More light thoughts

Nineteen twelve

Nineteen twelve

Nineteen twelve

Nineteen twelve

 

Nineteen twelve

Nineteen twelve

Nineteen twelve

Nineteen twelve

Low light, low contrast light shining through the door attracted the lens, the geometric design, the refractions resting on the wall, too late in the day for natural light. Artificial light that didn’t move, the transience of the other light pictures is at odds with this image. Stubborn attraction to the fixed place on the wall that it illuminated, repeating itself through the stasis of it’s existence, challenging the ideas from before. Should the constructed light challenge the narratives that evolve in the stories born of the flow of natural light from its flight past the apertures that provide the ephemeral lighting on the land? Natural seems truthful, seems factual, documentary, fleeting and evanescent. Constructed light seems fictive, imagined, not truthless, rather full of constructed truth, like a story with a purpose, like a fiction to uncover a lie covering a truth.

Still playing with ideas, these two image have been further fictionalised by conversions to mono – thinking about how they could depict further the fictions I want to explore.

Today I made some nice images

At today’s session at the Echoes Group I was somewhat thwarted in my plan to take a full set of portraits, a significant number – more than half – were not able to come chiefly through medical reasons. I had planned a set of similar portraits, similar light etc so have decided to put that exercise off until next week. Whilst I was still able to collect resource for the calendar project I was interested in a set of abstract images that appeared to me within the space at the Fusion Arts Centre.

The conference at the University of Westminster had Jason Evans talk about ‘Nice’ images, about how he, amongst his practice, enjoys presenting images that appeal to him. “I like the secret places in a photograph” and “..the points of magical light, to a specific place, Wednesday afternoon at 4 o’clock…” thoughts that I felt immediately drawn to. I see those things every day – I especially like the Tuesday morning light just after nine thirty – photographers tend to do that. I remember talking to Barry Thornton who said that photographers are very lucky because they ‘see’ pictures all the time, we become accustomed to framing, to recognising both macro contrast local contrast, instinctively ‘seeing’ that it would work as a ‘nice’ image. Geometry, symmetry, harmony those distinct structures that inform the eye that things are combining for the lens. Evans has a website dedicated to showing a ‘nice’ image every day (though at the moment is has been a bit variable as to whether it gets updated). The object of the Dailynice is to display a pleasant image to make people feel better than they would had they not seen the image. That’s nice isn’t it?

I have struggled with my own images for some while now. I have found it too easy to produce pretty images, those that are on this blog piece for example, so I’m thinking about the difference between ‘nice’ and ‘pretty’. Evans’ ‘Nice’ images are filtered through an Art practice that is mature – his is a distinguished career already – so I wonder if he isn’t being a tad disingenuous calling his images ‘Nice’, where they might be considered as a comment on the ephemerality of photography today. Having resigned from an educational career in art photography, having been a photographer in the fashion business, Evans has witnessed several complexions of the face of a photographic artist. His images appear for short periods of time and there is only one image to consider, untroubled by the narrative complexities of other images to scroll into, Evans presents an image for the viewer to contextualise or not, as the fancy takes them. Surely he knows why he has made those images, they surely contain ‘points of magical light’ as the clock ticks relentlessly through the witching hour of 4 pm.

These images presented here were taken because they struck me at the time as nice images (I fear to associate the capitalised edition of the word with my own creations, lest a comparison is made) and whilst the word kindled a connection with Evans’ work, I have attempted to make them nice. I have prettified them, abstracted them further from the abstractions that they clearly are, but I was inspired by Evans’, I heard his words echoing as I gazed through the viewfinder and that together with my tutor’s encouragement to make some images that I don’t hate (a reference to the ‘war’ photography I have been researching for some time, and a battle area of “Documentary” that I would like to leave behind me).

A turning point?

