Old Box #2: Candid “I” Exams

Because creation, both capital C and small c, is continuous, there is no such category as non-creativity not even amidst a waste land. The all of life, included death, bleeds into consciousness; and all lived experience, shape and shade of content aside, contributes to artistic expression. When I see a page of text, I see a photograph; and, likewise, when I see a photograph, I see a picture of text. A grammatical texture, no matter the language or landscape, is always present. Be it protest, propaganda or poem, I am drawn in my the elements of the pictorial alphabet, the gathering of signs, symbols. Through the camera world I go, out through my own pores like a tripod of hair, a stalk of silver tercet, emerging from an inkwell. Sky writing, written in stone, the noon day calligraphy of the photographic catch. Splash and flash. There is much to discover in the margins evacuated by an honest cartographer as no single notebook draft can fully erase the code of another. Island, flood, subject-verb survivor. The echo of the original resurfaces, so many fossils in the petrified technique. Typeface, a mask. Print like Cain, cursive like Abel. Time, the ultimate assassin (with its measured slogans, aphorisms, memes and esoteric song lyrics, etc.) is an asset of both pro and anti-permanence, hyper-stitious as the dream that becomes a temple like television.

Meet Antonio Paraggi, the unknowable protagonist of Italo Calvino’s short story “The Adventure of a Photographer” and, as Calvino tells us, a man who fancies himself something of a philosopher. An everyman with a lens, ha, no way. Lonely and looked down on by a wall of framed, university degrees, not a chance. However, he is bored with rectangles and were he capable of standing in a group portrait, taken by me, in any place other than my imagination, he proudly take his place between Mr. Palomar and Monsieur Teste, without spectacles, the only one grinning. Paraggi ain’t no paradigm. Philosophy does strange things to the human face, things that cannot be corrected by meditation and the acupuncture of a well-hung solo exhibition. If, as Goethe states, “Music is liquid architecture; architecture is frozen music,” then might an astigmatic like Paraggi add, “Photography is framed thought; framed thought is mental photography.” Be patient with him, dear reader, as he is still learning to trust his camera strap, his apparatus a la noose. Personality split into a spill minus the papyrus of rage. Paraggi, paragraph and paparazzi, an aging, angelic provocateur. A numbered spine on the shelf next to other hard spines. Another deleted bookmark separated by the narrow passageways between buildings, the writing on the side without a reflection other than the dated one the local historical society keeps behind glass, one of those promised emancipations the blood and bone of red brick cannot deliver.

Paris, France / TSE / 2019

Black in Paris, I kind of side-eye saw her coming, all sturdy sonnet and sass, the enemy of stereotypes stacked like line breaks in her walk a maddening meter, but I was too busy framing signage, too busy in the gospel headspace of What World Walker Evans Do, to notice the scarf (like a treatise) blow back in her face. Ask me what the photograph means and I will say, “This is what becomes of all failed, domestic Revolutions,” especially the ones woven in cotton, written by the wind, the unlimited hangout without a beginning or end. We shrink to the size of a text message when we become just another vowel in a photograph. One must either delete the dilettante or edit the diet before the contact sheet becomes a robe. Centered in Afrocentric silhouette, the organic figure facing the wall of advertisement commandments is now merely an interruption or punctuation of the past. Controlled photo op. Nothing like black and white to extend the activism of a couple working the nerves of the Massa Plan. Attraction is the fight against counterfeit loyalty, the maturation of trust marching into the marketplace of struggle for initiation with a clear message: community building in the name of love. Addicted to political reasoning, most photo albums need a needle so obey your la la la la camera stylo. Channeling Søren K in the shadowgraphs, she pulls down the skin under her left eye, no leak. A washing machine of images, text, hypnosis built into the classics. Language wasn’t always Spin.

New York City / TSE / 2014

The thousand words that a picture is worth are often only worth a penny each, and the value won’t increase until the dirty coppers of ratings and broadcasting have been stopped. If nothing else, a shutter click will eventually kill their farm of clichés. Far away from the finality of engraved memorials, my search for the face (or faces) of Antonio Paraggi eludes the stoolie and the wars caused by awards. The mountaintop is grateful, the bottom too. On the page, fixed and finished. Off the page, lost in an enlarger, a sort of sprocket-less frame, ends curved upward and floating in a bath of sticky, blurred brew. Once I said, “What’s up, Antonio?” and all I got in response was a head nod. Another time, he managed a “Sup?” I guess I should have addressed him as “Ant.” Both ends of the exchange were me, my eye to my eye, an examination, me engaging the varicose mirror of reading. Bookmarked, paginated, pretending to curate the ontological concerns of the life of the mind, ruled and unruled in a journal. My Italian needs antlers. I raise camera. It resurrects, a giant tablet, the dictionary entry of the gods, no misspellings, no 9 X 12 blasphemy. The tattoo cannot be removed. The net is cast, a decipherable photographic stain, rumor-wide. Let it stand. Text is not a substitute for nature, no matter what divine order nature was originally forced to replace.

Newark, New Jersey / TSE / 2012

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