October 1, 2013
A cat like Nat Finkelstein had nine lives before he died in 2009. A photographer, journalist, world traveler, animal smuggler, gun runner, drug dealer, ex-convict, revolutionary, and only God (and Nat) knows what else. Born in 1933 in Coney Island, Finkelstein studied with Alexey Brodovich at Brooklyn College before joining Pix and Black Star agencies before leaving the United States in 1969 to escape the Feds.
Possessed with blessings and curses in equal measure, Nat was drawn to the underground—and the underworld. As his memoirs recollect, “I am an anarchist and believe in the overthrow of Capitalism. I am studied and trained. I know that revolutionary victories are achieved through preparation, organization, stealth, and subterfuge, followed by violence only when victory is assured. I also believe in Lenin’s dictum that the problem with the bourgeois revolutionary is that the bourgeois revolutionary always believes that the STAGE of revolution in which they are participating is The Revolution. This accounts for my antipathy to certain insurrectionists (Hoffman, Ginsberg, et al) of the late 60s and early 70s.”
Never a follower, Nat set his own path, with New York City as his base of operations. His iconoclastic disposition landed him at Andy Warhol’s Factory in 1964 while on assignment from Black Star. With unfettered access to the creation of art, film, and Superstars, his documentation of the earliest years of the Factory reveal a scene that has influenced New York’s downtown identity ever since. The glamour of Hollywood with the grittiness of New York conspired to create Pop Art as a way of life.
In his superb book, Andy Warhol: The Factory Years, 1964-1967, Nat recalled, “Andy Warhol’s greatest work of art was Andy Warhol. Other artists first make their art and then celebrity comes from it. Andy reversed this. For me the Factory was a place of sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, for some of the others it was: from ferment comes art.
“Andy’s strategy was organized like an air-raid though radar-protected territory. He would drop these showers of silver foil out of the plane to deflect the radar. Behind this screen of smoke and mirrors, there was Andy at work. That was the real function of the entourage. It was a way to get the attention away from Andy, while he hid behind them, doing his number. The entourage was there to distract the attention, to titillate and amuse the public, while Andy was doing his very serious work. Andy was a very hard-working artist, a working man. He hid this very carefully, creating the myth that his products just kinda appeared. I’m probably one of the very few photographers who actually has pictures of Andy with his hands on a paintbrush and the paintbrush touching the painting. He didn’t want to get paint on his hands. So like any great artist, he had an atelier. He manipulated people to do things for him. It was a very studied casual act, ‘Hey, you do it.’ While he was working, he also had others work for him… Well, what else is a Factory? It was a brilliant scam.”
Older than everyone (except Warhol), Nat was a macho from Brooklyn, the straight guy in a sea of Superstars and Pop Art, with a camera, a sharp tongue, and no time for most men. He called the Velvet Underground, “The Psychopath’s Rolling Stones.” Lou Reed’s response? “The three worst people in the world are Nat Finkelstein and two speed dealers.”
At a time when drugs became part of America’s identity, Nat knew the score, always able to access the counterculture’s inner core. In his memoirs, he recounts, “The C.I.A utilized psychomemetics in the MK-ULTRA Project, a secret experiment in mind control, AKA ‘Brain Washing,’ often on unwitting subjects, several of whom would kill themselves. Time-Life publicized and popularized LSD in a stream of articles and pretty (although bogus) pictures. And then, in 1964, the mainstream media appointed an academic mercenary, ex-West Point, ex-Harvard Professor Timothy Leary as their ‘New World’ poster child. Leary—sponsored, financed and supported by a group of old wealth American industrialists—peddled ‘The Psychedelic Experience’ from a 4,000-acre estate in Millbrook, New York. Buttressed by the intellectual cachet of Aldous Huxley, plus the financial backing of the Mellon family and the CIA, Timothy Leary founded an organization called IFIF (International Foundation for Internal Freedom) and recruited a coterie of academics with a mystical bent, who forgot that after Brave New World came 1984.”