Memory, that most fallible and enabling of devices

by the riverMy earliest memory stems from when I was just a few years old, I would say three, maybe four, but probably three. The family was outside our next door neighbours house back-door (which of course was to the side of the house and not at the back; it was called the back-door to be the opposite of the front door). This back door was paved to the front gate, so-called because it was at the front of the garden, in front of the house, and so was appositely named. My father challenged me to a race home; I remember vividly he let me run-off first – I raced to the end of the path, opened the gate, two steps to our front gate and then I hurtled toward our back door. I knew I had won – he had let me win maybe – but I wasn’t thinking that of course, no-one had overtaken me, he hadn’t overtaken me. My head still in racing position and I never let up until I got to the end of the race, and when he stood there and stopped me, ahead of me, in front of me, and not lagging behind I couldn’t understand what could possibly have gone wrong. I left first, no-one, least of all him, had overtaken me. My mother was there shortly after, they both laughed. I looked back towards the gate, the gate that I had, as a two year old, fallen against and gashed my forehead requiring two stitches – I don’t remember that fall, though I still have the scar. The pavement that I had just ran down was where I had  tripped over sometime previously and knocked my two front teeth out; I don’t remember that either. But I do remember my parents laughing at my confusion and how it was that Mrs Young, our next door neighbour, had volunteered to show me what had happened, how it was that I had ran the race whilst he had simply strode across the boundary wall in what I suppose for an adult, would have been a three pace race.

I don’t remember the picture either; it was shown to me last week by my twin sister, that’s her seen in the picture slightly lagging behind me. I know where it is – by the White Bridge across the River Ouse, nearby what became Newnham swimming pool. I don’t recognise the joy in the face of that boy either. I was clearly some kind of celebration, a long way from home for a Christening, so not that I’m sure. This place was quite close to my father’s parental home, though I suspect they wouldn’t have been with us. So I’m all at sea, on what this the significance of the bow-tie, smart socks and my twin sister’s pretty dress. And she can’t remember either.

runningPhotographs do possess strength, not only the strength to invoke memories, but also to invoke responses:

All this is true, up to a point. Photographs are evidence, after all. Not that they are to be taken a face value, necessarily, nor that they mirror the real, nor even that a photograph offers any self-evident relationship between itself and what it shows. Simply that a photograph can be material for interpretation – evidence, in that sense: to be solved, like a riddle; read and decoded, like clues left behind at the scenes of a crime….. A photograph can certainly throw you off the scent. You will get nowhere, for instance, by taking a magnifying glass to it to get a closer look: you will only see patches of light and dark, an unreadable mesh of grains. The image yields nothing to that sort of scrutiny; it simply disappears.

            In order to show what it is evidence of, a photograph must always point you away from itself. Family photographs are supposed to show not so much that we were once there, as how we once were: to evoke memories which might have little or nothing to do with what is actually in the picture….” Annette Kuhn, Remembrance. The Child I Never Was. The photography reader ed’ Liz Wells pp 395

I was very pleased to have found this photograph, and to have had time to (re) live in it for a while. We don’t know who took the photograph, so to whom I am running isn’t known. I suspect it wasn’t my father.

Catherine’s Chairs

Image courtesy of Catherine Banks

Image courtesy of Catherine Banks

Photography is a tool for dealing with things everybody knows about but isn’t attending to. My photographs are intended to represent something you don’t see.” Emmet Gowin cited in ‘On Photography’ by Sontag p 200

The chairs aren’t Catherine’s, they belong to a chap in his eighties that Catherine knows; he was widowed four or five years ago and other than the couple were childless, I have no other information of this chap. Yet the image, even with this scant knowledge to situate him, or the room, this home depicted – for which I have only ever seen this image – starts to build an image which is more than the two dimensional four sided photograph that I saw recently, is something I find interesting.

I haven’t experienced a loss of a loved one, in that all the people I have loved are still with me. My father died a decade or so ago, but I never felt loss there, maybe a sense of relief, but no loss of sleep. So how the image that Catherine presented spoke so lucidly of loss to me with those few anchoring words is something I find intriguing.

