“Why do you live in this place?” – Shore & Depardon

Bonjour tout le monde !

In the preface of a French photography book called “Habiter en France” (“To live in France”, by Raymond Depardon), the writer says that it’s one of the most intimate question : “Why do you live in this place?”.

Indeed, I think he’s right. It comes from the deepest of the deep. Parents, roots, the sky, people around. We stay “here”, but why? What’s the bond? What do we like? Why do we live here? These questions seem to put us in a thoughtful silence…

Today, the 23 December 2017, I got this huge, heavy, mythical book from Stephen Shore, one of the best American photographer ever : “Uncommon Places”. It’s a present I made to myself…

Both books, one in the USA, one in France, like to show what is rarely showed. Not the Eiffel tower. Not New York. But little roads, normal houses, parking lots. And certainly not in a bad way. Uncommon places in America, and where do people live in France.

They both “insist” on photographing these places until we feel the mood, the sky, the silence or the little winds…

I remember this friend from Kansas, feeling the summer air here in France, like… “Ohhhhh… There is something…”.

 

I LOVE to have these two books together. In this blog, it’s because I found a common structure, a pattern, of course. Pictures of normal life. And as usual :

The pleasure comes from “finding the subtle differences” within these cousin works…

 

Merry Christmas! Thanks for reading!

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Originally published in 1982, Stephen Shore’s legendary Uncommon Places has influenced more than a generation of photographers. Shore was among the first artists to take color beyond the domain of advertising and fashion photography, and his large-format color work on the American vernacular landscape stands at the root of what has become a vital photographic tradition over the past forty years. Uncommon Places: The Complete Works, published by Aperture in 2004, presents a definitive collection of the landmark series, and in the span of a decade, has become a contemporary classic. Now, for this lushly produced reissue, the artist has added twenty rediscovered images and a statement explaining what it means to expand a series now many decades old.

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Winslow Homer, American painter

Winslow Homer, American, 1836-1910, “best known for his marine subjects. He is considered one of the foremost painters in 19th-century America and a preeminent figure in American art.”

I saw a painting from Homer in le Musée d’Orsay, in Paris, a long time ago (it’s the first of the works I chose for you). The last one (the reader, at the bottom of this page) was my choice for my Journal, years and years ago…

I’m not a critic, I can’t talk about this guy. I just keep amazed by his… poise, his ease. It’s perfect, elegant, gorgeous, and sometimes even risky (see what he does with silhouettes, with the light, or weird angles…).

Is he well known? If you like him, you’ll find plenty more on Google Images.

In all these, I can… see the Wyeth family coming. The grand-father with his almost mythological America, the father with some dark moods, and the son : the sea, the sense of wind in the seashore… I’ll blog about them very soon.

Thanks for reading!

 

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“During an eclipse, be careful not to look at the sun”

“During an Eclipse, be careful not to look at the sun” is the boring advice you’ve heard 8754 times this last week. OF COURSE you won’t look at it, silly! Tell it firmly to the kids, and voilà.

BUT

As the “protect your eyes” thing is obvious, there’s another reason you shouldn’t look at the sun…

In 1999, a total eclipse of the sun happened in France. It was plain summer, and it’s been quite an event… I was at work, but needless to say we were all allowed to go outside to see this. “Be careful not to look at the sun”, right? OKey.

Ten minutes before it began, the Grand Place de Lille was FULL of a nervous what-if-it-was-the-end-of-the-world crowd. A small percentage of human beings had the appropriate device to “watch it face to face”. Then… it began.

And I can tell you that NO-BO-DY was watching the sun with their stupid glasses. You know why?

The mood of the world changed surreptitiously. Then it became darker. Then DARKER. The birds suddenly stopped singing, the cars stopped, the city stopped. The women, children and men on the place became silent. The night was there. In this quit surreal crowded silent mood, I saw the stars (ohhh), I was cold (yes, it was the night, really), and I’m pretty sure my hand was on my opened-in-a-awe mouth. And it’s pretty long!
I remember quite well the big quiet SIGH of the crowd, after the moon decided to go shadowing the Earth elsewhere – “Ahhhhh… It’s not the end of the world”. And nobody had their eyes burned!

 

Before an eclipse, you are allowed not to desperately shop for “Magic Stare at the Eclipse Glasses”, they’re useless : Be with your family on a hill. Be in a crowd on a place, and feel little and equal on our little planet.

Be prepared to be thrilled…

 

Thanks for reading! Have a nice day! Bonne journée!

 

Kar

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The warm haunted trumpet of Jon Hassell could suit your summer evening…

Do you know Jon Hassell? He’s an American trumpet player. Wikipedia says : “He is known for developing the musical aesthetic which unifies ideas from minimalism, various world music sources, and his unusual electronic manipulation of the trumpet”. He uses an unusual softer way of blowing into his instrument.

I chose here three albums which suit perfectly with your summer loving evenings.

  • Fourth World is the “easiest”. The trumpet is a veil, a triple breathe, a moanplaint, and Brian Eno (who produced the album) draws landscapes and mysterious sounds around it. It’s like a nocturnal African dream. Put it in loop and watch the stars.
  • Surgeon is more… like… drunk. Swampy (like the sleeve)? Some moments are haunting and gorgeous. Hide three candles in a room, in a hot night, and this album in loop. Be slow.
  • Powerspot is more urban, electronics are different here. Beatboxes build impossible architectures. Futuristic and sweaty, like Miles Davis in another century…

The first two albums are in the link. Powerspot : only a track (explore the others!).

