great artist

Letters to an Italian Art Photographer.

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Dear Sandro,

After becoming infatuated with several of the photographic works on your blog, I naturally became curious to know just a bit about how you see your instinct to create. You have written quite simply:

La fotografia è una passione, un modo di vedere le cose, il mondo. Ciò che pubblico è sempre da me scattato con il mio iPhone 5 ed elaborato attraverso varie applicazioni, direttamente sull’iphone. Per tale motivo è possibile riscontrare imprecisioni.
Un grazie a chi passa da qui (per caso o per scelta), a chi attraversa le mie fotografie…

You write quite well — both here and elsewhere on your blog — but no words can compete with the exquisite language of your art photography. It is in your art that you betray yourself, i.e. reveal glimpses of your many layers of personality and expression … and perhaps also hints of significant changes that you have experienced and reflected upon in your lifetime. While many of your photographs give the illusion of “having arrived!” it is all illusion – certainly even for you. I suspect that – for you – the journey itself is rather the goal and destination, and that successive photographs are all connected in some way(s). Perhaps all are even more or less related manifestations of the same instincts.

Likewise, I notice your balance of “the classical and the proper” with sometimes almost hallucinatory expressions, achieved both by photo processing and your own instinctive artist-hunter talents. A photographer on the hunt is most often a predator that operates alone, but artists are rarely “lonely” … The worlds artists see, interpret and expose are all much too alive in their darkness, light, color and dynamics for us to be lonely while we photograph, paint or sculpt. But to project and convey the sentiment of loneliness to our viewers – ahhh, that is art, poetry and philosophy – all in one. That being said, your photographs are anything but dismal. Sometimes they convey beauty that can easily be connected with joy, but at other times the beauty is seemingly indifferent to labels, emotions or meaning. You have an interesting way of engaging the viewer – of inviting him/her to co-create experiences and art together with you. Whether, or not, those created experiences actually happened is perhaps irrelevant and unimportant. In my mind, you provide the beauty, and let the viewer decide if he/she will get stung – or not. In my mind, you are not driven by the need for approval but by an inner force within you, and thus you defy both classification and all responsibility beyond standing behind your own work.

This talent of yours — for suggesting beauty in the mundane which is perhaps often beyond comprehension – is a drug on par with a psychedelic pill. I will attempt to describe my own “journey” through ten letters where I react to several of your photographs.

(NB. All photographs copyright Sandro, and from his blog)

(Follow his newest photography blog HERE!

sandro tower

Letters to an Italian photographer — Letter number one.

Dear Sandro

I have my own name for this work: Déjà vu.

It represents and recalls that brief moment of eternal recognition: memories of places, sounds, flavors and smells experienced before, and yet — on a superficial level — still for the very first time. How many times have I blindly hurried past buildings like this, without offering a second thought to what was really there before me? But this time, while hop-skip-jumping through the streets and dreams of your blog I stumbled over this photo and was thrown into an alternative consciousness. You reached down, gave me your hand and pulled me to my feet. I had quickly turned my head to thank you when I saw what you wanted to show me … in an instant; out of the corner of my eye.

It was a warp in the time-space continuum … a slight tear in the dimensional perspective, where the angles pulled apart just enough to reveal a crevice through which we could pass. To begin with, there were flashbacks of historical events and non-events, priests, artisans, horses, noblemen, and Botticelli damsels being pursued by satyrs etc. After some seconds the circus of ghosts disappeared, leaving us alone with the architectural shell … which was itself a breathing organism which morphed continuously — both in color and image.

I stood there beside you, in amazement. With each pulse, the structure’s lungs forced out a new kaleidoscopic reality … not unlike Mount Vesuvius, in full glory. As the tower reached higher and higher, threatening to overtake the heavens, the windows begged to be used as steps for climbing … screaming joyously each time we took foothold onto a new window sill. And the tower eventually became a monolith, before turning into a huge phallus sprouting tree limbs and branches, and finally becoming a fairytale beanstalk — swaying high above the ground.

And there we sat … you and I, Sandro. I wept tears of joyful astonishment and remembrance, as I embraced myself with my own arms and rocked back and forth. And you were lost in your own reality: taking photos of the ground below us, while smoking a cigarette.

— Adam

sandro glasses

Letters to an Italian photographer — Letter number two:

Dear Sandro

Viva la rivoluzione!

Your photo moved me greatly. To see the stadium filled to the brim with thousands of naked factory-made wine glasses, standing side by side, shoulder to shoulder, clinking and singing in protest against the country’s new austerity measures was invigorating. Most were orderly and remained in their assigned seats, but some in the bleachers stood on their heads to emphasize the undignified nature of emptiness. The wine shortage means that many, if not most, of these glasses will be long-term unemployed and many will never leave the factory. They are not alone in their protest. There are reports of several glasses in private homes and institutions allowing themselves to be filled with milk or orange juice before violently hurling themselves into fireplaces in shows of martyrdom and solidarity.

