I think images are worth repeating
images repeated from a painting
Images taken from a painting
from a photo worth re-seeing
I love images worth repeating
project them upon the ceiling
Multiply them with silk screening
see them with a different feeling
– from Images, lyrics by Lou Reed
Every May in Toronto there is what is called CONTACT. It is a photography showcase. What makes it unique is that, rather than two or three galleries being the centre of interest, the photographs are integrated into (and across) the city. Storefronts bear photographs, abandoned buildings bear them, you see them inside bars and cafés. Go along the Junction and you can’t sit down without seeing signs pointing into stores, saying “Temporary Gallery”.
This integration was quite stunning a couple of years ago; someone got permission to have their photographs – printed on clear plastic film – adorn the glass-paned bus shelters along Queen West. Each one responded to each other and the environment. It was thought-out. Choreographed, if you will. It was, photography or no photography, an art installation.
This year I find myself wishing CONTACT would end (if not May). Though I have not seen (what I can only assume is) the A-grade stuff in the chosen galleries, I have to say that I’m going to scream if I have to walk past many more of them. There is no order. Just image, after image, after image. Just images. Rectangular submissions without point, intent, self-awareness.
I am surrounded by photos, everywhere, at a point where I am going through a photographic/existential crisis. The film vs. digital divide has divided me, particularly since my 35mm lens is giving me problems (I sooo don’t want to get out the jeweller’s screwdriver kit). Meanwhile, I’m having great fun (at low resolution) with my BlackBerry’s camera – it allows me to do so much I wish my manual film-camera could do: being spontaneous without lugging a 2lb Soviet brick. Having a preview window is also a great plus. In the end, however, the resolution isn’t good and the colour is often skewed blue/cyan (meaning I often have to import the photo onto my laptop and futz w/ Photoshop before I can upload it).
Just before this all came about, things were quite different. I had joined a local, well-respected photography collective and was expecting a medium format camera to be sent from an eBay seller. My photographic future appeared, allow me this, picture-perfect. In short, the camera never worked, the seller was less than useless in helping the situation, and it simply can’t be fixed locally. Add to this my affair with a shallow cameraphone, my 35mm lens issue, and said well-respected photography collective annoying me with “bulk” emails (filled with both utterly useless and useful information without care for clear formatting). Add CONTACT and stir, liberally.
In short, it has all forced me to face a philosophical and practical dilemma which I never really thought I’d need to face: why do I take pictures? What am I taking pictures of? What is the eye behind the viewfinder? Is it a diary? Is it journalism? How seriously are you going to take this? Professional-seriously or I’m-just-fucking-around-and-don’t-want-to-think-about-it-seriously?
Thus I find myself subconsciously referring to a song from Songs For Drella, a dedication to Andy Warhol by Lou Reed and John Cale. It spins like a mantra, like a whirling dervish, and I stare intently at it hoping that I’ll see the meaning in its elusive centre.
I’m no urban idiot savant
spewing paint without any order
I’m no sphinx, no mystery enigma
what I paint is very ordinary
I don’t think I’m old or modern
I don’t think I think I’m thinking
It doesn’t matter what I’m thinking
It’s the images that are worth repeating
Ah, repeating, images