I’m going back to Jersey next month.
(It’s been a while.)
My cousin’s daughter is having a Bat Mitzvah in early April, and if I told you it took me two months to plan my trip, you’ll have to trust that I mean it.
The amount of phone calls, texts, internet searches, Orbitz fuckovers, and general stress that went into it were enough to give me an ulcer.
Well, that’s not true.
I don’t have an ulcer.
I don’t even really know what that means.
It just sounded good.
You could imagine me shaking my finger at you, raging like a grumpy old man, about how much stress my travel plans caused me.
(It’s all because Mercury is in retrograde, I was recently told.)
Things are mostly locked down now, thankfully, and I can officially report I’ll be visiting AIPAD on Friday April 5th, in the early afternoon, in case you’d like to say hello. (APE audience meet-up?)
It looks like I’ll be taking cars, trains, planes, monorails, cabs, Ubers, boats, and an airport shuttle, all just to ping around the Tri-State area like the pinball that is Donald Trump Jr’s attention span.
“Dad, can I have a puppy? I mean a new go-kart. I mean Richard Pryor. No, I mean a gold fish. No, a football team. Daddy, can you buy me a football team? Buy me a football team, Daddy! But not in the NFL. I want a team in the USFL, Daddy, the USFL!”
The upshot is, I’m going to get drunk at a 13 year old girl’s birthday party.
Now, if you know me, you probably think I’m being ironic here. That I’m making fun of the situation. (Or taking the piss, as the English say.)
But I’d never do that because it would get back to my cousin Stefanie, and she’s so tough she’d cut me.
So I’m definitely not making fun of this party.
Rather, I’m excited.
People go all out back there in Jersey, when it comes to Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. Great food, booze, entertainment, music, dancing.
Everyone’s in a good mood.
Dancing Grandma’s are always a great visual, and needless to say people always hide out in the parking lot to smoke a ton of @#$#%$#$.
For whatever reason, this ancient Jewish rite of passage, in which 13 signifies being a grown up, (I’m sure it probably all comes from marrying kids off young. Yes, it’s gross. But that’s not the point today,) morphed into a 20th/21st Century tradition of getting dressed up, dropping a ton of cash on the whole experience, and partying like the caviar is running out of the sea.
(Oh wait. Bad example.)
I haven’t been to one of these in a few years, and even that one was in Boulder, which is the Jewish equivalent of Norway, compared to the mother-land of the greater NYC area.
I’m properly fired up.
I mean, it’s not like I’m gearing up for a bachelor party.
That would be inauthentic, as I’ve never been to one. (Not even my own.) I had a bougie weekend with my brother and two friends, eating prosciutto-wrapped, barbecued oysters and drinking expensive wine in Napa, and if I had it to do over again, I’m pretty sure I’d go in a different direction.
My Australian buddy Pappy was there with me, enjoying each and every bit of the gluttony, but secretly, deep down, I think he knew that I was copping out.
They don’t do partying half-way.
Don’t you wish you could be a fly on the wall for all that insanity, when the Australians really let it go?
I bet you do.
Can I help you?
Why yes, I suppose I can.
I could show you “The Ball,” by Ingvar Kenne, published by Journal, which turned up in the mail early this year. (Can you believe 2019 is already 1/4 over? WTF?)
This book is exactly, perfectly, just what I was looking for today.
(Thank you, party gods.)
I’m being serious, though, as I set down the first book I looked at today, a book I liked. It was perfectly nice, had nice-looking pictures with good light, and great color, but it didn’t have a POV that I could discern.
The pictures were taken all over the world, and I found them pleasing. They were likable, like Beto O’Rourke. But the second I put the book down and tried to write, my fingers wouldn’t move.
I asked myself to remember one image.
But I couldn’t do it.
(Even though they were really good.)
Instead, I thought of the negative review I could write. Telling this person to get herself or himself some deeper life experience, if she or he were going to submit these photographs, these “reality fragments,” for our collective viewing.
I always tell my students, the aesthetics are the punch in the face. The thing that gets people’s attention and stops them in their tracks.
What do you have to say?
That comes next, once your viewer is paying attention.
With that book I put down, I didn’t feel like I’d learned anything about the world, beyond the fact that the photographer was a good technician, and had a massive travel budget.
But here, with this new book, “The Ball,” I had no worries for lack of opinionated content.
No one, today, needs to worry about a wishy-washy book, nor of seeing things that they’ve seen before. (Unless you’re young and Australian.)
According to some smart-yet-spare end text, (including a written correspondence with Australian writer Tim Winton,) we learn that the Bachelor and Spinster Balls are a part of the culture.
Upon second examination, I realized I still don’t know that that means. Are they bachelor and bachelorette parties rolled into one?
OK, I’m back.
Took a rare Google break. Looks like they’re just big parties for young people, out in the bush.
The writings discuss ideas like the historical role of initiation rituals, and whether this fits in as a cultural right-of-passage.
Like when the Amish kids go wild.
What do they call that? Rumspringa?
As a photo critic who very recently was complaining of getting tired of the same old thing…
I give you, the Bachelor and Spinster Ball.
Humans doing disgusting things!
And see you next week.
Bottom Line: Awesome, crazy pictures of Aussie kids behaving badly
If you’d like to submit a book for potential review, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re particularly interested in submissions from female photographers, and artists of color, so we may maintain a diverse program.