Saturday, September 26, 2009

say cheese




I had dinner with Joel Peter Witkin last night.


Growing up (I'm still in the process) I have seen a lot of art. I have seen a lot of artists. I have seen a lot. One has to, its part of the art buisness, if one can call it a business, and Im starting to think it is (foolish me) I have never really connected with other artists (living or dead) I was never the artist who could gaze at art for hours in some kind of tantric bliss. I just didnt feel it, it just wasn't me. 'I have looked a lot' Matisse once said.I know how he feels. I try not to miss a great exhibition or even a not so great one. I try not to miss anything where I think I might find another piece of the jigsaw puzzle. When I first went to New York I was invited to studio 54 by a friend who thought it was all a bore. I couldnt wait. O.K. to be honest the place was a bore, unless you are into shattered ear drums, bad music,and bad coney island fairground lighting.Snorting huge amounts of coke and doing things to very ill looking skinny girls that didnt look pleasent. Needless to say, studio 54 was not my cup of tea. That said, I did meet a lot of people there. I met Andy Warhol (who looked like someone trying to impersonate Andy Warhol ) and who seemed to take a brief liking to me. We chatted (or rather I did) over the loud music for 10 minutes.I told him about my art and who I was and so on and on and on..His response was (if you could actually tell there was one) 'you are very clean' I took this to mean! well!!!! er!!!!!!! Well Im not sure....Years later when I worked for Tropic magazine as the art director, I had the good fortune to spend the day with Robert Rauchenburg. He was installing a huge mural at the local museum (MAM).It was good to meet him, I liked his work and I liked the fact that he had a drinks trolly following him around. He asked me if I would be at the opening (I hadnt planned on it, 11 hours that day with him seemed enough) but I said yes anyway..The next night I went along to say hello. He was already sourrounded by 300 blue haired ladies by then, but managed to see me throught the haze of hair lacquer and beckoned me over.I cut through the sea of facelifts with big bank accounts to say hello.He gave me the biggest bear hug that went on forever and ever (actually 5 minutes) It was almost sex.I could tell from the fumes bellowing out of his mouth that he must have had a million drinks by then.It was fun, he was a very good artist and a very nice man.
Many years later I was staying with my dear friend Billy in the Hollywood hills overlooking LA. Pure magic. It was beautiful and rich and I felt at home (although I always felt like quasimodo compared to all the droves of beautiful talentless people).I had dinner and lunch quite a few times with David Hockney.We both had the same art shcool in commom and became (friends would not be the word, but the next rung down on the ladder) We would fax each other art . He was a little boring and talked and talked about...well nothing really.I liked him though.It always fun to meet famous artists. Why am I telling you of all this you ask? Well Im not sure (maybe its the martini) I never really liked that many artists.I never thought they were that good.It always amazed me how very little talent could go a long way. Picasso Braque Miro kieffer,Tapies (sometimes )Twombly (always) and a few others have touched me, but its rare. When it came to photography and photographers I am at a loss.I think photography is an easy art. I think a lot of people have built a massive carear around there index finger hitting the shutter.Although I do love to hear photographers talk up what they do, always amusing. There are few and far exceptions.I could tell you some juicey stories of when I worked with Anne Lieberwitz ( I wont because she seems to be needing good vibes about now ). I could tell you about the time I worked with Mary Ellen Mark for 10 days (I wont because it will give me a headache) Needless to say, I dont think many photographers are very good.In fact I think 95% of them are very bad.
I am always amazed to what people consider 'A great photo' What do they mean by that? The answer is easy. A 'great photo' really is mostly just a 'good photo' 'a good situation', 'a good moment' captured in that split second. It is not a great photo. Its a good photo achieved by luck or being at the right place at the right time. As for set up photos like in fashion, I think most are lame, very similar, almost a formula. I could go on but I think you get the point.Can you remember the last 'Great' photo you saw? If so I would like to see it. So I very seldom use the word great to describe a photo let alone a photographer. They do exist but its a rarity They could almost be counted on one finger let alone a hand. Photography has a long way to go. It will get there. It has too.

I had dinner with Joel Peter Witkin last night........A great photographer indeed.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow, you are good at cliffhangers...
Is Witkin twisted, crooked, is his mouth drooling, do his hands stink of formaldehide? Did his wife have 3 breasts and one cyclopus eye?*
or in the contrary,does he look like the average clark?
Did he only speak about swine flu or the price of the baguette?
*BTW, did you know that Botero's wife and muse is a size 8?

PHILIP BROOKER said...

I cant kiss and tell........it wouldnt be right....Buy me a martini and I will tell all...ha ha

heidi Younger Illustration said...

I am so jealous that you met all those famous artists... especially David Hockney, my hero- too bad he's a bit of a bore to chat with. The Witkin photo is so hard to look at yet appealing, that is what you mean by a "good" photograph. The ability to make one WANT to look at something they wouldn't really want to.

heidi Younger Illustration said...

Oh Philip, what did Watkin order for dinner?

Kim said...

This entry offends me on so many levels. First, you tell us you had dinner with Witkin. Interesting. And then you give us tidbits to chew on about all these other artists you met, or had sex with, in the case of Rauchenberg, and then you don't give us a THING about Witkin? That's just rude to your readers.

