Friday, December 16, 2011

No Picture Please! Harry Callahan at 100

No Pictures Please:

At The National Gallery here in beautiful(and I do use the term lightly here) Washington DC.   Here to see a Harry Callahan retrospective, 100 photographs, as he would be 100 years old if he were still alive.
Harry Callahan has always been one of my favorites for many reasons. He is self taught, other than some classes with Ansel Adams and the learning he accredited to his students, passionate, true to his instincts, never seemed to care if what he did had been done or what people thought of it, and dedicated himself to the craft and the art of photography-producing, however small, exquisite prints with an undeniable thirst for expression and meaning in photography.

Truly undeniably one of the great photographers of the 20th century, though without all the pomp and circumstance of many of today's artists. He exhibited a great care and humility with his students and work, and felt his work to be a spiritual expression in its essence-its core so to speak.

The work walks through the myriad of styles and techniques, or approaches, to photography he explored, through both color and black and white and spanning nearly 6 decades(an Irving Penn show of similar caliber would be nice-maybe the Getty could make such a thing happen!).

He shot color Kodachromes as early as the 40's but waited until the 80's to have them printed, as he felt there was no suitable way to reproduce them until dye transfer(dye imbibition) and Cibachrome/Ilfochrome(silver dye bleach process). Which shows the sort of care and craft that the ottoman empire showed building foundations for their mosques and temples etc. and letting them settle for 40 years before then building out level from the settled foundations, which is why they are still standing in Istanbul today.

I wanted to take a picture of one of the pieces I thought a fellow photographer, Chris Letcher, would like, similar to work he is exploring, when the security guard told me, "No pictures please." I could have missed a few heart beats, and remembered my similar experience at the Getty's journalism since the 60's exhibit. I then went on to commiserate with the guard that if Harry Callahan, an avid teacher and sharer of his work, knew that these stuffy white-'eurotrashy, hedge fundy, hamptonites'-as charles Saatchi called them in his recent article in the guardian-knew that two artists were being thwarted in their attempt to engage in a dialogue about the medium, he would probably demand that the show be taken down or tell them where to go and what to do upon arrival!

Sometimes this world just seems so full of shit, I cannot bear to understand how it takes itself seriously, and how it can possibly justify its existence. Masturbatory is not the form of self reflection needed in this case, but is unfortunately what we get.

Someone should tell the people who own the work, who evidently ask there to be no photographs, about the internet Al Gore invented, and Published books and scanners, if I really wanted a copy of an image!
 Harry-I miss you...

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