Showing posts tagged photography

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.”

Walt Whitman, Song of Myself (quoted in the introduction to Che’s Afterlife: The Legacy of an Image by Michael Casey)

(Image: contact sheet of Che Guevara photographs, 1963, by René Burri. Thank you, PetaPixel.)

Ernesto “Che” Guevara (1928–1967)

“In any photographic manual you’ll come across the strikingly clear image of a landscape, apparently taken by night, in the light of a full moon. The secret behind this magical vision of ‘darkness at noon’ is usually revealed in the accompanying text. Readers of this book will not be well versed about the sensitivity of my retina — I can hardly sense it myself. So they will not be able to check what is said against a photographic plate to discover at precisely what time each of my ‘pictures’ was taken. What this means is that if I present you with an image and say, for instance, that it was taken at night, you can either believe me, or not; it matters little to me, since if you don’t happen to know the scene I’ve ‘photographed’ in my notes, it will be hard for you to find an alternative to the truth I’m about to tell. But I’ll leave you now, with myself, the man I used to be …”

— from The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey, edited and translated by Alexandra Keeble (Ocean Press and the Che Guevara Studies Center, Havana, 2003)

(Image: Thank you, Better World Books.)

Ernesto “Che” Guevara (1928–1967)

“In any photographic manual you’ll come across the strikingly clear image of a landscape, apparently taken by night, in the light of a full moon. The secret behind this magical vision of ‘darkness at noon’ is usually revealed in the accompanying text. Readers of this book will not be well versed about the sensitivity of my retina — I can hardly sense it myself. So they will not be able to check what is said against a photographic plate to discover at precisely what time each of my ‘pictures’ was taken. What this means is that if I present you with an image and say, for instance, that it was taken at night, you can either believe me, or not; it matters little to me, since if you don’t happen to know the scene I’ve ‘photographed’ in my notes, it will be hard for you to find an alternative to the truth I’m about to tell. But I’ll leave you now, with myself, the man I used to be …”

— from The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey, edited and translated by Alexandra Keeble (Ocean Press and the Che Guevara Studies Center, Havana, 2003)

(Image: Thank you, Better World Books.)

William Claxton (1927–2008)
 Gregarious, warm, slightly absentminded, and sometimes politely mischievous, Claxton projects both rumpled ease and a slightly formal Old World politeness. He calls himself “a hippie, relaxed type,” though he’s using the term hippie in its short‑haired 1950s and not its ‘60s psychedelic sense. While Claxton has made a living shooting some of the most beautiful and meticulously dressed people on the planet, he carries himself casually and unselfconsciously; he favors heavy work shirts with square pockets, as if he were a village electrician. He projects little ego; some describe him as the kind of artist who “disappears into his work.” And so, as wide as he’s ranged—from photojournalism to fashion to movie sets—Claxton knows exactly how he’ll be remembered: “I think I’m so deeply rooted in jazz,” he says in his slightly hoarse voice that recalls worn leather, “that it’ll say on my tombstone that I was a jazz photographer.”
— Scott Timberg, “William Claxton: Eye on Cool” (Jazz Profiles)
(Photograph by Mark Edward Harris. Thank you, popphoto.com.)

William Claxton (1927–2008)

Gregarious, warm, slightly absentminded, and sometimes politely mischievous, Claxton projects both rumpled ease and a slightly formal Old World politeness. He calls himself “a hippie, relaxed type,” though he’s using the term hippie in its short‑haired 1950s and not its ‘60s psychedelic sense. While Claxton has made a living shooting some of the most beautiful and meticulously dressed people on the planet, he carries himself casually and unselfconsciously; he favors heavy work shirts with square pockets, as if he were a village electrician. He projects little ego; some describe him as the kind of artist who “disappears into his work.” And so, as wide as he’s ranged—from photojournalism to fashion to movie sets—Claxton knows exactly how he’ll be remembered: “I think I’m so deeply rooted in jazz,” he says in his slightly hoarse voice that recalls worn leather, “that it’ll say on my tombstone that I was a jazz photographer.”

Scott Timberg, “William Claxton: Eye on Cool” (Jazz Profiles)

(Photograph by Mark Edward Harris. Thank you, popphoto.com.)

The international languages of jazz and photography need no special education or sophistication to be enjoyed. All I ask you to do is listen with your eyes.
Light and shadows
… the visual aspects of life were very interesting to me. I loved things like shadows. I loved the way light came through windows and came through the rain … even when light came under doors … . That fascinated me as a child very much.
— William Claxton, Jazz Seen: The Life and Times of William Claxton
(Photo: Thank you, benediktpictures.)

Light and shadows

… the visual aspects of life were very interesting to me. I loved things like shadows. I loved the way light came through windows and came through the rain … even when light came under doors … . That fascinated me as a child very much.

