Photography: “La Dordogne”, a French river

Photography: “La Dordogne”, a French river. How to photograph a river? She’s like the lady you’re in love with: she’s complex, multiple, given, elusive, clear, dark, changing and marvellous. What do I choose? The light? Water? Trees? Rocks? Here are 14 pictures of La Dordogne, near the little town of Carsac.

My big problem with landscape and urban photography

I have a big problem with landscape and urban photography. I chose 5 examples for you, randomly in Google Images. I call this problem the “Intention of Effect“.

Long pauses transform cars into lines. Choosing sunset time gives “interesting” colours to the mountains. Using a drone makes you fly and shows lines. Putting the camera on the ground brings “interesting” lines and reflections.

Well, in each of these pictures I FEEL the photographer’s will, which seems to YELL at me “I AM SMART HAVE YOU SEEN IT?”. Yeah, I’ve seen it, buddy.

Each time I see one picture like this (and they are a majority), I’m rolling eyes. I’m like : “Okey little man, I see what you do”; and this is ABSOLUTELY boring.

Intention of effect kills effect.

This is not art, no art at all. It’s all waxywet, schmaltzy and wishy-washy, it is not gorgeous: it’s ridiculous and I’m already out, goodbye.

The contrary of all this monkey arounding appeared in the 70s with Stephen Shore and William Eggleston.

They knew the “pretty” urban or landscape pictures were ridiculous, and very, very far behind the Art Movement.

They had to find another way to show cities and nature. To stop being a show-off little idiot.

So they experimented a more neutral “way”, becoming an amateur-beginner, or becoming a tech-photographer. I think they wanted to show us the mood of a place, or maybe to be precise, or maybe they simply wanted to stop appearing like a smart-ass “look how I’m good” photographer. How to achieve that?

Of course they began to take pictures of the ordinary, empty urban spaces, parking lots, roads and houses. This was much more interesting and “charged” with the sense of a place.

I chose some Stephen Shore‘s pictures. This man makes my eyes stop. I want to wander on the photography. I (ain’t it strange)… breathe. I almost understand WHY the guy stopped there. This shadow. These lines. An horizon. The light of the day!

You’ll find many texts, articles and interviews about him and his influence on the web. Have fun!

Photography: The roofs of Sarlat, Périgord, France

Sarlat-La-Canéda is a medieval town in France, near Bordeaux. Yes, it’s a good place to drink wine and eat meals made of ducks and geese (confits and all).

Today I choose to show you the roofs. I took many pictures thus you’ll see streets, forests, rivers and… the cemetery.

I added a little Poulenc because it’s my little obsession of the time.

Have a good day!

Music Chronicles 7: Drip Drip & Fan

I wanted, at the beginning, to sound like English New Wave from the eighties, but I added some percs, and a piano, and I lost everything about this, so there.

I tried many ways to sing the words, then the “Watch it drip, wait for it”, and failed. This is why I whispered all of it.

Really, I like to destroy the usual structure of a song. This is why it doesn’t verse/chorus. This is why I changed the beat in 1’44”, mutation, towards a “walking thing”.

It’s again about “modulation in the 4th bar”, and I think the reason this song exists is in the two guitars in the end.

I used old picture of my mom’s garden in the rain.

Eventail means “fan”, it’s a very complex poem from Mallarmé, which is really funny to interpret. Again, the usual song structure is melted. I added some tunnels with rockets of sound, which lead to this synth sound I love.

I tripled my voice I had to sing very low. The end brings a sweet chaos.

Same garden, another year: rain, birds, insects.

Eventail

De frigides roses pour vivre
Toutes la même interrompront
Avec un blanc calice prompt
Votre souffle devenu givre

Mais que mon battement délivre
La touffe par un choc profond
Cette frigidité se fond
En du rire de fleurir ivre

A jeter le ciel en détail
Voilà comme bon éventail
Tu conviens mieux qu’une fiole

Nul n’enfermant à l’émeri
Sans qu’il y perde ou le viole
L’arôme émané de Méry.

Google translates:

Fan

Frigid roses to live

All the same will interrupt

With a white prompt chalice

Your breath turned to frost

But let my beat deliver

The tuft by a deep shock

This frigidity melts

In the laughter of blooming drunk

To throw the sky in detail

Here is a good fan

You are better suited than a vial

No one enclosing with emery

Without losing or violating it

The aroma emanating from Méry.

Someone tries this:

Fan
Belonging to Méry Laurent

Frigid roses to exist
all alike will interrupt
your frosted breath
with a quick white calyx
but should my fluttering liberate
the whole bunch with a profound shock
that frigidity will melt into the laughter
of a rapturous blossoming
see how like a good fan
you are better than a phial
at carving the sky into fragments
no flask could be stoppered
without losing or violating
the fragrance of Méry.

