The Talking Gardens Of The USA

Americans and their garden signage are a curious thing..

You walk past these talking houses and you see placards telling you “Black lives matter” , ” Gay rights ” , ” Trans rights”
“Equality for women” …” I’m with jesus ”
and , for the goths ” I worship the devil ” ( this one is helpful as you know off the (flying) bat ..That lot are gonna be possibly over weight and certainly somewhat braindead )…. You get Xmas decor , Halloween decor , “Welcome to spring ” and ” I love Autumn ” bows.

You get the persons voting preference and pop culture choices as garage stickers …Their gate fittings,at times, tell you about their pets and they leave books to browse, borrow or keep ..They even leave take away philosophy quotes and homemade poems

In short the American garden is a social media post before social media was invented

 

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Dennis Hooper- The Photographer Side

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Denis Hooper is mainly known as an actor, starring in critically acclaimed films like Rebel Without A Course, Blue Velvet, Easy Rider and Apocolypse Now- he also made a slew of awful ” straight to video” films but let’s be kind and forget about them.

However, Mr Hooper was also a very good photographer who had a knack for capturing moments that summed up the 60s. His pictures told stories, they were photojournalism mixed with the poetry of French new wave cinema.
Hooper was an adventurer and wanted to be in the middle of whatever storm was around. He once said ” “When I was a teenager and moved to California, I realized there were a lot of artists and actors I thought were great–everybody from Van Gogh to W. C. Fields–who basically had the idea that you can’t make discoveries if you sit around waiting for something to happen. You’ve got to get out of there”

Before Easy Rider delivered stardom, Hooper spent much of the 1960s obsessively taking pictures of the counter culter and famous figures of the time. He followed protesters during the civil rights movement, hung out in cafes, walked the streets and took pictures of fellow artists. Regarding artists he claimed ‘The only people that I really found comfortable being photographed were artists. They asked me to photograph them. They wanted to be photographed. And that was cool.’

His street pictures of Los Angeles, are somewhat reminiscent of the work of Lee Friedlander. Hooper said ” LA was Pop…LA was the billboards. LA was the automobile culture. LA was the movie stars and LA was the whole idea of what pop was about – commercial art’

There are a few published collections, of Mr Hoopers work out there, My favourite is Dennis Hopper: Photographs 1961-1967

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Robert Frank- The Americans

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                                        Photo of Robert Frank

 

Last week Robert Frank, one of the most important photographers ever, passed away. He lived until 94, which is a fair inning by anyone’s standards.

Robert was born in Zurich, Switzerland and started training to be a photographer in the 1940s, learning his trade from various photographers and graphic designers.
In 1946 Robert released his first collection but it wasn’t until he moved to New York in 1947, to work for Harpers Bazaar, that his career really started to find a successful footing.
During the next 10 years, Robert would work for influential publications like LIFE and Vogue, among others. It was during this period Robert would master his craft.
In 1955, with financial backing from the Guggenheim Fellowship, he went on a road trip, around America, and took, around, 27,000, pictures. 83 of these pictures were used to form his iconic collection.

This collection was first published in France, in 1958 as “Le Americans”, alongside various essays of the time.
Finally, in 1959 the book was released in America, this time it was a pure photo book, although, it did have an introduction from Jack Kerouac. Was Jacks book On The Road an inspiration? Maybe. Was Jack a kindred spirit? Certainly.

It’s the American version, simply called. “The Americans” that is still reprinted and considered a beloved “classic of its genre” to this day. It’s this collection that gave documentary photography a new way. His style also went on to influence advertising, fashion photography and film.

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Of course. whenever anyone changes an art form they must suffer attacks from critics who just don’t understand. 
Photographer and critic Minor White. declared the book “A sad poem by a very sick person”. I think Minor White got confused it wasn’t Robert Frank that was “sick” it was his subject matter, America.  There is a sadness to the collection but that’s the point, it’s the sadness of a promise never quite fulfilled.

As ’Hagan wrote for The Guardian on the eve of Frank’s 90th birthday, “[Frank]caught what Diane Arbus called the ‘hollowness’ at the heart of many American lives, the chasm between the American dream and the everyday reality”.

In this regard, Robert Frank did, with photography, that which Beat writers would do with literature and Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, and the like, would do with music. 

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