Twin book piles. Image courtesy of Catherine Banks

Twin book piles. Image courtesy of Catherine Banks

Two chairs, co-joined by an occasional table which is itself weighted down by two piles of books and a ‘silver lady’ statuette. The image is split in half offering a place for two people, a chair, a set of reading each and a wing each from the angel.

Behind one chair is the window to a tended and nurtured garden, net curtaining providing a screen but also a connection to an other world beyond. Behind the other chair is the hallway, a door to the exterior world and four coat pegs; three pegs having men’s hats, the fourth, nearest to the sitting room, has a scarlet scarf and a jacket.

Image courtesy of Catherine Banks

Image courtesy of Catherine Banks

The chairs have been well used, relics perhaps from when the house was first occupied, these comfortable armchairs have had replacement covers that now have their own signs of wear and evidence of use, with stains at the end of the arms where people grasp to get up and down from them. These coverings are now starting to rumple but they both have hearty cushions, though not in the same colour; the one, a healthy pink/cerise and the other a pale/ghostly white.

The television is turned off, but on the screen we see a reflection of a staircase that provides access to another space upstairs, when the time is right.

Reflection. Image courtesy of Catherine Banks

Reflection. Image courtesy of Catherine Banks

A rug lies on the floor in front of the chair with the cerise coloured cushion; it avoids the other armchair as if in a gesture of politeness the chair with white cushion has offered it to the other. One chair seems still to be sat upon, the other looks as though it has been vacant for some time.

It is a quiet image, a reflective device that is depicted in soft warm melancholic tones.

Nowadays he doesn’t think of his wife, though he knows he can turn around and evoke every move of her, describe any aspect of her, the weigh of her wrist on his heart during the night” Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient

It is in the image that I detect that sense of loss, a powerful narrative sense that emanates from this single image. That Catherine had other images that she was working to form into a cohesive set for an assignment was something that I was aware of; but I found that this image drove a narrative that chimed with that sense that I had detected – probably from how Catherine had spoken about this chap who had been widowed. A sense of loss of a loved one, irreplaceable, gone but still with a sense of presence, holding on.

Looking at this image, from a set I created for assignment three – a narrative – I felt a similar sense of loss when I first worked the image, being projected from the absence of a person – a physical absence, rather than a metaphorical one – rather than loss as in an emotional ‘presence’ described beautifully in “Catherine’s Chairs”. These three people, collected in a row with a space between them, as if there was once a fourth but now no longer – seems now a much more prosaic image. Too deliberate. Too elemental.

Documentary, identity and place

Some of the most unexpected outcomes of taking this course are the discoveries that crop up along the way. The course notes require, or at least strongly suggest, various texts and artists to consider and reflect upon. Of course it wouldn’t be much of a course if there weren’t new things that find themselves on the horizon, some of which will surely disappear from view as quickly as they arrive and others will become larger, perhaps more significant in the landscape.

The section marked “Project Documentary, identity and place” suggests, under a sub heading of “Reflexivity and authorship” the work of Alex Webb and in particular his piece on Istanbul. Turkey is another country I have spent a lot of time in, though in the capital Ankarra, rather than it’s most populist city. The first image of the set is “TURKEY. Istanbul. 2001. Ferry crossing the Bosporus.” It is an image of a journey.

On the Mumbai to Elephanta island ferry

On the Mumbai to Elephanta island ferry

Of course all courses are journeys, one starts at a place and sometime later one finds oneself in another place. In Webb’s “Ferry” image we note the vessel is travelling across the Bosphorus, and whilst I remember the many many times I have flown into Istanbul, over this water in order to transit to the capital, I am also reminded of the significance of the water, something I wrote about here, though with Webb’s image there is a less of a tangential connection to the sense of place. The man on the ferry seems to be in a reflective mood, we might think he is reflecting on his journey to work – these ferries in Istanbul are in heavy use for commuter traffic – or it could be that we see him as a Turk on a metaphorical journey from one place to another. From the post Attaturk revolution to a ‘new’ future as a world player. Or we might connote that, as the direction of travel is set right to left, that he represents a gesture of friendship and conciliation to the neighbouring country of Greece. There maybe many reflections that could be read into this image. And so I wonder about whether it is because it is a ‘good’ image that I can do this, or perhaps it is because the reference is from a set of course notes and therefore, like an image on an exhibition wall, it has a higher place because of it.

