"He was never overburdened with conventional good taste."

 Phone photo. 

I've been reading a series of essays in the book about Richard Avedon called: 

Evidence: 1944-1994 Richard Avedon

In one of the two major essays in the book writer Adam Gopnik is reporting on a walking adventure through Manhattan with Avedon. As a tangent to their walk they are looking for a small, witty gift to send to a friend's wife. They walked into a tacky, little gift shop and found some costume jewelry which Avedon considered and then rejected. The writer noted that: "Avedon was never overburdened with conventional good taste." I love the turn of phrase. 

In another essay in a different book Avedon was quoted as saying this about portraiture: “All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.”

I think I usually spin my wheels too quickly and don't take enough time to pause and really soak in everything that goes into our ideas of what photography is and where we find the whole construction of it right here and right now. In our present moment. We are living through a profound change in our cultural perceptions of what constitutes a legitimate photograph and how our photographs should look. 

On a domestic note we had a double door at the house fixed yesterday by a good carpenter. It was a french door with two large individual doors paned with big, solid pieces of glass over most of each. One needed to have some wood damage removed and fixed while both needed new sweeps. The doors are out of intensive care now, thanks to the carpenter's skill, but the responsibility for putting a couple coats of primer over the repaired parts, and then painting the doors, falls to me and B. 

In preparation for applying primer we had to sand and smooth the doors and prepare the surfaces so that our upcoming painting will create a seamless finish. There is a lot more work than it seems when you stumble into another professional's field of expertise...

But it was such a non-photographic thing to do that it effectively separated me from my mania to go out each day and look for photographs. And I think that's a good thing. 

After we got the second coat of primer on not just those two rehabilitated  doors but also on four others we were done for the day. Not physically exhausted so much as mentally fatigued from the rigor of doing something outside our areas of expertise. Thank goodness I had the good judgement to hire a professional to do the expert work. 

We did the exterior work early when it was still cool and almost comfortable outside. When we finished the inside work the day had turned hot, humid and cloudy. It just didn't feel like a day for me to be wondering around aimlessly, outside, with a camera. The reading chair and the soft light through the window pulled on me like an attached rope harnessing me into the air conditioning. 

The Avedon book I picked off the shelf; this one in particular, has always seemed to be to be the roadmap to understanding his approach to his best work. A cryptology key to the roots of his process and his deep emotional and intellectual connections to portraiture. Adam Gopnik's essay felt different today. As if I had slowed down enough to actually consume it at a pace that, for the first time, allowed me not just a literal reading but a reading with enough pause and pacing to savor the texture of Gopnik's thoughts. To make his observations stick like epoxy to my usually restless mind. 

When I walked back out to my studio a bit later all the lighting gear looked new and fresh and I felt a renewal of passion for my own portraiture. 

It seems good to take a break every once in a while to let my appreciation catch up to my experiences. Too often we move too fast for the satisfaction of our work to really stick. I'm generally guilty of having my eyes too firmly fixed on the project just a few feet into the future to really savor what we've already done. 

But not today.