Bruce Davidson, Sicily, 1961
TWO LINKS: BRUCE DAVIDSON
I first encountered Bruce Davidson’s work in an issue of Popular Photograph’s Annual in the late 1960’s, an issue that my father, a serious amateur (and occasionally professional) photographer urged on me. My recollection is that the magazine published some of Bruce’s England and Wales project. Whether it ran one of my favorites of Bruce’s photographs from Sicily (above), a wonderfully spontaneous and lyrical photograph, I don’t recall.
Having been captivated by the Davidson of immediacy, of spontaneity, of grain and occasional blur, I was startled, some years later, to experience the stillness of his East 100th Street work: large format portraits. I didn’t get it right away. As the years have passed, however, I’ve come to appreciate the rich and varied poetry of Bruce’s expansive body of work. He is a photographer’s photographer, in love with the medium itself: a master of grain, of the moment, and of those impeccable textures that only the larger format can give. He seems to have worked seamlessly in all formats: equally comfortable with the immediacy of the street and the still confrontation of the portrait.
He has two exhibitions up right now in NY that reflect his remarkable photographic range, one at the Howard Greenberg Gallery, one at the Bruce Wolkowitz Gallery. Here are two links to articles about Bruce and his work, one by Randy Kennedy in The New York Times, and the other by Philip Gefter in The Daily Beast, author of Photography After Frank.––Alex Webb
Link to The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/08/arts/design/08kenn.html
Link to The Daily Beast: http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-11-05/bruce-davidsons-true-grit/
Bruce Davidson, Selma, Alabama, 1965
TWO QUOTES: THE POETIC IMAGE
The photographer and writer Wright Morris once wrote, “I do not give up the camera eye when writing –– merely the camera.” Originally a poet and now a photographer, I would say the reverse is also true: “I do not give up the poetic eye with photographing –– merely the pen.”
To see the close relationship between these two sister arts, one only has to look at the root of the word “photography,” which literally means “writing with light.” Both photography and poetry share a preoccupation with light and time and the elusive moment, so fleeting that one of the few ways to try to grasp it is to hold a book of poetry or photography in one’s hands.
What do people mean when they talk about “the poetic image” in photography? The two Bruce Davidson photographs above (the first one, one of Alex’s favorites, the second, one of mine) certainly come to mind.
Well, to start to answer this complicated question, one that I will probably revisit from time to time on this blog, I thought I should turn to two poets: Charles Wright and Charles Simic, former poet laureate of the U.S, who originally was a painter. Their definitions of poetry rely on two distinct images that are resonant and multiplicitous and evocative –– yet another definition of the poetic image.––Rebecca Norris Webb
Poetry: three mismatched shoes at the entrance of a dark alley. –– Charles Simic
Poetry is the shadow of the dog –– the dog is out there ever on the move. ––Charles Wright
TWO VIEWS: TENTH ANNIVERSARY
When Rebecca and I decided to get married in 1999, we opted for hand-made wedding invitations. When I looked through my work for the right photograph, this one sprang to mind, and Rebecca agreed wholeheartedly, since it’s also one of her favorites. Now, ten years later, I still associate this image with our wedding day, the best day of my life.––Alex Webb
- Alex Webb, Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, 1996
Sometimes a poem arrives whole. This poem is one of those rare birds. It was sparked by an event Alex and I witnessed walking home late one evening from a movie through our Brooklyn neighborhood. We saw a stranger sitting on his stoop, and he said in a quiet voice, barely above a whisper, as if he were sharing a secret: “Do you want to see Saturn?”
Alex and I quickly exchanged glances, and before we knew it, we were both kneeling on the sidewalk peering through this stranger’s telescope. Neither of us, we realized, had ever actually seen the sixth and largest planet. Alex, always the gentleman, let me look first. The next morning, I wrote down what happened. This poem is for Alex, in honor of our 10th wedding anniversary.––Rebecca Norris Webb
One night I see Saturn ––
between Ninth and Tenth Street ––
naked and luminous
through the glass.
You look, too:
white orb, the ring
of your laughter.
Floating home, you pull me
into your chest.
I’m light, mercury vapor,
until the mortal woman returns,
all curves and memory,
your arm ringing my waist.
A gift, this distance
we’ve traveled so far.
––Rebecca Norris Webb