Here there is no humor, wisdom or solace to be gotten from flippant remarks about glasses being half-full or half-empty. These wine glasses are empty, and quite unhappy about it I might add. I say: ” Fill these proud glasses with wine, and ‘Viva la rivoluzione!’ “

All satire aside, this is a lovely photograph both in terms of composition and visual effects. The wine red background is very effective, and your interplay between light and glass is simply breathtaking. You have given an otherwise rather mundane still-life an air of elegance, dignity and class.

— Adam

sandro room

Letters to an Italian photographer — Letter number three:

Dear Sandro

Nighttime storms are exhilarating, especially as they first approach. It usually begins with wind murmurs and whispers, a pervasive pre-ejaculatory dew-moisture ritually-anointed by the rex sacrorum Janus, and finally the roar of thunder in the distance and a magnificent series of lightning bolts — both designed by Jupiter to expose all living and non-living entities as powerless subjects under his celestial dominion. The thunder is — of course — all pomp, but the lightning is the playful photographer-god’s attempt to leave a flash imprint while using his enormous camera obscura to document the fear engendered. Unfortunately, Jupiter either does not always have very good aim or vision, or he simply does not care if the lightning brings destruction. He has, after all, thundered several warnings admonishing all to get the hell out of the way. Those who do not heed are certainly either fools or daredevils. (Sigh) I love his photography exhibitions and Wagnerian drama, but I personally prefer to watch the show from inside my room … at a safe distance.

Kudos! My dear Sandro, in these two photos you have captured the spirit of the photographic flash of Jupiter … in all its electrifying glory, as well as the quiet comfort of the room with the view – yes, a veritable safehouse from which to follow the approaching storm as the mist slowly envelops all sensibility.

— Adam

sandro lightning

— Adam

Letters to an Italian photographer — Letter number four:

sandro universe light

Dear Sandro

There is a profound spiritual quality to these two photographs: both of overpowering refracting Light emerging from Darkness, and simultaneously reflecting Divine essence. One suggests a primordial universe while the other attests perhaps to the classical traditions of prayer and of man-made refinement, often achieved after human struggle or invention. Is it at all possible to understand the nature of Light without a background of doubt, uncertainty, and Darkness? You, Sandro, have answered that question …

Truly, all entities represent both Light and Darkness, and both are prerequisites for existence and spiritual maturity.

Gloria in excélsis Deo!
Alleluia … Alleluia …
Although our backs are broken,
and our wings are tattered;
our hearts and souls
will forever sing your praises.
There is only one God,
but the ways to You are many.
Alleluia … Alleluia …
Alleluia … Alleluia …

sandro chandelier

— Adam

Letters to an Italian photographer — Letter number five:

sandro clouds

Dear Sandro

“quod est inferius est sicut quod est superius, et quod est superius est sicut quod est inferius!”

Certainly, as above so below.

Lying on my back, looking into the sky — which is really the Arctic Sea or the Antarctic Sea, hovering above the endless flotilla of iceberg islands, rushing from nowhere to no man’s land, making me dizzy, wondering if I am moving, hoping the clouds will turn upside down and take me for a rodeo ride across the sky-prairie, feeling lazy, the iPhone is heavy, my arms are tired, I am falling asleep, falling into the down-feathered pillows above me, downside up, too much wine … too many clouds stampeding.

— Adam

Letters to an Italian photographer — Letter number six:

sandro kitchen window

Dear Sandro

Art photography enables us to be “social voyeurs” without being judged, and also to peek at and surveil the spaces, lives and private moments of others, without necessarily feeling the need to make a value judgment about what we think we see. However, not making a value judgment does not have to mean that we do not make up stories and imaginings about the persons or events our eyes encounter. When we pass by a window without drawn curtains or blinds, the reflex to glance through the glass and into the room is automatic, and irresistible. Like when sitting on a bus, train or the metro, examining our fellow passengers becomes part of our transportation experience … it is the “in-flight movie” included in our ticket.

We are all quite interested in interesting people, and their secrets. In most dwellings the room least likely to have drawn curtains is usually the kitchen. And yet, kitchens are perhaps the rooms that house most secret conversations, that best expose eating and social habits, and that also best reflect personal organization, hygiene and the level of happiness with oneself and the household in general. It is therefore not strange that dinner guests readily volunteer to help out in the kitchen … transporting food, dishes and drinks, opening cabinets and drawers, examining the contents of the refrigerator etc. It is perhaps even more entertaining and revealing than spending enough time in the host’s bathroom so that one can investigate the perfumes, medicine cabinet, hair products and try out the bathroom scales.

