There are times I’d like to be alone on the streets working. I don’t mean the civilians out there, I mean the ones in my heart and mind. I appreciate the company but they are not benign forces of energy. One such case is Edmund Bacon.
I suppose I should backtrack a little, well more than a little. I was working on a project of making portraits of American artist. Things were going along well, and one day one of the directors of the AIA (American Institute of Architects) said I should do many of the architects ans other interesting people. On the list was Edmund Bacon.
So I finally got up the nerve and called Edmund. He invited me down to his home on Locust Street. We sat on these chairs made by an artist but I don’t remember the name. He invited me up to his library. He showed me these big blue books. He had the plans for City Hall, the Expressway, Logan Circle, The Acrch in Paris, something from London etc. Ed was explaining to me that people need to learn to adapt and learn to live in the environment and not adapt the environment to people.
Gimme a few and I’ll explain how photography is linked to this. Anyway Ed and I spent time together and sent info back and forth between us. (My ex wife Deb was with me most times and was a big help. That was then and this is now) Ed asked me to do a project with him. It was to make a book called. “The Murder Of The Little Stream”. We made 2 copies and I have one. No idea about the other. WE would walk thru center city and he would show me places he designed, like Three Bears Park. I would make snaps with Andre’ the Leica M4. One day he said to me, your a great photographer but why do you never look up? I didn’t really have a good solid answer so I just said, I didn’t know there was an up.
See the buildings Don, the way they cut the sky. See the way they work together in shapes and the reflectance of light. Look at the shades of black and gray and light tone. See the way the color works or opposes each other. See the telling of time. Some are many years old and some are young. See the difference in building materials. The windows Don, amazing how there are so many and many different shapes and styles and functions.
Ed was gracious with his patience and time with me. He looked at many of my photos and told me that the way I incorporated the environment with the people was exactly what he felt good art should do. I was nothing less than flattered. Ed had a way of explaining things that he helped extract from my mind that some was in there. What he said was that if a teacher teaches with the idea that the student is blank, then the teacher is reinforcing the absence of knowledge. If on the other hand the teacher teaches the student and the student realizes that they in some way know some of the info, the student applies their mind to extract the info. This makes the student work and not feel like a tomato brain.
What could I learn from a world reknowed City Planner? Ya know I wondered about that as I walked around making photos. Funny, sometimes I’d look up at buildings and the way they and people interact together. Don’t call me crazy if you see me stand next to a building, close my eyes and place my hand against it. Yea, yea, I bet you didn’t know that buildings talk. If you close your eyes and place a hand on a wall, you can hear and feel the energy talking to you. Bullcrap right? It’s ok, scientist detect earthquakes the same way.
There was a lot more in our time together. I’m not gonna mention Nancy Grace fro US Steel or the Compass Rose in the very center of Phila. No, you won’t get that from me. And don’t think for a moment that when Ed told me about Kevin’s Movie “Murder In The First Degree” that he cried cause he felt his son so completely invested in the movie. I’m not telling you that.
I used to walk alone amongst the civilians and make photos. Now I don’t feel alone anymore and I feel my place in the microcosm of the city. I’m an observer with a camera not alone at all but a part of life and a part of the scenes that I m attracted to. We become a total of the growing input of love and hate and knowledge that out friends and family and the world send to us.
I speak of the Moment and the here and now and it’s a life long quest to be there. Ed taught me something so much more important. Ed taught me to be in the moment of the here and now but with everything and everyone with me. Even if you don’t pay attention to it or them, they all deserve equal illumination.
Remember George Harrison Life goes on within and without you.