Archive for November, 2006

I spent a recent Saturday wandering the gardens and hallways of the Getty in LA and saw a great exhibit: “Where We Live: Photographs of America from the Berman Collection.” Philip Berman is an executive at Warner Brothers and an avid photography collector. Apparently, above his office desk is a sign that reads “Future Site of the Past.” That quote seems to inform his choices; all of the photos he’s picked have the vertiginous feeling of a moment too close to be history, but on the verge of slipping off into the realm of distance and memory. The photos are of places, American places in the late 20th century: vernacular buildings, factories, barns, storefront churches, diners, gas stations and fairgrounds—places so familiar, they risk being forgettable.

epstein5.jpgSome photos that stood out:

Mitch Epstein‘s series on the decline of his father’s once flourishing business is rich in understated still lifes. A battered brown leather suitcase sitting on a mattress covered with fading bursts of blue and yellow roses says it all.

Jack Teemer transforms the neglected backyards of working class neighborhoods into colorful tapestries—the tracery of clotheslines with their patchworks of laundry, sagging yard furniture and scruffy lawns—and yet in Teemer’s hands they become dream spaces, places that inspire escape.

Joel Sternfeld’s images of sites where American tragedy occurred remind us how easy it is to forget—that even powerful moments lose their force with distance. The hotel where Martin Luther King was shot, the street corner where a truck driver was beaten during the LA riots seem non-descript, unremarkable until Sternfeld reminds us history was made here, inviting us to reimagine the scene.

The sign for the show mimics the lettering on a movie marquee as if to say all these images are flickering past us fast as celluloid frames, speeding away like reflections in the rearview mirror.

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