The rest of the house is usually a blur (if we are not alone then we must focus on the other people in the room and suffice with a general comment like: “Your place looks great!”; or because the rooms are off limits socially, i.e. bedrooms or offices).

These two photos are great illustrations of the above. Sometimes things seem much clearer from a distance, and when we are all alone.

N’est-ce pas ?!!

— Adam

sandro hallway

Letters to an Italian photographer — Letter number seven:

sandro ruins

Dear Sandro

There is something magical about ruins at twilight, or under a full moon. At those times, shadows cast off backlighting and remind us that the energy forms and history archived within the structures are still very much alive — despite their now-altered physical forms. This manifestation of life beyond death gives a mystical dimension to our perception and experience, and allows us to temporarily transform ourselves into personalities that are no longer bound by time, space or physical reality. Sometimes the best context in which to discover who we really are and what we are in the process of becoming is perhaps retrospective:

over the decades,
endings muted into beginnings
like swirls of blue-grey smoke
creeping toward alabaster palaces
in primordial consciousness.
there, in the garden of creativity,
the ashes of one zillion charred
impulses rained heavily upon
furrows of expectations,
cultivating dreams with experience.

— Adam

Letters to an Italian photographer — Letter number eight:

sandro portal

Dear Sandro

What a fabulous creation! Portals are doorways to eternity, and windows into our own spirituality and psychology. You have achieved the effect of a charcoal drawing, giving an organic and healing quality to the image as well as facilitating an introspective experience within the viewer of this photograph. Most important is the impression that these hallowed closed doors can be easily opened by those who yearn to forge the keys of self-knowledge, and who have the courage to discover and embrace the mysteries behind the doors.

— Adam

Letters to an Italian photographer — Letter number nine:

sandro blue sky peeking

Dear Sandro

In this photograph you give the illusion of geometric abstraction, allowing non-objective practice to supersede the function and presentation of objects. The objects (possibly the undersides of two overhanging rooftops) are joined together with the cloudless blue sky background to form a geometric design which is actually non-objective. Together with manipulated textures and shadows the end effect is suggestive of the ideas behind the works of Wassily Kandinsky, and perhaps other abstractionists such as Kasimir Malevich and Piet Mondrian, as well as “hard-edge” painters of today.

While geometric abstraction is not uncommon as a genre in modern photography, your approach with this particular work is refreshing in its originality and welcoming effect upon the viewer.

— Adam

Letters to an Italian photographer — Letter number ten:

Dear Sandro

I would like to see more of your portrait photography. Here you have presented a fascinating self-portrait exposing one half of your face peering out of the darkness, with a smoke-cloud as your only stage prop or “clothing” to adorn an otherwise naked countenance. The eye swallows the gaze of the viewer, almost as if to dare or challenge him/her to attempt to penetrate the inner home of “Sandro, the photographer”. However, the viewer must not confuse the expression with emotion or deep contemplation. The nakedness is — perhaps — due to the fact that the photographer is no longer behind his camera, which is an integral part of his being. By looking into his eye the viewer is actually looking into the lens of a camera. And Sandro is both taking your picture and recording the event … each and every time you look at his self-portrait. In addition, the shadows, skin tones and softness give this portrait the look of a detail from a painting by an Old Master.

Well done, Sandro!

Congratulazioni!

— Adam

Lettres à un photographe français: mes réactions aux images.

 

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Presenting a new series: my own take on “Letters to a young poet”; but here I am writing my reactions to the photographic works of the talented French photographer Frédéric Bérard, who is in the process of creating his first photography webpage. While perhaps not considered by all to be “young in years”, his vision is indeed fresh, invigorating and quite youthful. These photos are from PICTORY, his new art photography webpage-in-progress.

— Adam Donaldson Powell, Norway (author, artist, critic)

Letter one.

Congratulations, young man!

Now, THIS is what I am talking about! Today’s photo additions to your webpage are truly a combination of “outside looking in” and “inside looking out”; almost as if under the direction of a certain Camus — unemotionally stripping our sense of vision of all illusions of romanticism, and condemning us to a nameless solitude which is in itself the only satisfying raison d’être: the purposelessness of the sea, the uneventful sky, the tunnel to nowhere, ambassadors of nature disfigured and raped by the elements … and perhaps also by the wantonness of human indiscretion, the waste and the intellectual excrement giving birth to new fleeting passions and obsessions. You flash a continuous screen of images from the far corners of your retina, all focal points obscured and devoid of rational meaning beyond the repetitive blandness which is in itself so strikingly beautiful that in my own mind’s eye I give life, motion and smell to the collection of connected but yet non-connected images. I fall back into myself, barely breathing … and I gasp for air … for release … from the banal non-reality of reality. Yes! I am already frantically looking for the lonely and abandoned old men and women, who are pretending to take part in the daily circus but who have really given up … and are just waiting for their names to be called by the Angel of Death.