And then you go and be ridiculously narrow-minded about photography--shocking.
Anything by Sylvia Platchy
Site I by Olivia Parker--Lost Objects Portfolio--all gorgeous--all large format Polaroids
Photo of Blaze Starr by Arbus
The Birds or Room 107 by Lyndon Wade
Anything by Harry Callahan, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Salgado or Paul Outerbridge
The portrait of Audrey Hepburn by Avedon--so beautiful it makes me cry.

I could go on but I am shocked by you saying photography has a long way to go (and you can't even spell "to" correctly). A great photo is always, by nature of the medium, only a slice of time. A great photo is just exactly like any great piece of art--one that makes you think, or feel, or remember. One you can't get out of your brain. One that conjures up more thoughts and images for you--spontaneously. It's the conversation that is sparked by the photo that makes it "great".

PHILIP BROOKER said...

hello Heidi...you are famous darling and I havent met you

PHILIP BROOKER said...

Kim thank you for your comments.You are a prime example of the sort of people I am talking about.I know most of the photographs you have listed.Although a few of them are quite good they can hardly be classed as 'Great'. Im sure the fact that you shed tears endorses what a great photo is for you..But a lot of people also shed tears at soppy hollywood movies.Tears dont =great.I couldn't disagree with you more when you say 'It's the conversation that is sparked by the photo that makes it "great" Finally my website says the misspelling of an art.So instead of mentioning the wrong 'to' you should have pointed the bad spelling of school. Finally finally I didnt have sex with any of the artists I met, it was said in humour.Maybe I could do a blog entry on that subject. Say cheese...

Kim said...

And what I said about you having sex with Rauchenberg was said in humor--although I am certain in his brain it was sex.

I find it difficult to believe that you--as an artist--are not desiring to move people to thinking or feeling or conversing with your work.

Tell us--please--what defines a "great" photograph to you?

PHILIP BROOKER said...

Heidi, we had dinner at a friends house...fish

PHILIP BROOKER said...

Kim I dont know what makes a great photo.But I do know what isnt.I have no interest in what people think or say about my work. If I did listen, I would be painting kittens with big eyes now...........or worse babies........Then again, some people show photos of there kids and the remark usually is Ah! what a great photo..I rest my case.

Kim said...

Perhaps I should have said what provokes thought or emotions. I wasn't implying that you should "listen" to what people say about your work--but then listening can be an interesting exercise--and then change your work so that people "like" it--or find it "pleasing". I was saying that I believe the purpose of art is to provoke thought--any kind. And you should care about that. But that's just me.

I was also going to mention how easy it is for us to say things are "great" these days.

Kim said...

PS Thank you for blogging that provokes both my thought and emotions. Now I must go take some great photos of my dog to share with my friends--and then I'm going to watch "Sleepless in Seattle". That movie makes me cry every time.

PHILIP BROOKER said...

I have to say that when I make something like a painting or a photo. I never think what thoughts it will provoke (if any) I think most people dont know how to look or think....whoops! there I go again........

Anonymous said...

Philip, it was a great journey of your views and opinoins about art and photography...and the long and the short of it all.

It is very understandable. I know how it feels to pick up a work, read it, and want to throw it in the incinerator...not much has impressed me with literature...and yes, there are great ones.

Maybe it the trying to see something new...to create in this world that is jaded and has seen everything...and anything.

But, I am not writing this in your defense...of course not. You, do not need any defending. Dear friend, you met an incredible photographer...and had fish...and spoke about your personal truths...
splendid.

M

Anonymous said...

There is a PS...
No dear Kim...NO ONE that is a real artist should think about what the public wants...those are the happy sheep people who are stupid as hell...they don't know what they want. They are told what they want. They are marketed to...and told what is great.

No, Philip is absolutely right. You can't give a damn about the shiny happy sheep people...they are loveable...but dumb...that is until they start to think for themselves.

Artists create...the real ones have a vision, and it honestly isn't about making everyone happy. Life is messy...very.

M

Kim said...

Oh dear M--

I wasn't saying that an artist should think about what the public wants--at all. I'm sorry you didn't get that.

PHILIP BROOKER said...

I thank you all very much for making a comment and statement...this is where I will gather my facts....not at museums or galleries........

Anonymous said...

Oh Dear Kim...I did get it...but you wrote so concisely....
that an artist should listen to the public.

I disagree...but to each their own. I can't understand why you were so emotional about one man's opinoin. Names that are dropped like lillies...but what matters? An opinoin? An emotional outburst? Is the discussion really about having to agree?

I just happen to agree with Mr. Brooker...and though it could be said, there is not much talent in writing poetry. It is can be done so effortlessly at times. It just flows in moments.

A picture is taken in a second, but not everyone has the ability. Though it can be done with ease, it is often the timing that determines greatness.

Great discussions as always...now...off to bed...with a glass of red wine.

Cheers Philip.

M

Kim said...

Hmmm. No. Again. I really wasn't saying that. I was saying great art should provoke thought or feeling. That's it.

Cheers!

PHILIP BROOKER said...

Did someone say red wine?

Anonymous said...

What a perfect blog. Can we all meet to further discuss . ellen

Kim said...

Yes! Did someone say red wine?! And cheese?

PHILIP BROOKER said...

yes ellen we can meet for a further discussion...but only if it includes martini x

PHILIP BROOKER said...

Well Kim, we all agree on the red wine.....now that is Great

Anonymous said...

Lively banter. Good stuff!