I’m standing in the shower. I have a blog post “due” tomorrow. I was going to relay my visit to Ohio and to share my excitement about the energy I felt in downtown Youngstown, the rust belt gem I once called home. “Murder Capital, USA” of the 90s, was now alive with restaurants and bars—and a vintage shop of sorts, where they hold record releases and fashion shows. I went to a poetry reading downtown, once, in high school. That was the best I could find then.
This new Youngstown was still very new feeling. There was a cinder-block “beverage center” so poorly placed in the middle of all the action that it eclipsed any semblance of charm or class. But something is happening.
However, having left some nine years ago, I don’t feel wholly comfortable going on about what Youngstown should be doing.
So what to post? It never works when I ask myself outright what I’d like to be pondering as the water rushes my scalp. But invariably, it’s someone like Robert Capa who shows up, at least tonight it was.
I’ve been thinking a lot about studying in the “house that Capa built,” especially since I’m quite the opposite of the “concerned photographer.” Recently, my work has been gestural drawing with black and white photographic chemistry. I made a conscious decision to study at the International Center of Photography. Granted, the Bard program is everything but conventional photographic practices, but the larger institution, the museum, the facilities, the bureaucracy all walk a very straight line with photography. They use cameras at least. I’ve always been on a grail like quest for the essence of photography (foolish), and who better to be among than the photographers.
I have a project I’m dreaming up that uses some of Capa’s images. I’m embarrassed to admit that I wasn’t all that familiar with his body of work—sure the gunned down soldier, but his iconic images seem to outshine most of his career—despite being ICP and Magnum’s foundation and utter adoration.
There’s one image from Capa’s book Death in the Making that I just can’t get out of my mind. Out of context it could be a recent Jeff Wall image. But I also get a sense of longing that I also associate with Jack Pierson, especially in his Self-Portrait series. A helmeted soldier stands central with a blanket and rifle over his soldier. He has a week’s stubble. He’s deep in the forest. Is the soldier Capa’s equivalent?
I’m not washing my hair tonight, so I take extra time just letting the water hit my neck.
I have to give out a reading to our class in a week or so. My first thought was “Proof by the Absurd” from Ghost Image by Herve Guibert. A teacher of mine from Bennington gave it to me. The way Guibert talked about moments being embalmed in fixer changed photography for me.
I’d never read anything else by him, though I remember my friend Ivy dishing out a lot of money for a used copy of Ghost Image, Guibert’s death obsessed musings on photography published in 1982 (9 years before Guibert would die of AIDS at the age of 36). Luckily, I keep an art account for such necessary purchases. $50. Not too bad.
The book won’t arrive for a few more days. I’m anxious to read so I checked it out from the ICP library before class tonight. “Inventory of a Box of Photographs” was practically ripped from my own notebook. His relentless memories aren’t as academic as Sontag or Barthes, but they are equally universal.
The water is starting to run cold. It was a good shower.