– Adam Donaldson Powell

“Prison”, photo by Frédéric Bérard, France.

Letter two.

Your photo entitled “Prison” haunts me. It is perhaps the fluorescent lighting that frames the emptiness that is unsettling. Had you only let the darkness be mystical, or filled it with superfluous objects or people. But no, you were committed to force the viewer to face his/her own loneliness in this concrete gallery of existential mirrors. My every attempt to escape into the shadows of the photograph and to hide from myself are thwarted by the echoes of the whirring and clicking sounds coming from your camera shutter as it opens and closes. They are gunshots, synchronized with the glaring overhead lights spaced out on one side of the corridor as though to taunt: “Run, run, run like the wind! Can you make it to the next darkened section of the hallway before the light catches you, and casts you backwards in time?”

I need not ask to where I might be cast … How old is this prison, anyway? Does the prison really even exist other than as a tourist attraction for the adventurer who has seen everything?

Ahh … I see. Yes, now I understand. It is “I” – the viewer – who is the perpetual tourist.

Yes, I know this corridor all too well. I have my own names for it: Existence, the personal Hell I carry around within myself at all times …

The darkness is my womblike coffin, the intermittent lights are my hopes and dreams … and the shadows are … Well, the shadows are my naked optical illusions: myopic truths, hazy and irrational fears, and my self-hatred – all appearing and disappearing, changing form and substance, and rendered meaningless if they attempt to survive the next click from your camera shutter.

For an instant I am indignant. I press myself up against the wall opposite to the side where the lights are shining down, lift my head up in defiance and I cry out: “So, what are you going to do – hit me?!!” There is no response other than the mocking clicking sound and the low hum from the fluorescent lights. That is answer enough. I am not alone here. I am being monitored, judged, and rendered inconsequent … as always.

I sink to the floor and crawl toward the next section of darkness – hoping to escape the lights, to free myself of hopes and dreams.

When I finally let go I become one with the Nothingness. I am as insignificant as the photograph.

I despise you for showing me Myself, but thanks to your intransigence I am born again.

– Adam Donaldson Powell

“Espichel”, photo by Frédéric Bérard, France.

Letter three.

“Espichel” … a falsification, a moment that never really happened — or did it? The image of sea and heaven — frozen by exposure to all too many self-serving dreams — is an empty icebox, defrosting here and there into sinkholes masquerading as islands. A testament to global warming so magnificent that oceans overtake skies, water becomes gas, and eternity is transmuted into strands of pharmacy store cotton … a futile attempt to bandage a sore so deep that its severity is still denied by religious zealots and atheists alike.

“Come on in,” you beckon. “The water is fine!”

I am tempted to walk into your photograph … to lose myself in your riddle of negations. I hesitate, extend my right index finger as if about to touch the image — and then pull back.

“I am fine, right here where I am. It is cold,” I say, almost stumbling over the lie lisping out of my mouth.

(The truth is that I have been swimming under the fog-swept surface for quite some time now. This is my secret place, and it is not to be shared with anyone else. Not even with you, my dear photographer. Your photograph has not seduced me. I have always been here.)

– Adam Donaldson Powell

“Galactic”, photo by Frédéric Bérard, France.

Letter four.

“Galactic”. A silent explosion within inner space gives birth to bubbles, benign cysts and necessary ablutions: perhaps a newly-found Schoenberg variations, on a theme of molecular disturbance.

I am not fooled by the graceful ballet pictured by your roguish lens. Something unsettling has taken place: an uncalculated movement and force. I remain transfixed; yes, fascinated and apprehensive.

“En garde!” I mutter under my breath.

To whom am I speaking? Well, to myself … of course.
(And to anyone else who might be lurking about in this private enclave within the public sphere.)

– Adam Donaldson Powell

“Bretagne”, photo by Frédéric Bérard, France.

Letter five.

“Bretagne”. Electric blue waves flirt shamelessly with a complementary peach sunset. The ghost of Yves Klein is lunching — just a few meters away — on the matching blue-toned beach. He hardly touches the blueberries, grapes or the gorgonzola. He is intensely focused on the highly-saturated azure of the waves. “Nouveau réalisme”, he says, “is not to be confused with Neo-Dada. This is lovely, but it will never do. Take it away, and let us start again. Now, try a blue wash over that sunset. I want it monochromatic!”