On viewing all the images a week or so ago, my first reaction was that Webb’s use of titles were both an annoyance and, perhaps eventually revelatory. There are very few images that denote Turkey, let alone the specificity of the ancient city that has now become Istanbul. There aren’t that many that tell the viewer that we are viewing a land whose dominant religion is that of Islam, moreover I first connected these images with the work of Winogrand, of Ewing and that of Leiter.

The notes in the course suggest that “Webb has not simply taken photographs of Istanbul; he has recorded his impressions of a place called Istanbul….”

I can see how Webb has constructed his image set and acknowledge that many of these images might be read in many ways, this is a subject I will return to in another post, but it is my interpretation of the work, how I view these images that is the topic of this reflection.

The sub-heading for this section purposefully uses the word, or perhaps better defined as a term, reflexivity; it foregrounds it, and it is this that I want to consider, as it is something that has provided me with a significant backdrop to a lot of what I have been thinking about, in terms of what I determine art to be for me.

I can understand how Webb might have been feeling as he created his portrait of Istanbul, his reflections determined by his knowledge, or lack of one, of the history of the place. Like Willsdon’s essay on Sugimoto’s image of the Aegean, mentioned earlier; Webb’s comprehension would have been driven by his knowledge and appreciation of this seat of European history, or as Willsdon has it “This is the dead centre of the Aegean Sea. From a European perspective, or at least from any perspective oriented, critically or otherwise, to what used to be called the ‘European mind’, no body of water in the world is as heavy with history and mythology.” Singular Images ed’ Howarth pp 100.

The series of 75 images are precisely editied. The first image has the man crossing the Bosphorus from right to left, the last one has (another) man travelling left to right. The second and penultimate images have images of Taksim square, which of course is now being synonymized with contemporary popular unrest in a city that has seen more unrest over a longer period than perhaps any other city on the planet. And whilst these images of Webb’s take hold of my imagination, this article by Roger Scruton comes to compound the eddying of my memory, news items, comprehensions and other encumbrances.

Scruton’s article attempts, quite well I think, to situate the current issues in Turkey and elsewhere in the Islamic cauldron that is called the Middle East, as a consequence of a history that isn’t a decade or less in length. That the issues that Turkey and it’s neighbours face are as much to do with how the West, and maybe the UK in particular, have placed them in over centuries. Whether I agree with that Scruton says, after he hasn’t finished the series yet, is largely immaterial, what he has done is to remind me, just as Willsdon did, that there is more to the eye, than what is held by it.

Russian and Nationalists execute opponents to their view of how the land should be governed in North Western Persia, bordering what is now Turkey and what was once all part of the Ottoman Empire.

The course suggests in the following text attributed to Sekula “Documentary is thought to be art when it transcends its reference to the world, when the work can be regarded, first and foremost, as an act of self-expression on the part of the artist.” Alan Sekula, in Liebling, 1978, p.236) And what I understand that to mean is, that if Webb decides that his work on Istanbul is a work of self expression, or as the course notes denote” “..he has recorded his impression of a place called Instanbul.” then who am I to disagree.

My thoughts though suggest that the notion of reflexivity that stem from the titular instruction could also intimate that the viewer to this work would take it on another journey. That as Webb, in the Magnum catalogue has defined, through titles, the place and therefore the cultural connotations of that place, then dependent on the cultural background of the viewer it re-presents the narrative dependent on the viewers contextual perspective. I now see Webb’s work more as a documentary and less as an impressionistic vision of a city at a place and time. I see the conflict between old and new, I see that in terms of where it was and how it has now become, How Attaturk’s visions have been appropriated by different and conflicting purposes.