— William Claxton, Jazz Seen: The Life and Times of William Claxton

(Photo: Thank you, benediktpictures.)

Bruce Weber on William Claxton: “Three great distractions”

… You have to understand that I first saw photographs of Chet, taken by William Claxton, about 40 years ago on the cover of an album called Chet Baker Sings and Plays. I collected jazz records in those days. (I still do, but most of the little record stores in the East Village of New York City that I used to hang out in are closing.) At that time I was attending NYU film school. I got to meet Claxton and his wife Peggy Moffitt; she was the first model to wear the topless bathing suit by Rudi Gernreich. Bill photographed me and made a short film with me and Peggy. He had three great distractions in his life: Peggy, Steve McQueen and Chet Baker. I couldn’t compare with that, being a shy and awkward film student, but Bill was a real sweetheart to anyone who happened to be in front of his camera. He made me feel very confident so I could fantasise that I was in the same gang as Steve and Chet. I learned a lot from Bill, and now when I photograph so many college kids for Abercrombie & Fitch, I think of Bill and his respect for the individual and how everyone was beautiful until it was discovered they didn’t have a soul to go along with a great body. I always thought Chet had that soul — no matter what age he was, no matter if he got his teeth knocked out, or no matter how many lines circled his eyes. People always ask me, “What is beauty?” I always laugh and say: “Today is one thing and tomorrow another.”

— from “There Will Never Be Another You” (The Guardian)

Hanging out with Charlie Parker

[William] Claxton started collecting records when he was a kid — 78s by Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Lena Horne and others. He pasted their pictures into scrapbooks. By the time he was 12, he was sneaking into jazz clubs and photographing musicians with his obsolete 4x5 Speed Graphic camera. In one of his books, Claxton recalled hanging out with Charlie Parker and some fans early into the morning and then taking them all to his parents’ house for an impromptu shoot.

The photographer began making money from his pictures when Richard Bock, co-founder of the Pacific Jazz record label, hired Claxton to shoot album covers. His work got noticed and Claxton started getting calls from Time, Life, Vogue and other magazines to take celebrity photos. He said he drew on his degree in psychology to deal with difficult personalities such as Barbra Streisand, George C. Scott or Anita O’Day. Claxton told the Irish Times that the first thing Steve McQueen said to him was, “I hate photographers. Stay in the background.” The two eventually became friends.

Tom Cole, “William Claxton, 80, Shot ‘Jazz For The Eyes’” (npr.org)

Photograph by William Claxton. (Thank you, tornandfrayed.)

(Reblogged from tornandfrayed)
I think that I was first attracted to the magic of photography when I realized that by the simple act of pointing a camera at something or someone or an event, click the shutter, and for one-sixteenth of a second I could capture that moment in time, a moment in history that will never happen again. That was the most satisfactory thing I could think of, that I realized, when I started photography.
What we see in a photograph
Photography is a form of memory. A century ago, the French novelist Emile Zola wrote, “You cannot claim to have really seen anything until you have photographed it.” He might have said, you can’t claim to have really remembered anything until you’ve seen a photograph. A photographic image, a work of art as a record of a moment in time, is the way we remember our world. Memory, of course, is itself a work of art. And what we see in a photograph is always a mix of what we bring to it—how we feel about the subject, how we respond to what we see—and what the photographer has created out of light and movement and place.
The pattern of a life can be captured in a photograph. Not the whole ineffable life, to be sure, but something we recognize as essential. We know this instinctively, even in the memory of an image, especially of someone we love: a familiar gesture, a certain glance, a well-wrought pose, a moment, gone forever, of expressive will and human emotion. The life expressed in Photographic Memory is William Claxton’s.
— Garrett White, William Claxton: Photographic Memory
(Photo: Thank you, book-komiyama.)

What we see in a photograph

Photography is a form of memory. A century ago, the French novelist Emile Zola wrote, “You cannot claim to have really seen anything until you have photographed it.” He might have said, you can’t claim to have really remembered anything until you’ve seen a photograph. A photographic image, a work of art as a record of a moment in time, is the way we remember our world. Memory, of course, is itself a work of art. And what we see in a photograph is always a mix of what we bring to it—how we feel about the subject, how we respond to what we see—and what the photographer has created out of light and movement and place.

The pattern of a life can be captured in a photograph. Not the whole ineffable life, to be sure, but something we recognize as essential. We know this instinctively, even in the memory of an image, especially of someone we love: a familiar gesture, a certain glance, a well-wrought pose, a moment, gone forever, of expressive will and human emotion. The life expressed in Photographic Memory is William Claxton’s.

— Garrett White, William Claxton: Photographic Memory

(Photo: Thank you, book-komiyama.)

Why photograph jazz musicians? I’ve been asked that a few times. First, and most important, I love their music. But I am also fascinated by the diverse qualities they possess. They have an ingenuousness, a sort of open, innocent attitude. Yet at the same time they display a strong discipline in their dedication to their craft. And I also admire their individualism: their differences in character and their musical expression.

