Saw this masterful film in San Juan about "el clan Puccio", a real family in the 80's Buenos Aires that commits sequestrations for their own personal gain. Fascinating to see what families will do to justify a life style. Highly recommended when it reaches our distant shores.
Some lives are too easy to read backward. Frank Stanford’s is one of those: the last page is now read as the first page—sometimes as the only page—and the first becomes illegible without the last. You may already know how Stanford’s story ends; I won’t spoil it for you if you don’t. Let it suffice to say that a literary reputation once glittering with promise has faded into a myth that grew larger than the man himself—the hard-living, fast-loving Ozark sage, spawn of Lao-Tzu and Whitman by way of Vallejo and Breton. We’re left with three books that you won’t find in many stores—a slender volume of selected poems called The Light the Dead See, an obscure but often wonderful collection of short stories titled Conditions Uncertain and Likely to Pass Away, and a legendary 15,283-line epic poem called The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You—as well as eight other books of poetry, all long out of print.
Frank Stanford’s story begins on the first day of August 1948 at the Emery Memorial Home for unwed mothers in Richton, Mississippi. But the beginning is a hole. Emery Memorial burned to the ground in January 1964. Its records burned with it. Stanford’s adoptive mother, born Dorothy Gilbert, who took him in as a single divorcee and who died in 2000, told Frank next to nothing about the circumstances of his birth. His adoption papers reveal only that he was born Francis Gildart Smith and that “soon after the birth of said child it was permanently surrendered by Dorothy Margaret Smith, mother and only living parent of said child.”
The two Dorothys confuse. The surname “Smith” feels less than honest. No matter: Stanford would never discover anything concrete about his origins. “Night has put her coins over my eyes,” he would later write. “I don’t know my past.” When the boy was four, Dorothy the Second married a wealthy Memphis engineer many years her senior named Albert Franklin Stanford, who also went by Frank. He died after a lengthy illness when Frank the younger was 15, but it wasn’t until he was nearly 20 that Dorothy finally revealed that she and he shared no blood, and that the man he had been told was his father was not.
This provoked a crisis in Stanford. “From the time we found out we were adopted,” recalled his sister, Ruth Rogers (who was herself adopted one year later from the same home), “it was like day and night—Frankie just wasn’t the same.” People who knew him before he learned he was not the Southern blueblood he had grown up believing himself to be, remembered a cheerful, outgoing, charismatic youth, an athlete. People who met him afterward remembered him as a quiet man, easygoing but somehow removed, funny but always from a distance. Before and after, women found him irresistible. “He was handsome as the sun,” recalled the poet C.D. Wright, who lived with Stanford for the last three years of his life. In the few surviving photos, he looks either stubbornly defiant or wistful, as if he’s laughing at a joke that he doesn’t plan to share.
But for a young man already obsessed with poetry and myth, the discovery that his life began with a blank page also provided an opportunity. “He felt that he was a bastard,” said Wright. “The only advantage to that was that he could create his own identity.”
The beginning was a hole. Frank Stanford dove in, and never landed.
RMF: There is evermore debate about the real purpose of art and the motivations behind it. Who or what is an artist?
KK: I think an artist is someone who is part of an artistic community, which includes contemporaries and peers engaging critically through whatever chosen medium film, performance, photography, painting, etc. – with the world and the community they live in. Art is part of everyday life and creativity can be found everywhere, from ordinary domestic gestures like rearranging your home to ambitious initiatives in public spaces. It’s certainly not limited to a gallery space. Since the Fluxus movement, there are so many forms it can take, from agitprop to playful, and more recently a do-it-yourself aesthetic and collaboration between artists is coming to the fore again. Contemporary art is still hindered, in my opinion, by patriarchal attitudes. Very few women are given solo shows in museums and major galleries compared to men. And art by women doesn’t appear at the top of auction sales. The ‘Guerilla Girls’, an anonymous collective of feminist artists formed in the 1980s, have long since pointed this out with humour.