I lean over and whisper into your ear: “What does he know?!! The peach-colored sunset is perfect, my dear Photographer …
Painters and critics! … (sigh)

You know, sometimes I get rather tired of Yves — and of singing the blues.”

– Adam Donaldson Powell

“Escalator”, photo by Frédéric Bérard, France.

Letter six.

Dear Photographer,

Your photograph entitled “Escalator” reminds me of something I had written many years ago … a poem called “The Homecoming”, which was eventually published in my poetry book “Collected poems and stories”, 2005. Through your use of shadows, you have managed to relegate the experience of riding an escalator to that of a personal maneuver where both man and machine must collaborate in order to get from point A to point B. Much like artificial limbs, this bizarre prosthetic also easily becomes a living part of the organism being assisted:

THE HOMECOMING.
Two machines work in tandem to
transport the newcomer to his
destination: the Incoming Arrivals
terminal, some 60-feet away.
One is called Body: a
miraculous mechanism of impulses
and veiny cylinders which pumps
sparks of inertia into otherwise
lifeless organs and limbs.
Another has assumed the name Escalator:
a complex simple machine, whose
sleek metal and plastic components
derive their electricity from a
brain unaffected by emotion and the
undependable workings of the spleen.
Together, these two brains scheme
to smuggle Body from plane to
terminal without arousing its
potential security risk:
the emotional system.
Body’s eye-apparatus fixates
upon the fourth wall,
noting neither destination
nor landscape in-between.
Brain sends Body impressions
of Elevator and simultaneously
commands to “search and find.”
Spleen sleeps, sufficiently
blinded by Eyes (and too
sophisticated to implement the
long-since devolved functions
of Ears and Nose).
Vessels pump … gears spin;
and Eyes notes a multitude of
peer-bodies assuming similar
movements; a signal is sent to
Brain, with press releases to
Body: “Everyone is doing it.
Ergo, it must be right!”
Body moves toward Escalator
with gusto; and Spleen awakens
abruptly when Escalator
chuckles “gotcha!!!”
But the hopelessness is not
fully understood until Spleen
realizes that Body is alone
in the stream of fast-walking
zombies, guided by Eyes’ robotic
gaze … and overhears the one-way
laughter of Escalator, who
neither sputters nor flinches.

– Adam Donaldson Powell

“Papiers”, photo by Frédéric Bérard, France.

Letter seven.

“Papiers” is possibly one of your most successful works after the style (and in the Spirit) of contemporary Japanese masters. Much of this genre is characterised by high contrast, grainy, black and white photography. In this photograph you create a feeling of washed out whiteness approaching that accomplished by overexposure — in an eerie still life depicting a mess of discarded papers, molded together by the weather, the elements and time. Had you taken this photographic process even one step further the entire image would have exploded and disintegrated.

These communications (be they love letters, job termination letters, bills, court summonses, death and birth certificates, marriage licenses, parking tickets, food wrappings or old photographs) have once told stories. Now their only communicative value is as “trash art” or a “disposable sculpture”, captured and archived by you. Louise Nevelson goes Daido Moriyama, if you will.

And the thought that nags me as I come back to look at this photograph – again and again – is: “Did the photographer read any of those papers?” In a way, I hope that you did not. The mystery is probably more interesting than the banalities of the actual contents, and too much acquaintance with the individual papers might interfere with the “air of indifference” which helps to make this photograph exciting.

Through your photography, you have given these now “dead letters” new life.

– Adam Donaldson Powell

“Morzine”, photo by Frédéric Bérard, France.

“Sierra”, photo by Frédéric Bérard, France.

“Carnac”, photo by Frédéric Bérard, France.

Letter eight.

“Morzine”, “Sierra” and “Carnac” are all excellently executed and thematically interesting black and white photographs. In my opinion, the most intriguing of the three is “Morzine”. Here you explore landscape romanticism from the wide angle, combining overview from a distance with a magical aspect achieved by accentuating the hide-n-seek of mist, fog or clouds. The intentional absence of detail in the darkened hills and valleys helps to create a sense of personal urgency and involvement, as the terrain is enveloped and consumed by the whiteness. The whiteness here is not soft and delicate but rather reminiscent of smoke threatening to raze the entire landscape. The geographic specific title for this transformative artwork somewhat confounds me, but I rarely give a damn about titles. Good art needs no title to be understood.

“Carnac” depicts a prairie landscape inhabited by rock formations – vaguely recalling Easter Island or ancient ruin sites in Europe. The rocks are interesting enough in themselves, as they seem to be placed in a pattern and randomly at the same time, but there are two elements that make this photograph an exceptionally good one: 1) the superb lighting which gives a quiet dramatic effect, and 2) the overall composition which hints at a battle between the stoic, hard rock formations reaching for the skies and the dramatic soft cloud formations threatening to overtake both rocks and grassland in an intense shroud which could cloak and make all disappear in a matter of minutes. It is truly the quiet before the storm.