Widening the view of Webb’s work and looking at his personal site, which may or may not have an alternate perspective as the Magnum site where the Istanbul series is situated, I am intrigued by his series on the Southern Caucasus. I have never been to this area, though my impression is that these could be re-titled Anatolia, or even Istanbul without too many visual conundrums to demystify. However as soon as I connect the Caucasus with photography I connote to Vanessa Winship whose work I first saw in Hereford a couple of years ago and which I wrote about here, and then to the recently published work “she dances on Jackson‘ which, whilst a long way from Istanbul, provides me with a greater sense of the document as a work of art than Webb’s initial entry to these thoughts on the choppy waters of the Bosphorus. And whether that water is entitled Bosporus or Bosphorus matters not, but it was the start, the embarkation that took this reader, as it did Webbs’ traveller, to consider the journey where the guidebook is as much to do with the cultural baggage as the ticket’s destination.

Flight time

Flying

Flying

This photograph was part of the set that I was to look at and comment on, I didn’t choose this series by Chris de Bode, but it awoke a memory for me. This memory was perhaps stirring from a conversation I had had with my tutor recently which subsequently referred me to this much earlier post regarding Documents.

The memory is a long way back, I would suspect I was eight or nine, or nearly both. I suppose I had suspected that something was up, there was an added tension in the air as I was told it was bedtime; I knew to go to bed, there would be no rituals of goodnight kisses or embraces, no stories to be told and, as I was the eldest child, the downstairs would therefore become the sole domain of my parents. Bedtime was usually fairly strict, but I can remember a tangible frisson in my parents collective urge for me to leave the living room and get to bed; this went on for several weeks. This sense of something had played on me for some time and one day I could bear the temptation no longer and ventured downstairs with some paltry excuse, that I cannot recall, and walked into the lounge unannounced. Their sense of surprise was palpable, they both looked up, shocked that I should come down – we weren’t encouraged to climb downstairs after bedtime was called. My mother was in her usual chair by the fireplace, my father though wasn’t in his chair, but rather at the table which was covered by, what I later learned was balsa wood and tissue paper. I was immediately turned round and told to get back upstairs, though the confusion I felt for what I saw stayed with me, almost as much as what ensued a little while later.

Some weeks later my birthday rather drudgingly came to our house, my twin sister and I never really expected very much, some coin from our grandparents and a little something from our parents – nothing else. On this occasion though my sister was given a surprisingly good present I remember and I received the normal, not much. My mother decided though to let on that there might be something more when my father came home. I don’t remember feeling any real sense of expectation, my father’s return from work was never anything to feel excited about, unless there was another transgression on my part that would involve some punishment or other. He came home and rather than sit down for some tea or other he summoned me and to my absolute surprise he showed me this hand-made glider he had been constructing during the evenings after I had gone to bed. So this was what it was. The pride of his achievement was for all to see, my sister was as surprised as me, and I suppose had wondered why what seemed such a good present to her, by normal standards, now seemed to pale beside this glorious construction of balsa and red tissue paper. The model glider was in two parts; the fuselage and wings, which were nearly six feet in length. There was a point when I thought I might be able to touch this construction of wonder, but my father was keen for us to go to the local park, man and boy, father and son, to launch this homage to the power of man’s mastery over nature and prepare for the maiden flight.

I suppose it would have been half a mile to the ‘New Park’, a large green area that had a number of amenities, including a hill in the centre, to which my father strode with an ambition similar perhaps to the Wright brothers, though in our case it might have been ‘Umney & Son’. The feeling of excitement was contagious and I was soon having to trot behind my father as he excitedly paced his way across the main road and to the park entrance, heading directly for the hill. The ascent to the summit left me breathless I’m sure, but my Father’s determination never wavered as he attached the wings to the superstructure, whose previous detached skeletal appearance through the fine application of the tissue paper, became a single body. Before me and before my eyes, this was simply the best present I would surely ever have. The glider was ready for launch, and I offered my hand to take possession of my present.

