The State of Being Alone

Photographs — Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

In an essay on American jazz pianist Craig Taborn in today’s NY Times writer Adam Shatz quotes James Baldwin. The quote froze me.

Fascinated by his artistry, dazzled by his erudition and curiosity, I would occasionally suggest a coffee or a drink. He always replied yes, but whenever it came time to make a plan, he’d retreat into silence. This, I realized, was the condition of his creativity, and I grew to respect it. James Baldwin wrote that:

“perhaps the primary distinction of the artist is that he must actively cultivate that state which most men, necessarily, must avoid: the state of being alone.”

Taborn has embraced this state, which echoes powerfully through his probing, introspective music.

These days of being obsolete — redundant & retired I have been left in my thoughts a lot. I feel a terrible isolation. It is almost like that word of the 60s, alienation.

My wife is back from the hospital after her left knee replacement. She is much more mobile than we thought she would be but I am taking care of her. Days go by quickly and nothing seems to happen. I move back and forth between checking on her in our bedroom, seeing the latest on Trump on MSNBC and crossing the deck (in a glory of roses and other flowers) to my oficina where I sit down to write as I am doing this precise instant.

I never considered myself (I am a photographer) to be an artist. In Vancouver to think one is an artist is a route to extreme depression and suicide. But in the year 2000 I met up with Argentine artists Nora Patrich and Juan Manuel Sánchez a sort of Argentine version of Shadbolt did not suffer fools and he told me I was an artist. I was not going to argue with him. So I am an artist and fame and fortune will follow a few months after my eventual death. Of that I am sure!

Meanwhile this isolation that I feel, in Baldwin’s words, read below have clicked in my head without too much of an indigestion. Perhaps this isolation is good and I will be soon feel inspired to go in some direction as yet unknown to me.

Below you will find some Fuji FP-3000B peels (what you peel and we all used throw away after looking at the instant b+w print). They randomly stay as negatives and others become semi-positive in something called the Sabatier Effect. The last photograph is a peel from the also discontinued (Alas!) Fuji FP-100C

I have written many times how a photographer’s studio can be a dead end of creativity. There you are behind your camera; a subject in front of you; a background (grey) behind and a light or lights on one side. Often nothing will happen.

It has been nice to pursue creativity in the environment of a person’s home and trying when possible to use existing light. These are pictures of my friend Nina. I am no Helmut Newton (nobody is) but I do attempt to show that eroticism can happen in the mundane milieu of a home.

Link to: The State of Being Alone

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