Saturday, May 10, 2008

Photo District News is bad for me, but Mericle is good.

the kptv site, right now.

For awhile there, maybe a year ago, Jenny and I found ourselves watching the early news each night, the Fox news that comes on at ten. To a certain extent, we felt like we knew what we were doing, that we could recognize the fear-mongering, sensationalism and the self-promotion with their nightly updates about American Idol, but even with that sense of distance, we just could not get distant enough. Almost every day Jenny would wake up at four in the morning with her heart racing. Meth mouth, the juvenile justice system, the failures of No Child Left Behind, that kindergarten molester in Hillsboro, the gang-related stabbing down the street from here that of course brings up issues of institutionalized racism and segregation right here in the neighborhood so of course, we're somehow making it worse because whether we like it or not we really are the gentrification problem what with our desires for organic coffee and indy video stores... anyhow, there seemed no end to the list of things that we could, perhaps even should, worry about.

After a few weeks, we quit watching. And things got better. That is, Jenny still wakes with the same fears, regularly even, but at least with less frequency.

In a similar way, I just realized that Photo District News brings out the worst in me. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad magazine at all. In fact, I've long admired the way that it often deals with contemporary Art photography in an intelligent way, alongside a feature on a stock photographer from Ohio who's figured out that the key to efficiency (thus profit) is to leave the tripod and lighting in place and just change lens and your models more frequently. The problem isn't with the magazine, but with me. This morning I picked up one of the two issues that I've let sit over the past couple months. After flipping through half of an issue I realized that my mood had gone sour. I need to make new cards, I need to drum up more work, I didn't even submit to three of the calls I see mentioned, I'm jealous that guy's putting out a book, I'm bitter that woman already did, I'm old, I'm petty, I'm lazy, I'm tired... see, the thing is that after flipping through and feeling my blood pressure rise, I realized that the extent of my anxiety had everything to do with business and practically nothing to do with photography.

© Danielle Mericle, from Seneca Ghosts

For a salve though, I put the magazine down and picked up my favorite thing that came in the mail this past week: Danielle Mericle's Seneca Ghosts. This is a quiet book, a subtle book, a collection of what my students would probably dismiss as boring landscapes full of tangled branches and dirt roads shot on overcast afternoons. But of course, it's subtlety is its strength. Following an elusive herd of albino deer through a de-activated army depot in Central New York, Mericle's pictures question time, fact, and feeling. Because of the Cold-war depot's protected status, the deer have thrived. In a sense, these novelty deer are the direct result of our tangled political past, yet whenever we pick up the trail and come closer for examination, they vanish, leaving only traces. It's fascination and failure all at once.


Liz said...

God, I'm glad I'm not the only one. I have a stack of PDNs sitting in my living room. They're oppressive sometimes.

dalton said...

Thanks, I was not familiar with Danielle's work, but of course I ordered the book right away.

shawn said...

thanks dalton. hope you like it.

liz, breathe slowly and take them in small doses.

g said...

I'm so glad I have a day job.

Justin said...

thanks for the link shawn. beautiful, soft, quiet, awesome.