My father lifted the glider beyond my reach and with great care he brought the glider behind his head, as a Grecian javelin thrower might have done and in a single move threw the glider into the air, into the space that held us both, father and son, with anticipation. The red projectile soon moved into a beautiful arc, the nose lifted and those huge wings kept the airframe level as it climbed. The excitement soon grew to nervousness as the glider went into an ever increasing ascent, within a few seconds this delicately framed model was pointing straight up. I knew nothing of aerodynamics, maybe my father didn’t either, but we knew that when the glider stopped it’s vertical ascent it would surely head for terra firma; and faster than it had taken to get to it’s apotheosis of altitude. How it actually landed I can’t be sure for I was watching my father, and I knew that expression; I had witnessed it more times that I’ll ever want to remember. We walked over to the remains of the model and I was allowed to take home what I had been not allowed to take to the park. I knew not to try and talk to my father as we walked home and as we arrived, he deposited what he had carried into the dustbin. I followed suit with my carriage and decided it would be best for me to go straight to bed, which I did. The half crown that I had been given as a present from my grandparents was probably spent on knick knacks, I don’t remember that at all.

It’s funny how an individual image can spark a memory.

Surrealism and Feminism

In the one course – Gesture and Meaning it is suggested that I study feminist art, and the course notes suggest some texts and workers in that field. In the other course, Documentary, it suggested that I look at Surrealism, similarly there are texts and artists in that field to “go and explore”.

Recently I had the pleasure of discussing feminist art with Lucie Bromfield at a study visit – Judy Chicago – in fact the only discussion I had on the day regarding feminism, which I found curious when the study visit was to a Judy Chicago show. Lucie has shared with me her draft essay “How Has a Feminist Reading of Surrealism Dealt with the Hegemonic Imbalance Found in the Movement?”. This work has sort of stuck with me, and indeed the conversation at the gallery; so I suspect that a good deal of my thoughts written here will have some foundation in Lucie’s thoughts – so acknowledgement is given here.

Invited in the Documentary course to look at Atget’s work about whom Benjamin remarked: “In fact, Atget’s Paris photographs are the forerunners of surrealist photography, advance troops of the broader columns surrealism was able to filed….he began the liberation of the object from the aura – Walter Benjamin, 1931 pp28 “Photography in the Dock” Solomon-Godeau 2009.

Benjamin’s words, written less than a decade after the Surrealist manifesto was coined, open the chapter that discusses Atget’s work from a number of aspects, but the aspect of a feminist perspective is perhaps the one I will dwell upon most. Though, as the text was referred to from the Documentary course, one suspects the aspect of authorship was in the mind of the author of the course. Be that as it may.

Despite Berenice Abbott’s intent on bring Atget’s work to the fore in 1928/29, it wasn’t until Szarkowski in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s did Atget gain the notoriety that he, Szarkowski, determined that he deserved. Indeed Abbott’s determined refusal to find a path in the surrealist genre – despite being introduced to Atget by Man Ray – may have contributed to her decision to sell the work in order to live. “Whatever the nature of the social, professional, and artistic positions Abbott occupied in relation to the surrealist milieu, the fact that she was a woman artist (and not a wife, mistress, or model) could only have been anomalous in the boys’-club (not to say misogynous) ambience of surrealism. Abbott’s embrace of Atget in 1928 must be understood as expressing a multiple refusal – a simultaneous refusal of surrealism, of art photography, and perhaps even of expatriatism (Abbott returned permanently [from France] to America in 1929). Ibid pp 35.