Nat was invited to Millbrook, and the meeting with Leary was less than successful. For even a drug dealer as successful as Finkelstein was leery of the relationship between the government, the media, the figureheads that brought LSD and amphetamines into American popular culture. He eventually retreated to his home in upset New York, where journalist Al Aronowitz (who introduced the Beatles to Bob Dylan in 1964) described him as, “Nat Finkelstein, Kokaine King of Woodstock.” Nat reigned supreme for a moment or two, and then, as is the case in the underworld, the cover blew.
In 1969, his lawyer called him to New York and revealed a document from the FBI that stated:
WE THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
HEREBY EMPOWER YOU TO BRING BACK THE BODY
NATHAN LOUIS FINKELSTEIN
CLASSIFIED ARMED AND DANGEROUS
In fear for his life, Nat Finkelstein left the United States. He traveled the Silk Route in the 1970s, appearing in the most unlikely places, eventually sentenced to four years in prison in France for possession of hashish. Nat’s memoirs revealed, “While in prison, I petitioned the United States government, the CIA, the FBI, and the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the Freedom of Information Act. Both the FBI and the CIA to this day have refused to release my records. However, the DEA records stated that in 1973, while I was still a fugitive, all charges against me were dismissed upon judicial review by a Judge Hector (Lopez or Gomez), with an extreme castigation of the Federal government for illegal actions against me. However, the government not only did not inform myself, my family, my in-laws, or my attorney that these charges were dropped, but forced me to live the life of a fugitive until 1978. Further, my agencies, my publishers, my family, et cetera, had been informed that if they were to publish any work done by me, prior to this dismissal, that they would be arrested for aiding and abetting a fugitive. My voice had been effectively silenced.”
When Nat returned to America in 1982, a free citizen, he inquired to Black Star agency and Life magazine about the whereabouts of his negatives. He notes in his memoirs, “Previously, Howard Chapnick of Black Star had told my ex-wife Jill that a woman purporting to be my wife, with a supposed letter from me, had come to the agency demanding that all my negatives be turned over to her. The only thing remaining of my work, aside from my Warhol series, were four or five prints which were made during various assignments.”
While many photographs remain lost, other come to light. In 1995, a collection of 170 color transparencies from The Factory was discovered to be misfiled under the wrong name at a London photo agency. Among the images are Warhol eating pizza, John Cale dozing off, Nico reading the paper, Edie Sedwick applying lipstick—the intimate moments Nat shared through the years.
His time at The Factory was but a chapter in one of those rare lives that crisscross the world at length, as photographs continue to emerge from the recesses of the earth. Photographs shot on August 8, 1965 at a civil rights protest in Washington D.C. came forth from the archives of Life magazine in 2004. As Nat recalled in an essay for The Blacklisted Journalist, there were members of, “The DuBois Society, CORE (Congress Of Racial Equality), SNCC (Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee). Fresh from voter registration drives in Mississippi, militants from Newark and Harlem were joining up with kids from Y.A.W.F. (Youth Against War and Fascism). White middle class kids and black militants coming together in an uneasy alliance. Together with the various Pacifist societies, as well as the followers of Martin Luther King, who previously had eschewed the anti war movement, they joined to form an Assembly of Unrepresented People, determined to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right of free assembly in order to petition their government and declare the war in Vietnam to be a racist war.”
Then things got ugly. As Nat wrote, “The first people to be accosted and intimidated by the police were the Afro-Americans. During the march, an apparently late Nazi threw some of his own paint, and was also roughed up by the police. However, he was not arrested. At this point, the police forces were led and instructed by a non-uniformed, unidentified man, who apparently commanded the police to be rough. In fact, you can see this man in the pictures. Who he was, no one may ever know. As you can see from the photographs, the other photographers stayed at a short distance from this action, whereas I was fully involved, as you can see one picture, to the point of being punched in the stomach by a policeman during the melee, even though I was wearing official press credentials identifying me as a photographer from Life magazine. I did my job recording the information before me; the brutality, the obvious concentration on people of color, the fingernails crunching nerve endings, the faces squeezed, the glee of the oppressors, the courage of the kids.
“As you’ll notice from these photographs, there were no “long-haired freaks?: no Abbie Hoffman, no Jerry Rubin, no Allen Ginsberg. No pot, no gratuitous violence on the part of the protestors. This came later. It is my firm belief this was done by the so-called capitalist “Free Press.” The mainstream media that appointed theatrical clowns such as Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Allen Ginsberg, and Timothy Leary, as representative of the antiwar movement. When actually, the antiwar movement consisted of the students and the ordinary American working class.”
