I just flew in from New Orleans, and boy, are my arms tired. (Ba doom boom. Tch.)
Sorry. Couldn’t help myself. It flowed out of my fingers, and then, there it was. As ridiculous as that bad joke is, the underlying truth stands.
I did just get back from New Orleans.
And every bone in my body is aching from the deep exhaustion of ten hours of travel each way, with 26 critiques sandwiched in between. (Plus the amazing parties and such. It’s not a drag, by any means.)
Since this column is as much a running commentary on my life as it is a series of book reviews, I must share that I feel like sleeping for 3 days straight. Instead, I came home to my two young children, and that’s just a daily marathon.
Enough bitching. What can I tell you today? NOLA rocks. I’ll be featuring it at length in the coming weeks, so I’ll spare you too much backstory in the here and now. Suffice it to say, it is a city that has “The Magic.”
I live in Taos, a small mountain town that is renown for it’s spiritual juju, so I know of what I speak. New Orleans has an ineffable something that makes it an addictive locale for many a tourist.
Let’s face it, the world is big. Far bigger than any one person could ever explore. Even Tony Bourdain has seen but a fragment, no matter how tired HIS bones might feel.
Places, cities, such as we know them, are nothing but an aggregate of people, structures, and landscape. That’s it. Yet somehow, they manage to develop distinct identities. The Castro is not the Lower East Side.
North London is not the North side of Chicago. These statements are so obvious as to be practically meaningless, and yet I type them still.
Because as photographers, or lovers of photography, we know that the best work manages to tap into the Zeitgeist of a place. To allow us to learn something crucial about a spot we might never have seen with our own eyes.
The camera is the proxy for the artist, and the artist is the proxy for the tourist. Here, declares the artist, is something you ought to see. Now, declares the artist, I will show you things that will embed in your memory, and make you think you know more than you do.
Speaking of which, I was in Southern California in late October, as you well know. (If you were paying attention at all.) I love that place too. It’s pretty, sure, but there is a seedy normality to the joint that I find alluring.
I’ve spent next-to-no time in Beverly Hills, or its ilk. Give me a low-rise little beach town any day. (Big Shout Out to Leucadia.)
Brad Moore has managed to capture an essence of SoCal that I’m pretty sure you’ll love. The SoCal of the Inland Empire, and Orange County, and mismatched patches of pavement. We can all see it in “Brad Moore,” a new book recently released by the nascent publisher Acuity Press, also from Southern California.
Why will you likely love it? Because it mashes up the anonymous modernism of the super-structure with the random chaos of real life. Korean churches behind geometric facades. Buddhist temples in half-abandoned-looking row houses.
And a seamless, flat, gray sky that references the smog, for which the place is often known, and the fog, that ever-present menace to coastal sanity. (Hey Fog, if you blow out now, so I can see the sun for a few minutes, I’ll give you $500. What, you can’t spend money, because you are an apparition made of moist sea air? Fuck you, then, fog. Fuck you.)
The book is really well-made, the images razor sharp. The repetitive shapes jump out at you, but just when you think you’re getting the hang of things, you’re given a surprise.
A big blue truck on a lawn, where we’d otherwise expect to see a house. What? And there are two dark smudges with streaks running down. Was the truck struck with paint-ball pellets? A group of miscreant teen-agers marring the otherwise “perfect” suburban existence?
No explanation necessary, really. Who doesn’t love a good mystery?
Later, a pile of green lawn beckons, the color as intense as a magic mushroom ride. What is that on the grass? Oh, it’s a tarp, holding a heap of grass shavings that are no longer a part of the territorial integrity of said lawn.
Brilliant illusion. Maybe the ideal metaphor? The gloss, disembodied from the host.
OK. That’s as much as I can squeeze out of my tired brain. I’m leaving Southern California, in my imagination, so I can look out my window to the shocking number of gopher mounds that dot my backyard.
Fucking Gophers. Why don’t you move somewhere where they’ll actually appreciate you?
Bottom Line: Terrific pictures of Southern California
Books are provided by Photo-Eye in exchange for links back for purchase.
Books are found in the bookstore and submissions are not accepted.