“OK, that’s good, why?” and how we look into it.

What do you listen to in a song?

  • Melodies, harmony, structure, voices, bass, guitars, keyboards, drums, originality, energy, lyrics, production?

What do you watch in a photography or a painting?

  • Colors, details, meaning, characters, originality, lines, atmosphere, size, composition?

What do you watch in a book?

  • Progression, story, characters, style, words, originality, phrases?

What do you watch in a movie?

  • Scenario, editing, characters, frames, camera work, action, sense of place, composition, music?

And in architecture, poetry, marketing?

It’s not exactly how we “watch” something, but how we stop in front of something and try to understand where the pleasure comes from. A little bit more like:

“OK that’s good, why? – let’s look into it”.

My choices upstairs are bolded. Lyrics are probably important when I discover a track, BUT I always try to understand the structure, I listen to the bass player, and harmony progressions and changes. More than melodies, or the song’s energy.

In front of a painting that stops me, I want to know “what did the painter want?”. Same from photography, or movies. I dig into (or try to imagine) how the artist dealt with the audience.

So, well, it’s a matter of empathy, or structures/skeletons, of what’s hidden. Nobody listens to the bass, nor really cares about a photo’s composition. It’s all about the singer or the lead guitar, it’s all about colors and “events”.

What I choose to look into tells a lot.

Therefore I think that it is a good exercise when we meet someone, to watch and listen and ask: “What do you like in this? Why?”.

This “says” something about the person. If they are an empath or not, if they’re a thinker or not, fast or slow, surfacing or diving, heavy or light…

Thanks for reading!

Thomas Struth, German photographer

Thomas Struth, born in 1954, is a German photographer.

I read about him (he loves museums, he loves “series” of photos, he shows large formats) and I watched his pictures, but I couldn’t find or decide why I stayed… but I stayed, and kept exploring his work.

This tropism, when you discover something, you don’t know why you insist exploring it, because obviously you don’t know why you like it, but you like it!

Is it because of this street :

Or this road :

Or these people watching… what :

Or this city :

Like Jeff Wall, he :

These photos stop me. They have something I don’t understand.

I have this inner smile.

Well, I think I’ll need a book…

Thanks for reading!

Ambiguity & Types : Chronicle 59

A few years ago I read an interview of a teacher, he was smart and interesting. The last question from the journalist triggered a shift, though. What was bothering him? His answer was a surprise. It was something like:

“What bothers me is that in every class I taught in my career I found the same typology, with very little variations : in every classroom of 15 years old students, you find a sporty, a fat kid, a funny idiot, an angry rebel, an introvert girl, a shy blond, a dreamer, a goth, a nerd. That’s boring!”.

“I empty my head in front of stupid TV”.

Hmmm?

How TF do you translate a Style? There’s a witchy case:

Marguerite Duras was a French writer with a very special style. It’s difficult… even to define it! And of course it’s a part of her wizardry.

It’s between spoken language and a modest incantatory style. It’s full of mistakes, like a dyslexic person with strokes of genius. It’s gorgeous, blazing and magic… and completely quirky at the same time.

Therefore when you read Duras you have to let go something, a logical normal way to accept narration. It’s audacious, fascinating, it swallows you in a strange, new rhythm – a words-witch!

I really wonder how people in the USA consider the people of other states

I wanted to write an article about “mean quotes about women”. Here are some :

Women show up and they cling to you and they destroy you
Thomas Bernhard

Beware when you’re caught in a woman’s dreams
Gilles Deleuze

What does that mean? That these guys were afraid? Afraid of what? A power? Are men defenseless?

I read a book about ambiguity in architecture, therefore I wanted to write “At once This and That, the pleasure of ambiguity”.

Ambiguity is when you can’t decide if this is something or something else. In buildings : a window, a corridor, stairs, everything can be two things at the same time.

Of course it TELLS something, that some architects want, seek this. They hate minimalism, the obvious “clean” thing. They love what I think is the essence of modernity :

To make something to make people wonder and smile, instead of making people say “Ohhh that’s beautiful”.

Zola about Manet

Of course I love this! Things (and us) can be this AND that, we can juxtapose, rotate, double-fonction, adapt. It’s enrichment, intelligence, faces. A door can decorate. A cook can be a musician. The superfluous is necessary…

Haecceity

Incompleteness gives untranquility.

  • Game of desires (I want what I don’t have), I buy it, it kills desire for a moment. A loop and a dodge.
  • Incompleteness born from boredom : “what can I do I don’t know what to do something is lacking but what”.
  • Media pressure to be rich or famous or happy.
  • Desire to be valued by people around, or… the world, and nobody really cares.
  • Linked to “lost childhood”, nostalgia from great old days that didn’t even exist.
  • Fado, Saudade…

How to adapt? What is adaptation? When is it positive, or negative?