Throughout his years on this earth, Nat was a champion for the underdog, defying the corrupt system through his art, words, and actions. His actions—while not always legal—held to another ethic; that integrity means holding firm in a raging storm. A typhoon like Nat Finkelstein may have left this earth, but his legacy is a life that challenged and ran counter to the hypocrisy of the world.
Originally published in
Le Journal de la Photographie
18 March 2011
September 22, 2013
Many people see their lives as worthy of books, of stories and histories, of memories repeating themselves over and over again with every turn of the page, memories of a time and a place that was once not too long ago but with every passing moment it slips further away. It is the ether to which we return and we hold to its shores, as the river sweeps through. We see and we smile and we think and we know that it comes and it goes.
The book then sets forth to stop time, time capsule, treasure chest of a world that will live on. In ink printed on pages in images and in words and the book speaks to us from the past in the present for the future and we hold it close. We clasp it in our hands, we cradle it to our chest, and our eyes feast upon its contents, devouring every last bit. This is life in print.
And so it is to the book that we return to celebrate the great Gigi Giannuzzi. Trolleyology: The First Ten Years of Trolley Books is a delightfully bright mango number, all board debossed with the simplest boldface, and I’m thinking of that Classic A B C D F U C K t-shirt from back in the days. I love it, this little brick of a book, a marvel of engineering that needs no refinement whatsoever. Form follows function, like Le Corbusier said, and it is here that Trolleyology sets forth.
“Trolley is ten. We would like to thank, from the bottom of our hearts, all those that have helped us reach this milestone, the artists and the people that always believed in us, from our resolute supporters to our very patient printers. Glimpsing at the world as it appears now we little anticipated then, at the outset of this journey, what we have witnessed in those ten years. Wars waged on the precepts of lies, the dramatic effects of collateral damage on millions of innocent people, Geneva Convention rules ignored by ‘First World’ countries, the resurrection and proliferation of torture as a normal means to obtain information. Above all, we have witnessed the rise of fear, the emergence of a new breed of global authoritarianism and corresponding brutal methods of repression, from Burma to the UK, from France to Zimbabwe. At the same time there has been a dramatic fall in the sales of informative books. At Trolley we still believe in the power of information and the people’s undeniable right to know what is happening in their name. We shall continue to promote and support our authors in the next ten years, as we have done since Trolley first began a decade ago.”
Gigi penned these words, before his death. And like Biggie Smalls said, this is Life After Death, for in the circle spinning around in full, a revolution has been completed. Gigi stands for revolution, for things coming around again, and the legacy of Trolley can be found in all that have stood at his side, aligning themselves with Truth, Justice, and the Integrity of the Soul.
Trolleyology reveals it as this, and so it is here that we set forth, looking to what was done, how it was built by the mind of a most swashbuckling lunatic, who possessed a passion that could not be denied. It is a passion for speaking truth to power, for creating art, for using the book as the medium to bring us together, to marry the sacred and the profane, the book is art in the age of mass reproduction and it lives and it breathes in a new milennia where it has a new kind of weight. The book exists. It cannot be erased. And it is the job of the publisher to tell stories worthy of the ages. Stories that command attention and respect, stories that force us out of our comfort zones, into the world outside the known, to a place that calls to our deepest humanity and asks us to be the change we want to see in the world.
Trolleyology offers up chapters from The Book of Life, each chapter dedicated to telling the story of a book on the Trolley list. Consider just a few and you’ll understand the depth, breadth, courage, and strength it takes to publish stories of this caliber:
Chernobyl: The Hidden Legacy by Pierpaolo Mittica
Purple Hearts: Back from Iraq by Nina Berman
Open Wound: Chechnya 1994-2003 by Stanley Greene
A Million Shillings: Escape from Somalia by Alixandra Fazzina
Say Yes to a Rosy Future: Nicolas Righetti
Double Blund: War in Lebanon 2006 by Paolo Pellgrin
Crosses: Portraits of Clergy Abuse by Carmine Gallasso
Taliban: Thomas Dworzak
The list goes on and on, each chapter a rabbit hole into another world, each book a portal into a truth on earth. Gigi’s gift was his passion, and it was this passion that he brought where ever he went, and it was this passion that changed our lives, with each and every book. It is this passion that we see in the pictures and read in the words, in the stories of how each book came to be, and the lives Gigi touched with love.
