March 23, 2004
Some Things My Aunt Told Me

I didn't have a camera when I lived in B.C., or want one, particularly, but occasionally I'd see people who had them-- Emily Carr arteests, I imagined-- lingering over emaciated teenage prostitutes as they lay dormant on the pavement. The arteests were, and continue to be, to me - in some ineffababble way - more unsettling than the site of the junkies themselves. I'd say they were callous, in their galleries, by their gritty black & whites, but what's worse, really: documenting the crisis afflicting a heroin port-city, a mecca of death, or cruising by such - as they're called in Disney-Land - "photo-opportunities" - on one's way out for a night of red-hot music/foose-ball?

My Aunt Mary, who lives in those parts, often said photography was dying. To her, that bleak image of junkie on cement just didn't cut it. It was losing the war against cliche. She'd lament how photographers were "taking pictures of pictures," and that this was all people were seeing: pictures, instead of what they held. Arguments like this are trendy enough I spose. The landscape-painting is dying. Rock music is dying. Jazz is dying. The novel is dying. The art of travel-brochure writing is dying. The brash pronouncement about how something is dying is dying. It's all true enough, of course.

Mary moved to an island years ago. She's as furious and dismayed an American as you're likely to find. She had a kid come from the projects of Chicago - one she didn't need to see a photo of to care about - stay with her for a few months, never learn to read or concentrate, then go back to from where he came, leaving the two of them more deflated and depressed than when he arrived. I don't know why I mention this, exactly.

Last I saw her, she vented about people who smoke in movies, saying they should be forced to give public service announcements about the stupidity of their smoking (which could perhaps air during the credits of their vehicles,) and that their pay-cheques - or at least a portion of them - should go toward Cancer research, if they really have to manage their image that way. It's children who go to see these movies - stars know it - know they're influential, know their fans are too young to grasp mortality, yet still, they insist on smoking. So that, some-fucked-up-how, in her view, a smoking movie-star will do more to cause Cancer than any gritty urban photo ever could to keep kids off smack.

What? Huh? I don't - when I think about it - know what to make of all I attribute to her, other than that it's interesting anyone thinks such things at all. What an age that we have time for such thoughts when a few centuries ago - in Canada anyway - all we thought of was caribou.


This is a picture of a picture, for sure. I took it a little over a week ago when I was out in the country. I liked taking it. It speaks, i guess, of the solitude of the Canadian winter, etc., and might - were it in a calendar or something - create awareness about the month of March blowing big-time - albeit in a tranquil enough sort of way. Is it ok? At least I'm not ripping off Diane Arbus over here, ok? At least I'm going for more of a low-brow Robert Bateman type thing, ok? What, you gotta problem, punk?

Posted by at March 23, 2004 09:41 AM

Phew - got through this whole thing without using the word "artification".

Posted by: on March 23, 2004 10:48 AM .
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