Just A Year Ago ...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The cherry blossoms are now out in Central Park. Strange because the weather has been so cold. There's not even a touch of spring in the air. Looking back I saw that I first posted about cherry blossoms last April 15 and then photographed them in Central Park on May 5. Was it just
a year ago? It seem like a millennium ago - pre-recession, pre-Obama, pre-24th Street. Does it feel like more than a year to you all? Anyway, here are those posts - two of my favorites - from that long ago spring.

Post # 1 (from 4.15.08):

Following last month's post about Japanese blossom-cams, the cherry blossoms are now out in New York City. And as any dog-walker/photo person can tell you, they’re more interesting photographically at 5:30 in the morning (when I was not together enough to put a camera in my pocket) than when the sky is clear and blue as it is now at 8:55 a.m..

Nevertheless, I snapped a photo on my iPhone and sent it to The Sartorialist to let him know that Central Park would not be a bad place to shoot this week. I’ll be interested to see if he follows up.

Then I remembered Nan Goldin’s great photograph – “Honda Brothers in Cherry Blossom Storm, Tokyo, 1994”. For an artist best known for scenes of a bohemian lifestyle illuminated more by dim lightbulbs, the photograph above captures a wonderful moment of delight - delight in nature, in the power of photography to freeze motion, and in the crystalline moment that marks the approach of spring.

Post #2 (from 5.5.08):

Here's a promise: this will be the last post on cherry blossoms for at least a year! However, biking through Central Park this weekend with camera in pocket, this tree was hard to resist. To me the most resonant moment of the cherry blossom cycle is when the petals fall and the grass is carpeted in pink before the petals start to turn brown. I was initially the only person photographing here, but as the picture shows, within minutes it became a hot location and I realized that pictures of people taking pictures of other people underneath the cherry blossoms was a lot more interesting than the blossoms themselves. It helps to click and see this picture in a larger size, but I love the matched pair posing demurely in the middle with their faces obscured and the guy on his back behind them. However, I'm well aware that this is more of a "snap" than a "photograph" in the artistic sense of the word.

To see what I mean by this, you just have to go to Tod Papageorge's recently published book. Passing Through Eden, a collection of pictures he took in Central Park from the 1970s to the 1990s. It's a book that is at once documentary, sensuous, and allegorical. Revelatory both because Papageorge who heads Yale's graduate photo program has been famously absent from the exhibition world and because the pictures are so good. As well as being decisively and artfully composed every one of Papageorge's photographs hint at more complex narratives underneath and all have a certain psychological intensity and edge.

Papageorge has said, “One of my attractions to photography was that I felt it was much closer to writing and literature than any other visual art.” which helps explain why he stuck to black and white photography while his peers made the move into color. More importantly, like writing, his work seems to be where the outside world and the inner voice meet and even the most random moments are brought together into some kind of highly personal order.

From Passing Through Eden:

After looking at all these Tod Papageorge pictures, would my picture be improved by a tighter crop?


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