Trolleyology sits behind my desk on a narrow ledge, a shelf that is home to the books that shape my inner and outer worlds, from The Rumi Collection and The Way of Chuang Tzu to I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp by Richard Hell. And it is that image of the tramp that stays with me, the tramp whose heart is huge, whose spirit is luminous, and whose legend lives on in eternity. It is that trap that is Gigi and his trolley of books, his curiosity lit like a fire, like a flame, whose soul radiates with each and every turn of the page.
The book is the mirror into which we look, not just at ourselves, but a reflection of those who bring it into existence. The book as object, idea, invention, inspiration. The book that calls to a higher self. The book as created by Gigi Giannuzzi. Visionary. Activist. Artist. Emissary. Gentleman. Madman. Publisher. God Bless.
September 17, 2013
Sleep. It is the portal into another world, a shadow self, a space that exists inside the mind, so far beyond any dimension we’ve known before or may known since, for it is in this way that we take flight inside out bodies, leaving them aside as we explore new and fertile earth. And here upon this plane they lay, not simply inert, but in their own passages through time and space, telling their very own story.
And because we are inside, we cannot see, sleep is like our face, our visage for all to see but we to whom it belongs. We never quite know until we stand before the evidence of who we are when we are both in and outside of this world. It is then that a work like Sleep by Ted Spagna, Edited by Delia Bonfilio and Ron Eldridge with Martynka Wawrzyniak (Rizzoli New York) comes to the fore, to show us how it is, how we live, how similar and dissimilar, how familiar and foreign.
Here we see sleep through stop motion photography, which reminds me of how I light I sleep, awakening to every change in my space. The other night I lay in bed frequently awoken by a snore that was not my own and when I opened my eyes, we had both moved. New positions, over and over again. The choreography of the unconscious in continuous motion, and me, I’m taking note and smiling at how right before the sun arises, he has the covers gathered up under his chin.
And in these positions, he tells stories, stories I don’t know, in the very same way Spagna photographs capture a plot as it unfolds. It is said that gesture does not lie, and so when we look at each and every frame we find the mind in body as it responds to the travels of the mind and wherefore it goes, we can only imagine for the land of the unconscious is more a poem than an essay or a speech. It is both linear and not in that rhythm follows measure and time, just like music and dance.
Sleep then becomes a performance of sorts, private dancer to no one and nothing except the Lord up above. Or not. Hard to know, until gazing upon these grids, frame after frame after frame, each one a slight variation on a theme, a gesture that is created out of biological necessity. When looking at the body in this way, we see a kind if floating, a swimming, a movement through space that has nothing whatsoever to do with our upright nature.
As Dr. Allan Hobson writes in “The Influence of Science,” an essay which appears in the book, “Ted Spagna’s photographs have done more than any other medium to make sleep science visible and, hence, directly understandable to the general public…. Whether or not Spagna’s sleep portraits capture a hidden self, they are unquestionably surprising in their revelations of sleep as behavior—especially the tenderness of sleeping couples—and they are unquestionably visually rich, owing to Spagna’s meticulous concern with photographic technique.”
Spagna’s photographs reveal sleep as nothing so much as an adventure we barely fathom, as memories of out time in the shadow world fade int the light of day. Yet we engage, night after night after night, and for some, it is never not enough. And for others, it has become far too much. But there it is.
Sleep is that which we do in ways we do not know, until we reflect and study ourselves, investigate a world we all go, a world we all know, a world we can but barely begin to describe and it is in this way that Spagna’s photographs contribute to the vocabulary of sleep and build a dialogue, giving us a new means upon which to reflect and consider this world in which we live.
September 14, 2013
August 31, 2013
I think when I first started out, I was very, very nervous and scared to even ask to sit at the table. A lot of times, to be quite honest, when I first started, I was just so picked apart and ridiculed even by my own people.
