practice of “wall papering” or the use of newsprint to cover the walls and create some barrier to the cold and wind. The image here is from the upstairs loft bedroom that was the last room decorated with cutouts. This was done by one of the brothers and a cousin when they were about twenty or so years old. This is the most organized, sophisticated decoration job; but the others are more exciting and inspirational. I’ll put a few more up as I go along.

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Pictures of Children Hardly Ever Fail

There was an article in yesterday’s Times announcing an exhibition of David “Chim” Seymour’s photos at the ICP. Seymour was one of the founding photographers of the respected photo group, Magnum, in Paris, 1945. Many of his photographs taken during World War II contained children. The article discusses how the inclusion of children puts a different face on what one photographs. There are some things that are just universal about the innocence of children that makes such photos appealing. They often add irony, some times they add humor, and often their inclusion makes the image more hopeful. Certainly the inclusion of children can also stress the gravity of a scene or situation. In Havana the play yards for children are in the streets and in the Plazas and Parks scattered throughout the city. In the Plazas the scene is much more middle class seeming, in the street surrounded by the crumbling architecture and potholes, the scene is much more one of poverty–except the kids are the same: happy, shouting, running, and generally having a good time. In the course of a few hours I encountered these scenes among many others of children playing in the Plaza Vieja, one of the busy plazas of Habana Vieja or Old Havana. It is interesting that now so many groups visit ostensibly as relief groups that the children have a lot more toys. I never saw an actual scooter or “blade” in the past, most baseballs were hand-made by rolling tape around compacted paper and bats were mainly sticks with taped handles. Once I looked on in amazement as kids played with makeshift toys, now they have the real thing to play with. That’s another small but tangible sign of progress.

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Hispanic and Historic Siler City

I dare say the fact that I was born there does not give a bit to the historic nature of Siler City. I never really lived there since my parents moved in my first year of life–all the way to Asheboro. Never really thought about it again until I read Paul Cuadros’ novel “A Home on the Field,” a true book about him coaching a soccer team from the area to the state championship. On Martin Luther King Day this past Monday, I was out aimlessly wandering about taking a few pictures with my fine new camera and I ended up in Siler City, in part to get some less costly gasoline. I drove down to the “historic district” and was struck by the number of Hispanic shops and churches that were there. It was a lot like some of the towns along the border with Mexico. I walked around the downtown streets and was impressed by the American flags that were displayed, I assumed because of the holiday, I’m not sure though. I thought the flags and the Spanish language store fronts and signs made a nice image of what’s going on in the United States. It was also a good symbol of how Martin Luther King Day should be one time we truly acknowledge the diversity and inclusivity of our country. It is far more interesting to live in a diverse world than in one that is stuck in one groove. In 2011 50 per cent of Siler City’s population of 7800 people were Hispanic. This is a higher rate than in the rest of the state, nearly twice.

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Abstract Expressionism and Havana

Once when on a road trip and  asked why he did not want to stop and photograph some of the beautiful scenes in nature that had been passed by, Aaron Siskind answered,”The only nature I’m interested in is my own nature.” Recognized as an outstanding photographer and teacher, Siskind’s photography was for the most part the foundation of abstract expressionism in photography. His experiences and association with the Chicago School no doubt influenced him. He met Harry Callahan at Black Mountain in 1950 and was invited to move to Chicago and teach photography. That school, evolved from the New Bauhaus, traced its heritage back to Lazlo Moholy-Nagy who was greatly influenced by the Russian Constructivists. The term Abstract Expressionism is more easily applied to painting or sculpture since  part of the work rests in the making of the art. In the case of Jackson Pollock both the process and the painting as an index of the process were paramount. Siskind found things that appealed to him and stimulated his “nature” or his visual sensibilities. These are photographs that are easily passed by in a gallery or pages flipped quickly in a book. When some time is spent however, one often finds that they do begin to grow into you, not on you, but into.

Dalmatian at Finca Vigia

Dalmatian at Finca Vigia

 

 

 

 

The confection of light, shadow,color, and texture that one sees in Havana can be very much like that. And  I assure you that the process of creating it s stimulating and satisfying.

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Rent a Bike

Paris is not becoming Amsterdam, but there are more and more bikes in the streets. One can get a bike by leaving a deposit, ride it to their destination and turn it in and get their money returned. This is as very healthy way to deal with traffic and local transportation. I know that we can’t trust the French, but somehow this seems like a terrific idea.

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