“Sierra” reaches forever … and so does the long ribbon of clouds hovering above the terrain. This simple landscape photograph reminds us of how “little” we are, and also shows us life’s endless possibilities. It is surely those characteristics of all “new frontiers” that have precipitated greatness on this planet.

– Adam Donaldson Powell

“Feuille”, photo by Frédéric Bérard, France.

Letter nine.

Congratulations on “Feuille”!

Here you take botanical photography to a new level, indeed! This form of photography is a classic, and an important learning tool for all aspiring art photographers as well as an ongoing challenge for professional photographers who wish to re-interpret – or even “improve” upon classical nature photography, or even expand upon normative perceptions of nature itself.

Why do artists bother to mimic, and even attempt to denaturalize nature? Nature photography is like a waltz, an old stand-by, a sure bet that is so common that it has little artistic value anymore … Unless, new ideas are introduced. Specifically, radical ideas that force the viewer to identify with his/her sensory perceptions in more primitive, more “raw” and other non-classical ways. In this photo, as in “Papiers”, you push the photo-technical to the absolute outer limits — just to see what happens. As with all art forms, genius involves knowing when and where to stop in order to maintain maximum effect without the work falling apart totally. You did it, Sir!

Here, I can (as Maurice Ravel did on the manuscript to his “Valses nobles et sentimentales”) quote from Henri de Régnier’s novel entitled Les Rencontres de Monsieur de Bréot (1904): “…le plaisir délicieux et toujours nouveau d’une occupation inutile” (the delightful and always novel pleasure of a useless occupation). Like Ravel, you also have approached a known and beloved genre and given it your own “twist” (or perhaps “twisted interpretation”).

Again, through creating your own exaggerated imbalances of light, darkness and shadow you have succeeded in giving this leaf a supernatural quality – enticing, intriguing … and a bit frightening. Here you work very much with textures, and this photograph suggests many possibilities: organic matter – plastic – metallic, soft – hard, as well as questions regarding the actual size and dimensions of the leaf.

– Adam Donaldson Powell

“sdf”, photo by Frédéric Bérard, France.

Letter ten.

“Tableau photography” has a long and inspired tradition and history, and is quite prevalent in contemporary art photography and design. There are many decisions to be made in art creations – all the time; and the one decision affects the next ones. Placement of objects – orderly, or not — as well as the surroundings and overall context are questions of balance. In that sense they are as important to an art photographer as weighted notes and interconnectedness of passages in a musical score are to a composer.

Sometimes the best photographic images are found, rather than created or staged. In your photo entitled “sdf” you have achieved something quite remarkable. I cannot know for certain whether the person sleeping on the floor is actually “homeless” or merely a traveller. Had the photo been given another title I might even be tempted to imagine that the protagonist is a concert-goer securing his/her place in the queue before tickets to the Arctic Monkeys concert go on sale. Likewise, you were so fortunate to have stumbled upon that photographic opportunity while carrying your camera that one could also wonder if the photo was actually staged.

Regardless of whether or not the photo was staged or a fortunate find, the active choices that you made in terms of composition are quite commendable. To create such intimacy in a wide photograph, and to successfully balance the camera settings so as to create a virtual stage attests to your excellent technical prowess. But when you, in addition, manage to create a photojournalistic / video quality which underscores the feeling in the viewer that he/she is spying on a private scene in the life of another, I must simply applaud.

Bravo Monsieur ! Bravissimo !

– Adam Donaldson Powell

Robert Mapplethorpe’s world of flowers.

Great artists: Shomei Tomatsu & Nobuyoshi Araki.

Jacques Brel et Zizou … Ne me quitte pas !

Sometimes famous persons/artists who are personally unknown to me influence and appeal to my own artistic and socio-political development through their art and performances. One such person is the great Jacques Brel. I love some of his music — indeed; but, as with many famous artists, equating his texts with his personal life has given me even more than I would have imagined — from just “digging on” the popular music at the time of release and recording.

My own fantasy about how these coincided follows in this fictitious letter from Brel to his Zizou:

SATIRICAL FICTIONAL LETTER TO JACQUES BREL.