Artists have a responsibility to engage with audiences beyond their circumscribed communities of class, gender, and race. To be an artist is an ethical position that constantly strives to take into account the “other”. I believe we have a duty to think critically with others, beyond personal expression or “art for art’s sake.” The artists I admire most were and are activists, striving to change the world and its prejudices, showing us the everyday in a new way. This is always “conceptual”, working through the process of making material or immaterial work. Being an artist in the UK, although difficult financially, is still a great privilege. One should never take for granted the freedom to explore and research how the world becomes meaningful. In this sense, I think art is both philosophical and spiritual.
RMF: What brought you to art, and why is photography your preferred medium?
KK: My mother collected art, from expressionist painting and pre-Columbian work through to the folk Santerias of Puerto Rico. So I grew up surrounded by it in the 1960s. Our next door neighbour recorded musical sessions with renowned cellist Pablo Casals and our neighbours included the opera singer Maria Esther Robles. I was of- ten invited by friends to Casals’ festivals and I simply loved to draw. I consistently dreamt about it as a child. I would vividly dream about drawing an animal and then wake up and attempt to do it. Growing up in middle class affluence, accompanied by art and immersed in the 1960s counterculture certainly shaped my character and re- sponses to creativity. I became a tomboy, I remember being rebellious and questioning everything. I have clear memories of being surrounded by art, music, books, and magazines called “fotonovelas”. Television was also formative. So I had a very stimulating environment. Our neigbourhood was full of children of a similar age, and we became great friends.
Photography is one of the most accessible forms of art. It’s all-pervasive, democratic, and now easily dissemi- nated through the social media. It can be many things to many people all at once, crossing and even blending the boundaries between different art forms. I acquired my first Brownie Kodak camera at the age of nine. So pho- tography has always been a central part of my life.
RMF: Your celebrated ‘Fables’ series (2004-2008) refers to European heritage sites and references epic tales from Ovid and La Fontaine, alongside contemporary narratives from popular culture like Disney and Attenborough, where animals are protagonists. How have your viewpoints and perceptions evolved over the course of your work?
KK: I have always initiated each photographic project based on my understanding of the historical and political contexts of what I am photographing. For instance, even earlier on, for my Gentlemen series (1981-1983), I began researching the gentlemen’s clubs in Saint James which started off as 18th century coffee houses. They were places of free discussion for the landowning, male upper-classes. I was interested in how Empire, “clubbability”, and notions of chivalry had all merged into the concept of the “gentleman” in 1980s Britain. Even the structure and design of the architectural spaces in these clubs confirmed them as real “seats” of male power. Women were not allowed in smoking rooms, and special entrances were designated for female visitors. Servants always entered through the back stairs. I read pa rliamentary speeches in the Hansard and used those debates on the role of women and the Falklands/Malvinas war as the basis for the fictional tex s captioning my imagery. My readings included Empire literature by Conrad, Kipling, Fleming, and Boy’s Own magazines (1855-1890) in order to mimic, in writing, a particular white male British upper-class voice.
During the early 1980s, I considered myself an activist artist using photography to explore the various privileges, contradictions, and abuses of male power. I realised power was a complex matter, since women are an integral part of this dynamic with some vested interests in supporting it, just as Margaret Thatcher herself had done. So I began using humour and irony strategically to address the contradictions of patriarchy and class privilege in conservative Britain. The concept of interpellation, the way we internalise cultural ideas unconsciously as our own, became very important to me and the text accompanying a very early work Belgravia (1979) was also autobi- ographical.
Today I’m still investigating the discourses of power and class, and how they’re legitimised through the founding narratives of India, pervading its aesthetics, architecture, and gender relations. There are certain feminist issues that I continue to explore allegorically through the use of animal characters. I now think of myself as a cultural entrepreneur, so that my imagery aims to engage in a dialogue with an artistic community that’s both local and global. I also feel it’s my duty to help and support members of that community. For instance, I recently founded an artists’ project space called ‘Chandelier’, which runs from my studio in London.
LEE MILLER was a beautiful girl from Poughkeepsie, New York, who landed a gig modelling for Vogue and wound up in Paris hobnobbing with Surrealists and dating Man Ray. She wanted to be a photographer, not a model, though, so he taught her to take pictures. After she left him he spent 40 years making metronomes with a cut-out photo of her eye on the ticker. She became a fashion photographer, married an Egyptian millionaire, then dumped him as well. On a Greek island she met an English poet; she would marry him after the war and settle down on a farm in Sussex, inviting her old friends Picasso and Ernst over for weekends.