I am just as intrigued by the movements and body language of musicians while they play. I study them carefully before photographing them, much like I would watch a dancer, an actor, or even an ordinary person performing an ordinary task. I note how their faces and bodies reflect or catch the light; when and at what angles they look their best. I do all of this, of course, while listening to their playing. In a sense, I listen with my eyes.

“Your pictures have soul”

Early in October of 1959 I received a telephone call from Germany. The person introduced himself as Joachim-Ernst Berendt, a musicologist living in Baden-Baden. In very good English, he explained that he was coming to America to do a study of “America’s great art—jazz.” He went on to say that he needed a photographer to work with him—a photographer who liked and understood jazz. He had seen a great deal of my work published in European magazines and on record covers and thought that I would be the perfect choice to work with him—“because your pictures have soul.” He went on to explain that the book would be mainly a collection of my images to augment his writings about jazz. There would be interviews with musicians, descriptions of the various places where one hears jazz, and a look at the origins of jazz as well as the art itself. He made it all sound a bit erudite, but it seemed like a very important project, and I was thrilled by his offer. The chance to photograph many of my jazz heroes in addition to the many unknown and yet-to-be-discovered jazz musicians all around America, was too tempting to resist.

William Claxton, “Into the Jazz Heartland,” an excerpt from Jazz Life (taschen.com)

(Photo: Thank you, nyavyer.)

Thelonious Monk (at Piano), San Francisco, No. 2, 1961

16 x 20 Silver Gelatin Photograph, Ed. 25

Photograph by William Claxton.

(Image and caption: Thank you, Fahey/Klein Gallery.)

Photography … can be as sensitive to sound as it is to light. Good photographs are there to be listened to as well as looked at; the better the photograph, the more there is to hear.

“Can you feel your life?”

Arguably [William Claxton’s] most revealing and accomplished photographs capture the legendary film actor Steve McQueen: Claxton and McQueen first bonded over their passion for sports cars, and before their scheduled session, the photographer let the star play with his camera to impress upon him the joy of taking pictures. “Can you feel your life?” Claxton asked McQueen. “Can you feel this happening to you?” Over the years to follow Claxton photographed McQueen on numerous occasions, highlighted by a 1962 shoot that yielded a celebrated shot of the actor peering up over the rim of his sunglasses while navigating his Jaguar along L.A.’s Mulholland Drive. Their friendship was later documented in Claxton’s book Steve McQueen.

Jason Ankeny, “William Claxton: Artist Biography,” Barnes & Noble (quoted in anthonylukephotography)

Photograph by William Claxton. (Thank you, stagaustin.)

William Claxton on Steve McQueen: “Got to have some fun”

Like a lot of Americans, I discovered Steve McQueen when I saw him on the television series “Wanted: Dead or Alive” in 1958. He had made his film debut only two years before with a bit part in Somebody Up There Likes Me, but his performances were unusual and provocative, especially in the close-ups. Like Spencer Tracy before him, in a matter of seconds Steve could register a vast number of moods, thoughts, and tensions with lightning-speed introspection.

In 1962, when he was about to work in the feature Love with the Proper Stranger, I happened to get an assignment to photograph him and his costar, Natalie Wood. Over a number of years, and through several movie productions, Steve and I became close friends. I had never met anyone quite like him. He was uneducated but intelligent, street smart, mean, often funny, and hip; in fact, he was super hip.

He was also very possessive of certain friends. While shooting a film, he wanted me to be on the set all the time, have lunch with him, hang out when he was not working, and, most of all, he did not want me to associate with any other stars. “And especially not Paul Newman,” he always said. “I’ll be bigger than Newman. You watch.” It was a friendly competition, because they were friends, but he definitely measured himself against the other actor.

His possessiveness didn’t bother me too much at first. I always had a camera when we were together, on road trips, at his home, and during rehearsals, and being so close to him gave me opportunities for photographs that I’ve had with few others. But after a while, it began to trouble me. I never knew where he’d turn up next.

One night, I was driving down Sunset Boulevard with my wife, Peggy, when she said, “I think that guy on the motorcycle is following us.” There was a biker behind us with one of those black, bubble-plastic helmets that didn’t reveal his face. “Yeah,” I said, “that’s Steve.” “How do you know it’s Steve?” she asked. “I just know. Watch.” At the next stoplight, I rolled down my window, waved at the familiar silhouette, and shouted, “Hey! Steve!” Whereupon the mysterious biker turned onto a side street and sped off into the night.

The next day, I saw the same motorcycle and helmet near Steve’s dressing room at the studio. I confronted him with his pursuit of us the night before. A sheepish look came over his face, and he said, “Hey, man, I got to have some fun, don’t I?”

— from “Claxton Interview: Steve McQueen” (digitaljournalist.org)