Cher Jacques,

Félicitations ! Ta chanson ” Ne me quitte pas ” est devenue un succès énorme. Tu fais sentir ta douleur … en utilisant la veine ensorcellante de Maurice Ravel, comme dans son ” Boléro “, où tu gardes le même refrain et le même ton calme, mais la colère en plus, dans tes mots. Et tu te protèges d’une manière si poignante en me demandant à plusieurs reprises de ne pas te quitter, à en devenir fou de rage. Ta chanson nous ravit, mais en même temps, elle a plongé le poignard dans le coeur de notre conte de fées. Si seulement tu n’étais pas si lâche. Pourquoi n’as-tu pas pu exprimé tes craintes et tes émotions dans la vie réelle, au lieu de me faire passer pour un citoyen banal? Comme ta stupide maîtresse, qui a voulu exploiter ta gloire et ta réputation ? Tu sais que je ne me suis jamais soucié de telles choses. Je t’ai simplement aimé. Et toi, tu … tu as seulement été amoureux du romantisme, du simple fait ” d’être amoureux “. L’annonce de notre ” enfant d’amour ” s’est avérée trop pesante pour toi. J’ai aussi eu peur. Mais tu étais un enfant, jouant à être un homme. Ma fierté ne m’a pas permis de porter les ombres que tu décrivais dans ta chanson. Et comment oses-tu inclure mon chien adoré dans ta chanson pitoyable…? ” Laisse-moi devenir l’ombre de ton ombre, l’ombre de ta main et l’ombre de ton chien. “

Tu exprimes ta colère et ta confusion tout en me priant de ne pas te quitter. La vérité est que tu n’étais jamais complètement là dans notre relation d’amour. J’étais un jouet pour toi, un joyau à chérir dans le secret … mais tu ne m’as jamais vraiment aimée comme un homme devrait aimer une femme. Je sais que je dois te sembler amère. En vérité, je ne le suis pas. Je me sens finalement libre de devenir la femme que je suis … libérée de cet homme immature qui me détruisait avec ses émotions toujours changeantes et extrêmes. Tant d’apitoiement sur soi-même, tant de colère et d’indifférence soudaine ! Non, notre ” enfant d’amour ” n’a aucune réalité et il n’existera jamais. J’aime ma chambre sans berceau. Pourquoi n’écrirais-tu pas une nouvelle chanson, Jacques ? ” la chanson des vieux amants … “?

Ne me quitte pas …
ne me quitte pas …
ne me quitte pas …
ne me quitte pas …
Assez !

Je ne t’ai jamais quitté … parce que je ne t’ai jamais eu.

Entendons-nous : tu ne me parles pas – et je ne te parle pas. C’est mieux comme ça. Tu peux maintenant écrire toutes les chansons que tu veux de notre amour perdu et devenir ainsi encore plus riche et plus célèbre.

Et je me contenterai d’épouser le plombier ou le charpentier.

Je pourrai alors chérir mes enfants, des enfants conçus avec amour.

J’aurais d’utiliser ce subjonctif que tu aimais tant, je regrette de ne pas y avoir pensé plus tôt!

Penses-y,
Zizou

(from my book “Entre Nous et Eux”)

puppy at french cafe in oslo

THE STORY …

Trivia: Great concert pianists I studied under in the 1970s and early 1980s … (updated post)

include: Arminda Canteros, Berenice Lipson-Gruzen, John Ranck and Jacob Lateiner. Here is a recording of Mr. Lateiner performing Beethoven Op. 126 (Bagatelles)

Here is a short video about Arminda Canteros:

The classical musician society in New York City at that time was rather “interesting” to say the least. I remember the half snobbish – half avant-garde very competitive classical musician scene in Manhattan in the seventies and eighties, where musical pedigrees and lineages which could be traced back to famous composers and pedagogues helped concert pianists in need of cash to command prices of $100 or more an hour for weekly piano lessons. I studied with several myself: most notably John Ranck, Berenice Lipson-Gruzen, Arminda Canteros, and finally Jacob Lateiner. They were all colourful personalities, talented concert pianists and – with the exception of Mr. Lateiner – patient with the imbalances between my excellent interpretative skills and somewhat lagging technical skills. These were the days and years of Carnegie Hall debut dreams, lp (and later cd) recordings for the elite performers, hours of practice, mandatory Beethoven, Bach, Grieg, Mozart, and of course Brahms ( which was my favourite ), before I could earn the right to play with the fun French Impressionist composers like Debussy, Ravel etc. and with Karol Szymanowski.

