Unreal Nature

March 15, 2017

As It Manifests Its Power

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:00 am

… Where would memory, or its regrets, fit into this scheme of things?

Continuing through New York: Capital of Photography by Max Kozloff (2002):

… [In Weegee’s work] A vision of the city emerges in which flesh and its entanglements become the chief, unauthorized subject.

… For him, the city was like a strip show gone bananas.

Extreme spectacles involved him less, however, than the uncontrolled reactions to which they gave rise. Try as he might to arrange matters according to his sarcastic intent, it was the sheer random, ill-assorted, and unaware display of consciousness that carried him through the night. Much of what he saw and then concentrated on, with visual smarts, was marginal to the dire occasion. Eventually, the narrative impulse of the reporter gave way to a new understanding that stories themselves simply dissolved into the industrious chaos of the metropolis.


Weegee, The First Murder, 1945

[ … ]

Feininger gave his complete attention to each of his subjects, one at a time, delivered through crisp outlines and the richest gamut of black and white. The wares, products, and blandishments of metropolitan commerce are clogged and stacked for immediate purchase and use. New York, as he judges it, is a warehouse of supply and demand, constantly replenished. What’s startling and funny about Feininger’s picture of a raunchy Times Square movie theater, with “sexy” posters, is his view of it as just one more output of entrepreneurial spectacle.


Andreas Feininger, West 42nd Street, 1940

Feininger and Weegee were very different personalities who nevertheless had in common an idea of New York as a man’s town, a place where men slaked their appetites and produced the goods. Weegee often differentiated social milieu: he mocked the cultural pretensions of the upper class, showed his affection for blacks, and identified with the drunks at Sammy’s of the Bowery. For his part, Feininger performed as a dignified booster who had much in common with the Byron Company.

[line bread added] The classes are again just human strata; folkloric bits add their charm, while the city overall swaggers as it manifests its power. Where would memory, or its regrets, fit into this scheme of things? Or, for that matter, aspiration? New York was not changing, as Berenice Abbott supposed in the 1930s: it had already changed. In the form given to us by Feininger, it appears to us as an immense, solidified now.

… Though the legacy of Andreas Feininger had nowhere to go except into cliché, he put the finishing touches to New York, as an indelible icon at its historical zenith.

My most recent previous post from Kozloff’s book is here.

-Julie

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