Sometimes I would say, `OK, I’m just going to stand here on the corner, I’m good. Go ahead, sit.’ And that didn’t sit well with me. And after a while, I just started pushing my way through and saying, you know, `There is nothing wrong with the way I look, there is nothing wrong with the way I speak. You guys are the ones with the problem. So move over ‘cause my seat is right here, right next to you. And I’m not going to change to fit into your sense of what is norm. That should only occur in the roles that I play. The only time that I should change who I am is when I’m playing a specific character. Outside of that, I am who I am, thank you. Now let’s eat.’
And I think that if more people took that approach, we would have much more success and we would have much more of a volume of us, if you will, at the table. But we have to find some type of strength within ourselves to say, `I am beautiful, I do deserve to sit here, thank you very much.’ And that going full circle has definitely come from being from Brooklyn, just because you know who you are. When you’re on your block, you know who you are and you feel good about it.
August 30, 2013
I did not know until it began and then and only then it began to expand, this desire and will for all things photography, for publishing, for books, for essays poems odes sonnets everlasting of stories told, for the people who lived and live forevermore captured on the page where the photograph is born.
It had been since 1999 that I found myself captivated by the spell of the photography book, page after page after page of lives unfolding, one page after another. It had found me, this thing I had been living unconsciously, and it has been to this I have given myself completely, with everything I possess, a true believer driven to act upon the printed page, with words, photographs, stories being told in complete and utter silence.
I beheld, held these things to be sacred, though I didn’t know the hows or the why of it at all, and I still don’t. But I do know it is fate for in my life it transforms…
I began as a publicist, a publisher, and I became a journalist, a book reviewer. It was Jean Jacques Naudet at Le Journal de la Photographie who made this possible, with a daily newsletter detailing the international photography world, documenting an expansive array of festivals, fairs, exhibitions, events, and industry moves. It also features notable profiles and interviews, as well as archival stories and weekend portfolios. I was given the freedom to cover anything I’d like, anything that sparked my interest and fanned the flames of curiosity and wonder, anything that inspired tribute and reverence, consideration of ideas that exist only in pictorial form.
I had never thought, until I had to, of the nature of the photograph and how it held me spellbound like Ingrid Bergman in the Hitchcock classic. And as I began to write, it came to me, that it was the photography book that is my destiny. And that is a beautiful thing, the freedom to create the world in which I wish to live. I was given cause to speak with artists, publishers, visionaries, to peruse these very powerful pages of their lives, to share in ideas and wisdom, to listen to the words and the silence and the stillness of the single image…
and then to return to the world with this new found knowledge, to share of these photographs and books. I remember standing outside Bookmarc on Bleecker Street as a cop on horseback watched the scene. Old punks gathered thick and deep to celebrate “Just Chaos,” curated by Roberta Bayley. And it was at that moment that I knew punks were the last of the hippies. Never sell out, never say die, just keep on keepinn onn, because art is life. Life is art. The Art of Living, like Epictetus wrote.
And so we gather here today to salute Le Journal de la Photographie, which bids us adieu after three years sailing the uncharted waters of digital publishing. Of communications, community, and communion; we stand here today in honor of the photograph, of what it is, what it was, what it shall be, for we know, without words, we know in our souls these things. Cheers to Le Journal for making this possible, for giving writers like myself the opportunity to discover our Truth in photography.
August 28, 2013
…and still the chills come as the words reverberate in the ear, Martin Luther King Jr.’s voice as clear as the call of the clarion. “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’
“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
“I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heart of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but the content of their character.
“I have a dream today!”
King first spoke these unforgettable words on August 28, 1963, at the historic March on Washington, where he stood at the Lincoln Memorial before 250,000 people gathered at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to mount a peaceful protest demanding Civil Rights, justice, and equality for African Americans nearly one hundred years after slavery was abolished in the United States.
In tribute to the fiftieth anniversary of one of the proudest days in this country’s history, Getty Publications has just released This Is The Day: The March on Washington by Leonard Freed, with texts by Julian Bond, Michael Eric Dyson, and Paul Farber. Most of the seventy-five photographs featured here have never been published before, and taken as a whole they offer a compelling, powerful, and uplifting vision of the day itself—before, during, and after the march.