John Ranck became my friend and mentor, in addition to being my first serious piano instructor in the non-college world. He was a kind and generous man who taught me musical discipline, cured me of my stage fright by continuously inviting me to perform at student recitals and soirees, and he also taught me much about ridding myself of destructive love relationships and other problems which threatened to get in the way of my musical pursuits. He was openly gay and lived with his partner in a luxurious condominium on Ninth Street and Fifth Avenue, in The Village. We remained friends long after I moved on to new teachers, and even after I moved to Europe. Unfortunately, years later – once when I visited him while on vacation in New York City – I made the mistake of telling him that there was at that time much heated debate in Europe regarding the Israel vs. Palestine issue. I proceeded to tell him that I had sympathies for both. He started to wave his arms, but I continued talking – not understanding his sign language. Suddenly his partner came into the living room and ordered me to leave their home. I did not know he was there, and did not know that he was Jewish and/or a Zionist. Not that that would have stopped me from voicing my views. Many of my employers, best friends, neighbours and lovers at the time (and before and later) were Jewish (including some Zionists), and I had studied and practised both the Kabbalah and Sufism myself. I have always been open to discussions with persons with other and alternative perspectives. However, that stupid incident ended a precious longterm friendship, as John chose to let me return to Europe in silence in order to maintain peace in the household … and his partner (S.) was not interested in explaining his behaviour or why he had a bug up his ass.

My next teacher after John was Ms. Berenice Lipson-Gruzen. Berenice looked like a Parisian fashion model with her stunning features, used heavy French perfumes, smoked French cigarettes, and looked half her already then advanced age. She was a fireball and extremely sexy … She excelled at performing Debussy and Ravel, and literally unnerved me with her electricity. She made a habit of sitting tightly up against me on the piano bench, covering and guiding my hands with her own. I went nuts, and eventually had to tell her that she was deliciously distracting. Her comment was a coy: “Oh, really Adam!!?” Berenice had me bathing in Debussy and worked with me for quite a while on Ravel’s “Valses nobles et sentimentales”, which became my signature piece along with several Brahms piano pieces ( Opus 117, 118 and 119). While Berenice was away on tour she arranged for me to study under her teacher: Arminda Canteros.

Arminda was a charming elderly lady, an amazing pianist and a great pedagogue. It was Arminda who started me on the road to proper classical technical discipline. When Berenice returned to Manhattan I decided to continue studying under them both. I explained that I needed what both of them were teaching me. This, of course, insulted Berenice.

After some time I eventually moved on to my final teacher ( also on the Upper West Side of Manhattan ): Jacob Lateiner. Jacob was an excellent pianist, very well-known, “all business”, and both soft and hard at the same time. I can give one colourful example: one day on my way to his condo for my weekly lesson, I was mugged outside of Zabar’s in the middle of the afternoon … by a wacko who insisted that I had jumped him the day before. I was knocked to the pavement and suffered a mild concussion. When I arrived at Lateiner’s flat I explained what had just happened and said that I was unsure if I could play the piano. He immediately fetched a drink of whiskey, told me to drink it quickly, and then commanded me to sit at the piano. Like a military commander, he ordered me to play Beethoven, Mozart, Grieg etc. ( all pieces he had started me on ). Finally, he told me to play the Ravel. After a few minutes into the piece he marched over to the piano, snatched the music away and threw it to the floor, and barked: “I don’t know who these people are that you have studied with previously, but I forbid you to ever perform this piece in public!”
And with that he smiled, said he hoped I was feeling better, took his $100 and I was off to practice for my next lesson in the following week.

Because I had started my professional training at such an adult age ( in my twenties ), it was doubtful whether my talent would be enough to gain me a musical career. In New York City in those years EVERYONE was an artist of some sort, and the litmus test was earning your income from your art. I managed to earn half my income from performing music at all venues possible, including restaurants, bars, weddings, bar mitzvahs, hospitals … whatever – both solo and in violin-piano duos. I even got a great compliment and generous tip from Art Garfunkel while playing at a restaurant across the street from John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s condo building.

I realized that I would never be as great or well-known as my teachers, and being a classical musician was a hard life and all work all the time for me. Thus, I went back to school and took a master degree in international and development administration, before writing my first poetry book and moving to Norway to start a dance- theater company with my Norwegian dancer-choreographer lover.

Music became my poetry, which became my music through words and pictures … eventually encompassing visual art as well ( I had my debut as a painter in the mid-nineties ).

Adam Donaldson Powell (piano) and Cathy Craig (violin), New York City.

Adam Donaldson Powell (piano) and Cathy Craig (violin), New York City.

Shout-out to Gary Grosenberg.

Gary Grosenberg is definitely an artist to follow. He successfully combines spiritual consciousness with good artistic composition and intriguing psychedelia, resulting in inspirational works that easily lend themselves to personal transformation.

Check out his latest ART GALLERY and those from previous years … as well as his other thought provoking and inspiring postings on the blog.

Here are a few examples of his work:

PSYCHEDELIC BROADCAST

THIS BEAR’S FURTHER STUDY

MACHINE IN THE GHOST

VOLCANIC MAN

EYE DESIGN

ROCK ON GARY!!!

SEE THE MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR MOVIE HERE!