Like it, or too much?

Thanks for reading!

 

Olathe means “Beautiful” – My Ouisconsin Toponymy Bliss

France is smaller than Texas alone, but like everywhere, it’s divided into regions, with different cultures, crowded (Paris region) or not (l’Auvergne), near the sea (Bretagne) or near Germany (l’Alsace).

Some regions have city names with the same suffix. Next to Lille (North of France), we have many towns finishing by “in” : Carvin, Camphin, Phalempin, Wavrin…

In Normandy you find many “ville” : Dauville, Trouville…

In Brittany : Bannalec, Carnac, Le Drennec, Glénac, Iffendic…

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You know that I’m a little obsessed with America, and I often wander on the USA map, trying to find the origins of the cities. Indian native, or English, French, Spanish? I check on Wikipedia…

For example, there’s a List_of_Swedish_place_names_in_the_United_States

More interesting : List_of_non-US_cities_with_a_US_namesake, where I find a Chantilly, Missouri (Aawweeeeeeee) or a Versailles, Kentucky (oh really?). Paris, Texas, remember?

22 American city names comes from Norway! (Drammen, Wisconsin, OMG).

So, let’s see the States names. Alabama is Choctaw. Arizona means “The Good Oak” in Basque (South-West of France), Nevada means “snow-covered” in Spanish, and OMG, Wisconsin : “Originally spelled Mescousing by the French, and later corrupted to Ouisconsin” : That’s cute, n’est-ce pas?

 

For each city, you can open this little box of shells. I chose Olathe, Kansas, gives :

Olathe was founded by Dr. John T. Barton in the spring of 1857. He rode to the center of Johnson County, Kansas, and staked two quarter sections of land as the town site. He later described his ride to friends: “…the prairie was covered with verbena and other wild flowers. I kept thinking the land was beautiful and that I should name the town Beautiful.” Purportedly, Barton asked a Shawnee interpreter how to say “Beautiful” in his native language. The interpreter responded, “Olathe.”

I knowww, I will never be cured 🙂

Good day !

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Sad Heart, Merry Spirit : Chronicle 9

I read in a Claude Roy diary, as he’s around 70 years old, that he would like to reach this season, this state : “Le temps du cœur triste et de l’esprit gai” – the time of the sad heart and the merry spirit.

Here I have a vocabulary problem : is “gai” happy, merry, gay, jolly? I don’t know. I chose merry.

But I’m very fascinated by this “goal”, from an aged author I liked very much. As if he knew he could never heal his heart. But, knowing this, building his own happiness, a “merry spirit”. This touched me, a lot.

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Just read an article evoking Robert Osborne, a TCM Television Presenter who just died at 87 years old. It is told that Olivia de Havilland had with him :

One phone call a week, for decades.

Awwweeee! (-> this was the sound of my merry spirit). I wish I had a friend so close that she would call me once a week until I die at 87. Like a whatever-happens-I-want-to-talk-with-you. Awwweeee again (my merry spirit if very merried by this idea).

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I read (but where, is it Casanova or Jünger?) about the Venice Purse, a knack which says that when you have to go to a “dangerous” place (which was Venice at the time), you needed to have two purses, one with a little money in case you’re robbed, attacked, knocked out, and another one with the main part of it – well hidden.

It’s just funny to know, but then you realize that when you travel abroad you really have to think about what you do with your passport, the amount of money you have with you, etc. I wonder what this concept can tell us about life in general : Be cautious? Watch the exits? Don’t put all your eggs in the same basket? But also : GO to places where you need to think about the Venice Purse, right?

Venice, in French, is VENISE. A perfect word to say : Venizzz. Elegant as a swan, right? Venice is more like braking at the end. No good. French better, sorry.

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Elmore Leonard says somewhere about novels writing : “If it seems written, I rewrite”.

What a beautiful idea, right? Writing Style Dissimulation Efforts.

And a paradox many artists know well : work, work, work, until nobody sees you worked. It’s an interesting goal, and the path itself is enthralling too. How to reach?

There’s a balance to find, I suppose. It means you have the eyes to know when it’s not OK, when it is OK. Experience.

Well I have a vocabulary problem again. When do you use “enthralling“, dear? Can you say that about a person? How is it radioactivitied? Thrilling? Fearful? Exciting? Or more like “plainfully satisfying”?

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I watched the Iowa episode of Aerial America yesterday. It’s amazing how many times I hear “French” in these. Detroits and Illinois were “frenchised” words, and how Iowa is a piece of this territory called Louisiana, the US bought to the French 214 years ago.

These TV programs tell me how BIG are the United States. Tonight I’ll watch Illinois, following the path of Bill Bryson’s book across America in car (cf Fixin’to traveling in the USA).

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OK, it’s too long. I seize the run-up since a few weeks (is “seize the run-up” a good title?), like making the most of an epistolary energy…

I stop here. Next Chronicle next week. Here’s le hug by Ze French :

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Have a nice day!