As Dyson writes, “The moral beauty of Freed’s photographs bathes the aesthetics that guides his flow of images. The folk here are neat, dignified, well-dressed—in a word, sharp, with all the surplus meaning the word summons, since black dress can never be divorced from political consequence…. Freed captures the simple dignity and the protocols of cool—the ethics of decorum—that characterizes large swaths of black life. And when his camera swings wide to include a vision of America too rarely noticed in the mainstream press at the time, and in some cases even now, he records almost mundanely, and hence rather heroically, the everydayness of the encounters between white and black. He allows the images to steep in the crucible for American race. One can almost catch the subliminal suggestion: This is what it should always be like.”
Indeed, the legacy of this historic day is that it offered to not only America but to the world a vision of the power that healing brings. We return again and again to the day, not only for what King verbalized for us but for what Freed’s images say. We see in these images the American ideal: all power to the people, and for that we reflect with a quiet reverence and hopeful spirit that the dream shall be fulfilled.
August 23, 2013
Flying High. That’s the way it was, the way it is, the way it can always be. High is a state of mind, of body, of spirit. It is the transcendental reality we call can achieve when we divest ourselves of anything less than the divinity that exists in every existence, every being that sets forth in the Universe. There are many paths to the same place, making life like a Choose Your Own Adventure novel, you see.
Destiny is the handshake between God and Man, and it is Destiny that takes us by the hand and draws us into possibility, and it is here that life is actually happening. We have a say in this path, and we can follow its highest course when we align ourselves with eternity. Greatness distinguishes, inspires, and elevates. Greatness is a state of mind, a choice, a willingness to listen to the inner self, the place where the soul resides and speaks in pictures, sounds, and words.
It is in the photographs of Jamel Shabazz that we know our greatest selves. It is in looking at Jamel’s photographs that I discovered the soul, the place where light meets film meets paper meets my eye and my eye meets Jamel. I feel high, ohh so high, flying like nothing else, high off the heady mix of people doing things in places I’ve never been but already seem to know, of people who remind me of a time and a place not too long ago but so very, very far away, only I’m in Brooklyn, like his photos and his photos are all that remains.
Jamel Shabazz for A Thousand Words: Flying High and Crack Kills.
August 21, 2013
It is always happening, always going, always here, now, forever flowing like a fountain gushing forth, and we are splashing in the candy rain, the colors, sights, sounds, only it is silence, silent, not a sound. The photograph, it is so many things, all of which pass before our eyes with a stillness that bespeaks a moment in life, that has taken all time it frozen it, making here and now forever and then—
It is the photographer who see, knows, captures, collects. A magician, transforming three dimensions into two. Depth moves from a physical to a mental space, as we perceive beingness in a world where everything is flat, and we are free to look, to stare, to consider life in retrospect.
Martha Cooper has been doing her thing since the 60s, archiving urban vernacular with her camera, recording the transitory arts of life as they flash before our eyes. Marty quit her job at the New York Post to photograph the trains full time. To go into the yards and around the way, always looking, always seeing, always aware of this moment in time, this place in space, this landscape of life, a New York that no longer is but always was. Just like graff, time keeps on slippinn, slippinn, like Steve Miller Band say. But thing about art is, This is the Remix, and thas where A Thousand Words comes into play.
T-shirts. Canvases. Cotton is the fabric of our lives. T-shirt game, cause this is America and casual chic is a way of life. The DONDI T is all that I’ve been waiting for. Props to Martha Cooper and Koe Rodriguez. Keep Love Alive.
August 19, 2013
In the early morning hour,
just before dawn, lover and beloved wake
and take a drink of water.
She asks, “Do you love me or yourself more?
Really, tell the absolute truth.”
He says, “There is nothing left of me.
I’m like a ruby held up to the sunrise.
Is it still a stone, or a world
made of redness? It has no resistance
This is how Hallaj said, I am God,
and told the truth!
The ruby and the sunrise are one.
Be courageous and discipline yourself.
Completely become hearing and ear,
and wear this sun-ruby as an earring.
Work. Keep digging your well.
Don’t think about getting off from work.
Water is there somewhere.
Submit to a daily practice.
