I/Eye: On Photography

Smoke stop

Posted in Uncategorized by Sheila Newbery on January 28, 2014
Smoke stop EMY-DEN (2014) © Sheila Newbery

Smoke stop EMY-DEN (2014) © Sheila Newbery

I decided to go to Denver for the “One by One” show at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center—by train. I like the feeling of moving through the landscape (as opposed to rocketing through the air); there are fewer things that have to go right to prevent violent death, and the mechanical failures of trains—though legion—are generally harmless, though like as not they will cause delays. There is also the leitmotif of the “smoking stop”—the conductors may be the last officials in the travel business who take into account the fact of addiction; accordingly, there are stops along the way of more or less a cigarette’s duration. Then the whistle blows and the chuffing progress resumes—and no remorse for any left behind. We’re reminded at each approach that once the train departs, it doesn’t stop for anyone.

But I know this isn’t strictly true.

I once witnessed a woman stop the train at Grand Junction—with great presence of mind. She had had a smoke on the platform and wandered off, unconcerned. When she saw the train pulling away, she didn’t panic. She hoofed it into the station, assumed her best “frantic mother” demeanor and told the station master her baby was on board that train. She was thoroughly convincing, and hopped neatly back into her car (one ahead of mine), with a little kick of her heels.  She was the talk of the train.

Of course, there was no baby…

Smoke stop EMY-DEN (2014) © Sheila Newbery

Smoke stop EMY-DEN (2014) © Sheila Newbery

Smoke stop EMY-DEN (2014) © Sheila Newbery

Smoke stop EMY-DEN (2014) © Sheila Newbery

Anyway, I’m glad I went. Rupert Jenkins, Paul Sisson and the staff at CPAC made good order and a handsome display out of the bewildering variety of pictures on view, and Eric Paddock very sensibly addressed this in his opening remarks where he stressed that photography is no longer one kind of practice, and no single medium. It’s many things. I kept thinking of David Hockney’s lament that the “chemistry” of photography had replaced the “hand” of the artist (in the sense of drawing or painting), but even this pronouncement seems now almost quaintly out of step.  Photography is strapped to the atom, the electron: its essence is speed. We can barely keep up.

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