But that would be later. Now it is 1945, and she is a photojournalist travelling with the American army. She has shot a gory field hospital in Normandy and been caught under German fire at St Malo. She and her boyfriend, David Scherman, both working for LIFE Magazine, have photographed a concentration camp and are wandering around Munich. They have stumbled on Adolf Hitler’s apartment there. She has an idea.
How they set it up. She cannot be shown nude (this is LIFE, not Man Ray); a figurine on the table does the trick. In front of the bath, her combat boots, “the dust of Dachau still on them” according to Scherman. And at the back on the left, the portrait. It is a voodoo gesture, the sort her Surrealist friends would approve of, an all-American blend of sass, violence and sex. Nuts to you, Führer! I am naked in your bath with my Jewish lover, we are taking your picture’s picture, we are stealing your life-force. The date is April 30th, 1945. In a bunker under Berlin, Hitler places a gun to his head.
JRP: What camera equipment and software do you make use of in your work production?
Terri Gold: Camera Equipment: I use a Canon 5D MarkII, Canon EOS 5D converted to infrared (IR); Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L USM, EF 24–105m f/4L IS USM, EF 70–200m L IS, and 16–35m USM lenses; Hasselblad XPan with 45mm lens; Mamiya 7 with 43mm lens; Zero Image pinhole camera; and Diana camera. Software: Adobe CS4 Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom 2 and Corel Painter and Photo-matrix Pro.
JRP: How do you classify your style of photography and what inspires you most about the type of work you do?
Terri Gold: I am always looking at the Still Points… inspired by a line of poetry by T.S.Elliot. We are still and still moving… I see my work as still points in a turning world.
My work is interpretive in nature. I am looking for the grace notes, for the sense of wonder in our world and in our connections to each other. I feel compelled to make these images. I believe images that share our stories can have a positive impact on our world. We need to experience our common humanity. We all celebrate the same joys, we all bleed the same too…
JRP: I really like your infrared images. Please take us through some of your thought processes as you set up a shot of this type.
Terri Gold: I have always been attracted to creating imagery using the invisible infrared light spectrum. It adds an element of mystery and surprise when creating the work and then to its presentation.
I shot infrared film for many years, traveling with changing bags and developing the film myself and then lith printing the images in the darkroom. Now I use a digital camera converted to infrared by http://www.lifepixel.com/. I am always looking for the dramatic skies that work so well with infrared but I actually use it in all light conditions.
Photograph by Linnaeus Tripe of the That-byin-nu temple in the Pagan (Bagan) region of Burma (Myanmar), from a portfolio of 120 prints. With this portfolio of architectural and topographical views, Tripe, an officer from the Madras Infantry, created an early photographic record of Burma. The 1855 British Mission to Burma was instructed to persuade the Burmese king Mindon Min to accept the annexation of Pegu (Lower Burma) following the Anglo-Burmese War of 1852. It was also the intention of the British to collect information about the country. They travelled in Burma from August to early November 1855, stopping at various places to allow Linnaeus Tripe, the official photographer, and the mission’s artist, Colesworthy Grant, to perform their duties. Capital of the first kingdom of Burma from the 11th to the 14th century, Pagan is one of the most important archaeological sites in South East Asia, with the remains of over 2000 stupas, temples and monasteries scattered over a 30 km radius. Tripe wrote of the That-byin-nu, “Or ‘the Omniscient’. It is about 230 feet square, and 200 feet high; divided into two stages, each stage into two stories. An arched corridor passes round each stage, with arched doorways opening outwards; opposite those on the ground story are sitting figures of Gautama. In the centre of each side of the lower stage, is a projecting wing with a lofty doorway, opening into a vestibule: this forms a centre porch to the corridor, a colossal seated figure of Gautama facing it. The centre of the building is a solid mass of masonry terminated by a bulging pyramidal spire crowned by a tee. Its date is about 1100 A.D.” The temple is the tallest construction in Pagan, towering to 61 ms. Built by King Alaungsitthu in the middle of the 12th century, its square plan is the most elaborate of the middle period of building in Pagan (ca.1120-70).