February 20 - Photographers


It was my good friend Desmond Bender who introduced me to the work of Ansel Adams (born today in 1902). I happened to be at his house, one Toronto Friday night, for shabbat dinner, and conversation turned to particular students we had worked with over the years, he mostly as a teacher of the History of Art, me mostly in the sphere of religion, but both of us also English teachers, and now the team of two introducing the International Baccalaureate to our school. 

A couple of days earlier I had received a bulky envelope from a former student, one Damion Berger, who had gained an internship with Helmut Newton before his final A level year, and then gone to work as his apprentice when he graduated. His first book of photos, mostly of those parts of Cuba that tourists couldn't get to, was in the package, and the package was in my briefcase, so I brought it out. Desmond took one look, smiled appreciatively while nodding his head, pronounced the magic words "Ansel" and "Adams", and left the dinner-table most bad-manneredly. What he brought back was a coffee-table book, a much better conclusion to the meal than bensching - and by the time coffee was served, Prashker was enfanned.

I have posted one of his great Yosemite black-and-whites above, but you can easily find more for yourself. Anseladams.com for an easy starting-point.

Amber pages

Matthiae-Mahlzeit, The Oldest Annual Dinner in the World,
Damion Berger, Hamburg, 2004

In general my amber pages follow the date, picking up - or planning, one day, eventually, to pick up - those other people born or died, those significant events, which took place on this date. But on this occasion there is something different in my head, a sense of something that connects both back and from this moment when I first looked seriously at photographs, and through the guiding eye of someone very expert in the subject. 

1) The only serious photographer I knew before this was Man Ray, whose attempts to capture movement fascinated me; twenty years on in his career, Damion's early Ansel Adams influence has gone, and his work (click here) is very much a technological development of Man Ray.

"Dragon's Breath" - Peter Lik
2) In the summer of 2013 I moved to Miami for the second time, and rented a studio just a few blocks south of Lincoln Road, on South Beach. Coffee bars and on-street tourist restaurants for the most part, but also the grand art deco spaces of the Lincoln Road Art Centre, with more than a dozen working artists in residence behind open doors. And over the road, visited every time I walked that street, like a junkie drawn in by the very smell of ganja, the gallery of Australia's answer to Ansel Adams, the extraordinary Peter Lik (click here for hundreds of examples)

3) When Damion first told me about that internship, I looked at the photographs of Helmut Newton, which were mostly portaiture, and mostly fashion; I could appreciate their quality, but never found much in them to respond to. I like my portraits to have depth, and these were superficialities. Then, in the spring of 2017, Tate Britain hosted a small exhibition of the works of somebody who the posters named as Craigie Horsfeld, a woman I presumed, from the name, and something in the profound sensitivity of the greyscale - but no, a man, and clearly an extremely, deeply talented one (the photograph of the Horsfeld photograph is by me; I claim no talent in this medium).

So there is a piece here, waiting to be written. In amber, officially, though I have left it in black-and-white, because that seems to me appropriate on this occasion. I will try to add the colours later.

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