Your loyalty to that
is a ring on the door.
Keep knocking, and the joy inside
will eventually open a window
and look out to see who’s there.
—Rumi, The Sunrise Ruby
August 19, 2013
A portrait of the artist is his subject, that which he stands before, for it is through his eye through his mind through the very pressure he asserts at the tip of his finger as he sets forth, that very moment he aims, fires, and shoots, that fraction of a second captured as the shutter clicks, the photographer stands before the Universe, eternally.
It is the photograph that is evidence of his path, a path cut and carved with great swaths of panache and pride, a kind of knowingness that camera creates, that shutter click is really a wink, a tongue placed firmly in cheek, cheekie, all these good things. It is the way we stop time and set it free, releasing the eternal into the Universe, eternally.
Joe Conzo happens, is always happening, wherever he goes be sure to know, there will be scenes, people, stages upon this earth, be it the sidewalks or the streets, be it the performance palaces and the neighborhood parks. Joe is New York, the Bronx to be exact. Born and Bred, represent. A gentleman of the old school, from a time and a place where you stood your ground, because ground is sacred, and from the ashes of flames arose the greatest generation because they fought the war on this here homefront. They stood for the people—our people—and they won.
It’s bigger than hip hop. Hip Hop was born of this. We see it in Joe Conzo, and we see it everywhere he goes. The Hell Lady of the Bronx begat a soul that continues to share of himself, here with Koe Rodriguez for a Thousand Words, with photographs of Paul Newman and Charlie Chase. This is how it was, how it went, almost all of us missed it except Joe, who was there, just as he always is, with a camera in hand, a big smile and kiss, a twinkle in the eye, and a story to tell. Because he knows. Joe Conzo He is the revolution made whole.
August 17, 2013
A Thousand Words in every language. A thousand worlds all seeing the same image. The stories captured forever and then—
We behold because what we see is always there when we look. It is in the image that we live forevermore, photographs from the Album of Life, every page a reverie, a memory .. of a shared time and a place that was and is forevermore captured on the page. It is this, the photograph, a vessel of soul, three dimensions transposed into two, the ephemeral made eternal and then—
We print it in a book, print it on the page and hang it on the wall. In this way the photograph is precious for a piece of paper is easily torn. But what holds well, endures and can be born? Cotton. It is a canvas upon which we have created egalitarian style, a casual chic that is all that is great about America. The t-shirt is a space for hopes and dreams as it stands before us to bear witness. It is this, as the billboard of the heart, the the t-shirt is where art becomes love.
Koe Rodriguez launches A Thousand Words, a new line of apparel and home design that showcases the work of New York legends Joe Conzo, Martha Cooper, and Jamel Shabazz. I’ve been waiting for this. That Dondi t-shirt! Cause, I mean, who would have ever thought? I gotta give it up. Props to Koe Rodriguez for having the knowledge and the vision to make this happen. Because it’s what the world’s been needing. Art, sweet, art.
Once upon a time, the trains actually ran, and you could see burners, throw ups, tags, whether you wanted to or not. That was live. Fly handstyles add energy to the mix. Graff is life as art, and everyone’s taken along for the ride. Just like music, block parties, shows around the way, kids inventing the world in which they want to live.
Do It Yourself. That was and it is the ethos by which I was raised, New York in the 70s. We know it, that’s why we create. What else can you do? “Be the change you want to see in the world,” like Rumi said.
August 16, 2013
August 11, 2013
On August 11, 1973, Clive Campbell AKA DJ Kool Herc distributed the following flyer around his South Bronx community. Herc would be joined by Coco, Cindy C, Klark K and Timmy T in a seven-hour jam at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, in the Recreation Room. The “Back To School Jam” would change history as we knew it.
August 8, 2013
Short documentaries on art, performance, and popular struggle in the Lower East Side by Clayton Patterson and compiled by Elsa Rensaa, including an excerpt of Patterson’s video of the 1988 Tompkins Square Park riot. Followed by a discussion with Clayton Patterson.
Clayton Patterson is a Canadian-born artist, photographer, videographer, and folk historian. Since moving to New York City in 1979, his work has focused almost exclusively on documenting the art, life, and times of the Lower East Side in Manhattan.