Thanks for reading!

Fellini Roma / Sternfeld Rome after Rome

Joel Sternfeld (born 1944) is an American photographer I love. He made this book, “American Prospects”, which is maybe the greatest photography book I own!

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His last one is about Rome, he focuses “on the ruins of grand structures”, putting these in relation with… today!

The editor says : “with a clear warning: great civilizations fall, ours may too”. Yeah, but I disagree. What I see is a continuous presence of the past, in ruins of splendid architecture, the today-reality invaded with the ordinary (people and their “things”, who seem to ignore the past). There’s no warning here, though it’s probably a little sarcastic…

Each photography has the “sense of the place”, shows a spotmood, but it’s also like a game : spotting where is the old villa, the aqueduct, weaving an ugly link between the old past and the now…

Here are some examples.

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This one is a masterpiece :

JS_Via Appia Nuova.jpg

https://www.moma.org/artists/5656

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I’m French and I can say I’m obsessed with three countries : Russia, Italy, and the USA. I’m currently finishing a long study of Fellini’s work.

Fellini’s Roma (1972) is a strange movie, let’s ask Wiki (I bolded the bold) : “It is a homage to the city, shown in a series of loosely connected episodes set during both Rome’s past and present. The plot is minimal, and the only “character” to develop significantly is Rome herself.”

Kaleidoscopic it is : a traffic jam (one of the most incredible scene I’ve seen in my life!), a guesthouse, brothels, a vaudeville theatre, streets, tunnels, catacombs, a liturgical fashion show, tourists… “The film concludes with a group of young motorcyclists riding into the city and a melancholic shot of actress Anna Magnani, whom the film crew met in the street”.

And again, the constant weaving between the past and the now, the ruins and the typical Italian “energy”, gives an interesting energy. Again, the old stones seem alive, watching us in silence…

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OK you know me : I extract a tool here, which is “In a piece of work, of art, you show two different things and you let the audience weave between both”. Where (poetry, photography, teaching, marketing)? How? What appears? What for? What do you want? Nostalgia? Denunciation? Shock? Thinking?

Have fun! Thanks for reading! Stay home!

JP

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Ze French Coronavirus Chronicles, 3

Ze French Coronavirus Chronicles, 3

 

I live in Lille, a city in the North of France. The neighbor country here is Belgium. When I was young in the eighties, most of university students were listening to Radio 21, a Belgian “music and news” radio, the only one in French – a part of Belgium speaks French – which aired Indie Rock at the time. David Sylvian, Clan of Xymox, but also Marrs, it’s there that I discovered some treasures…

Radio 21 disappeared, split into a radio for teens and another for adults, called Classic 21, which of course I listen – I prefer Pink Floyd, Supertramp and Police than Rihanna or Ed Sheeran.

Yesterday at 8 PM, dinner time and on radio, the news. Something like : “At 8 PM tonight, people in Belgium, confined in their appartments, applaud at their window, together, to say thank you to the nurses and doctors who fight the coronavirus”. I opened my window and immediately heard the whole neighborhood here doing the same.

 

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The majority of French humans understand the meaning of mandatory “Stay Home”. Only, I’ll be outside every two weeks for food, with my signed paper in my pocket. A few idiots though go on happying on beaches and along rivers, to socialize and see the spring and the sun. One city today (Nice) decide a curfew after 8 PM. Others will probably follow. Many cities including Paris have to close parks for this reason.

 

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Watched An Officer and a Gentleman, great romantic drama! I searched a little, to find that it’s been directed in Fort Worden, which is in the labyrinth of sea/land NW of Seattle. It’s always interesting to discover “normal” places in American movies, I mean elsewhere than New York City and L.A..

Should re-watch Urban Cowboy (with Debra Winger too).

 

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Netflix or TV channels or Blu-rays?

I separated my TV from the cable channels in 2000. I was annoyed by the fact that I had to choose from “what was proposed to me”. Even with 400 TV channels, I had to watch what someone decided to air. Nope.

Thus I own a big collection of DVDs, then Blu-rays. I choose what I want, when I want. Netflix and her cronies are for me a lukewarm swamp, where I can choose, OK, but from what?

What if I wanted to watch an old Bergman, or a silent movie from John Ford, or a documentary about Kupka or Joni Mitchell?

 

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Book : David Lodge autobiography. Music : Mozart Concertos for piano (Perahia).

 

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I have another blog about photography, where I “try things” about a place, a thing. It’s, therefore, about the idea of variation. Some photographers, admittedly, say that for a given place, there’s only one… place to take a good photography. Of course one is tempted to shake their head, but I admit it makes me think. Here it is :

https://qeht.photo.blog/

Locked home, joggers and duck hunters are sad, but readers and photographers are not. They can play home.

 

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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.

What could that mean?

 

Have a nice day! Stay safe!

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