Thursday, June 4, 2009

am i too late?

that was the question she asked me.

no, it wasn't about buying an ironing -board on special, or entering the museum of natural history, relatively unimportant events. and she didn't mean something much more significant like 'is it too late for us to make love?' though i wished she had asked that question!

what she meant was 'am i too late with my life?' had everything she wanted to do been done, the artistic work with voice and theater? had her potential contribution been cancelled by time as null and void?

of course, i tried to come up with a re-assuring answer. you know, like, 'it has to be done again, renewed, every generation.' or, 'you can do it with a different twist, a different tone of voice.' yet we've experienced that already with marcel duchamp and andy warhol. around 1950 imitation and replication became the rule rather than the exception. in some sense, tv announced the end of western civilization.

timing is everything, both my mother and shakespeare said it. these days, doing photography, i'm all-too-well-informed of its history. i browse new books on the subject practically every day. and yes, those given the greatest honors those who did something first, who took pics off tall buildings (rodchenko), who shot from the hip in gritty black and white in gritty cafes (robert frank), who introduced geometry into reportage (henri cartier-bresson). even these days with digital it appears the reservoirs of invention have been exhausted.

alas, the only recourse seems to be to do it better. say you're shakespeare having a beer with these other playwright clowns, ben jonson, edward marlowe, and they talk about ghosts. okay, they've done them, but i can one-up them and steal the box-office. (sounds like hollywood today, doesn't it?) and so willy goes off to dig up hamlet's father and banquo's spooky spirit.

most of us do feel like changelings, i surmise, born out of our time. there's the pedant in venezuela who reads only the novels of balzac. there's the aficionado who believes no one except bette davis ever made a movie. or there's myself, one of the lost generation who's truly lost since i didn't arrive with hemingway and the paris photographers of the fifties. i even came on the tail-end of the beatniks. truly, i'm the last of them though never one of them.

now, even as we weep for what we missed, the wheel of fortune remains round and spinning. it resurrects fads and fantasies. maybe you will be lucky and the taste for lace will come back, or a passion for absinthe and madness. you too can be the baudelaire of pasadena. chance likes to trip up all human expectations. maybe one day she will really say, 'are we too late for sex and a steamboat up the nile?' one can only hope.

here are the first photos from a return season in the most archaic of occupations. after all, people stood on towers looking for the fires announcing the fall of troy four thousand years ago.