The oft-quoted passage of William Butler Yeats ‘Turning and turning in the widening gyre ….Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world’ gains new relevance in this digital, data-saturated culture. In Martin Denker’s photographs, a vortex of brands, icons, cartoons, reflections, fragments, morph and torque. The work subverts one of the simple functions of photography to sift through the vast amounts of visual material available in an instant and select that which is worthwhile or potentially memorable. Denker posits a relentless and ruthless roulette of transparent information, hard-wired and neurological, undermining single narrative and linear attention span.
Like several of his contemporaries, Bobby Doherty appropriates the neutrality of vernacular product shot, a durable studio formula that provides a legible depiction of market goods. As a body of work, topics come and go demonstrated through the humor of objects; an affection for their modest appeal and an often-jokey form of double entendre. Keywords: adolescence, summer camp, novelty stores, refrigerator magnets, mall head shops.
One of the inadvertent pleasures of our endeavor is in publishing the literary activities of members of the photographic community. Included in this issue is a somewhat fictional portrait of the artworld, circa 1990, by Philip Gefter that describes the intricate ‘social burlesque’ that accompanies a young photographer’s first exhibition and the web of ego, ambition, and anxiety, gender and sex that is revealed in both interior and exterior dialogue.
Another form of memory, both literary and pictorial, is outlined by Mark Alice Durant in “Trickle Down”. In a wistful telling of a fledgling discovery of photography to give purpose and legitimacy to late adolescence, and as a portal to connect with broader and seismic cultural events, it portrays photographic practice via the charm of its analogue and chemical past.
Throughout photographic history, the medium has consistently and mischievously revealed social communities (now known by the regrettable moniker of ‘lifestyles’) unknown to conventional lives. Through his primary occupation as a bouncer in a notorious Johannesburg nightclub called the Catacomb, Billy Monk created a lurid and stark portrait of sodden camaraderie, as uninhibited as mainstream South African culture was then repressive.
Another community, of a far different time and place and yet of corresponding enthusiasm and fellowship, is chronicled in the work of Malcolm Lightner. In an anecdotal essay, the novelist Padgett Powell positions the work in the southern narrative and in filial dynamic, and mud buggy racing in the dogged preservation of a cultural identity.
Namsa Leuba, of Swiss and Guinean parentage, explores African identity and the portfolio presented here is culled from several bodies of work. From Guinean natives dressed to replicate small totemic statuettes to more recent work that proposes fashion as a form of tribal and ritual costume-- layered, improvisational, theatrical—the work encourages a conversation between seemingly contradictory cultures and histories, between past and present, and the resulting similitude reassures.
Much rain here in the country but awaiting the pleasures of summer.
Thanks and love,