This story has been out a while but just in case you haven't heard of Vivian Maier, watch this, then go and visit the blog dedicated to her archive here.
Every morning, I take my daughter to the french school and make my way back home. This take an hour and a half on a good day. When I get back home, I'll have a coffee and cigarette, do the washing up, check my email and look at The daily nice. Then, around 10 am, I start assessing what needs doing and what it is that I actually feel like doing. Around that time invariably, an anecdote from my past creep to mind, triggered off by an object, a name, an image, a thought. If I have a lot to do, there is no time to dwell on it, but if, like today, I ignore the obligations of the day, I am in for a roller-coaster ride of events and encounters that have led me here. It is not always healthy. It is always written in books that one should not dwell on the past; seize the day, they say...well, when the day consist of very little else than grime and chaos, the exploration of lost worlds and civilizations always seems like a good idea.
I wanted to tell about my first commission, because the way it came about was pretty much how all dream jobs happen and its foreseen consequence was that once you start living the dream, there is no stopping you until you wake up and there is no dreams left to dream unless you start building an other life. So, here it goes:
I had something like 20 prints, portraits of friends essentially assembled as a portfolio that wanted to look like one of those of the top fashion photographers I was meeting in the studio where I had worked as an assistant and had just been sacked from for using the company's car to go to a rave and "loosing" it. A friend suggested I show my pictures to the graphic design team of a new music magazine called Magic. I went along. Somebody called me 3 weeks later and said could I start working for the magazine. There would be a portrait to do the next day, at the Source Lab offices, the artist name was DJ Krush. "Sure" I said trying to sound professional. I put the phone down and howled and wailed and jumped and just felt the rush of joy going through my vein; DJ Krush was one of my musical hero at that exact time, his second album Strictly Turntablized was playing on loop at home.The following day, I had half an hour to do my thing, in the lovely parisian courtyard of Source Lab which was the distributer for Mo'Wax record. May be because everyone there was so cool, the shoot went well, I liked the result. I think I was dripping with sweat when I processed the 2 or 3 rolls that night. Later on I shot a few portraits for Magic until, while living in London, I screwed up somehow on a shoot of Cocteau Twins and I never heard from them again(I did bump in to Robyn Guthrie once...a fine gentleman he is). Mo'Wax was the latest hip label to come out of London at the time, producing along with the Bristol based Massive Attack, the best of what would be known as Trip Hop music. I still like DJ Krush, I will always admire the guy, I'm very faithful like that. After that, I could never differentiate pleasure from work, which was handy because in London, you never got payed as a music photographer. I went to show my portraits to the art director at Mo'Wax when I moved to London, we became very good friends and he gave me all the Mo'Wax promos. Then the dream started fading...
Only recently did I understand how much I long for a mentor, a guru...somebody, not blogger, I could show my pictures to and discuss how to improve, be shown possible directions. I have assisted about a hundred different photographers in my youth, but I was not a very good assistant, none of them never offered to take me as their full time assistant, I did not try very hard to make myself worthy, I was happy just to cross their pass... I never really thought photography was a serious business, I never thought life was a serious business. Now that I am stranded in my creative no man's land, I often wonder where I find the energy to carry on taking all those photographs that never get shared. It is an act not dissimilar to writing poetry; you just have to spit it out. If I had been a 19 th century poet, I would have chosen Walt Whitman as a mentor. If I had been smart, I would have gone to that Dieter Appelt class...Dieter, hörst du mich?
Aaah, the Wellcome collection has a show on at the moment titled Dirt: the filthy reality of everyday life.
A lot about how to eliminate it but a beautiful display by James Croak, made of compacted dirt, his 'Window" 1991, gave me the shiver, such a beautiful piece it is. I could never stop talking about the dark stuff, be it dust, or rejects, destroyed repulsed matter of this world and of others. We watched INCEPTION tonight and ended talking afterward about instinct and the construction of the self, the elaboration of fears; what can I say but that this is where I am scavenging on? The picture above was taken in the cellar of an old farm; It was shot practically blindly as my torch had run out of battery, I could feel cobwebs brushing on my face and hands, the walls of the staircase where I stood were oozing...the ten minutes it took me to shoot were a bit like a scale and polish at the dentist, unpleasant self-inflicted and mildly painful exercise that will eventually brings its reward.