It was Abbott that brought Atget’s work to the attention of the American market, though it was Szarkowski who iconized the Frenchman’s work:

“What also became apparent from this feminist reading of Surrealism was that two further poles were to evolve; one that was to reject psychoanalysis and Freudianism; the second, that psychoanalysis was needed in order to more fully understand the roles assigned to women in society and art, because, as Juliet Mitchell would point out, “psychoanalysis is not a recommendation for a patriarchal society, but rather an analysis of one.” (Mitchell, 2000, back cover)” Lucie Bromfield, unpublished from: How Has a Feminist Reading of Surrealism Dealt with the Hegemonic Imbalance Found in the Movement?”.

Bromfield goes on to discuss these twin streams, also how female artists work ‘alongside’ the surrealists, but as for their collective importance to the origin of the movement, Bromfield goes on to cite Chadwick:

“The meeting in 1928 by male members of the Surrealists which lead to the 11th issue of this publication [La Revolution Surrealiste] was with the aim to conduct a “formal enquiry into sexuality”. The fact that there were no women present in the meeting was only commented upon by Louis Aragon “who apparently felt inhibited about discussing woman’s sexuality in her absence” (Chadwick, 1985, p.103). Along with their rejection of bestiality they also excluded homosexuality, though there was a paradoxical tolerance towards lesbianism.” Ibid Bromfield.

The inception od Surrealism then was guided by the absence of women, which is something that Solomon-Godeau goes on to discuss: “In making what might seem to be an ad feminin reference to a sexual division of labor along the lines of scholarship and stewardship, I mean to enforce, once again, the connection between canons, fathers, authority, and patriarchy. One of the the conspicuous features of virtually all canons in the field of cultural production is the relative absence of women and, needless to say, all other Others.” pp39 Solomon-Godeau

What I suggest here, is that, even if Atget was the forerunner of Surrealism that Benjamin suggests – a contention not without it’s detractors, but not discussed here – the movement was critically flawed by it’s singularity of exclusion to any Other representation. That Szarkowski, by his position of King maker at the MoMA, had iconized the relatively unknown French photographer from his position as the patriarchal head of a gender biased organization and art culture as much for his own determined position that he himself couldn’t. As Solomon-Godeau says “What distinguishes a photographi arbiter like Szarkowski from the other curators and critics has to do, first with the power of the position (not for nothing has Marth Rosler dubbed MoMA “the Kremlin of Modernism”) and, second, with his having produced a critical framework to justify, promote, and pedigree his preferences”. pp 39 Solomon-Godeau.

And whilst I find difficulty in not conflating the gender biased curation, including the exclusion to some extent of Abbott’s work to foster the worth of Atget and the opening of an art movement deliberately starved of any Other representation; I am well aware that there will be many attempts, in fact have been, to rewrite the history from other aspects. But I wonder how another archive might spin the orbit of Atget’s contribution to both the Documentarist tradition and the Surrealist which the post-Szarkowski discovery of the work of Vivian Maier. An archive of greater proportion, perhaps therefore greater significance through greater exploration of singular narratives over time. An archive whose existence has produced an exigency unparalleled with even Atget’s oeuvre, the majority of which lies within the French art establishment. That ‘Surrealism’ is a term often appended to ‘quirky’ images, odd juxtapositions and ‘clever’ framing denies the origin of it’s creation as an art movement. But those terms are as readily in the frame in Maier’s work as they ever were in Atges’, that they were taken by a woman recalls to mind, as Solomon-Godeau does when discussing the effect of the authorship of Szarkowski in relation to Atget’s work:

“You cannot value [the poet] alone: you must set him [sic], for contrast and comparison, among the dead. I mean this as a principle of aesthetic, not merely historical criticism. The necessity that he shall conform, that he should cohere, is not onesided; what happens when a new work of art is created is something that happens simultaneously to all the works of art which proceeded it. The existing monuments form an ideal order among themselves, which is modified by the introduction of the new (the really new) work of art among them… whoever has this idea of order… will not find it preposterous that the past should be altered by the present as much as the present is directed by the past.” T.S.Eliot. “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” in selected prose of T.S.Eliot, ed, Frank Kermode (New York:Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1975) 109