Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Shadow Notes.

June 6, 2009, 10:30 to 11:45. Jackman Hall, Art Gallery of Ontario. 'Shadow Notes' was a moderated panel discussion on (Leica) photography influenced by music, and held in conjunction with Luminato. Given that tickets were only $15.00 I was surprised the auditorium was only about half full. There was a small table by the door selling Ralph Gibson's book 'State of the Axe' and Andy Summers' 'Desirer Walks the Streets'.

Started 15 minutes late. Moderator Robert Enright (who did an excellent job moderating, by the way) opened by introducing the panel, photographers Danny Clinch and Ralph Gibson, and musician/photographer Andy Summers. The atmosphere was relaxed and intimate and the discussion lasted about an hour. Facing the stage moderator Enright sat on the left followed by Summers, Gibson and Clinch to the right respectively (in case the photos are not clear enough to make the distinction).

What I came away with. Early on Andy Summers wanted to learn to paint as a creative escape from his all consuming music. Photography went a long way to satisfying the need to produce visual compositions and was a much better fit for a musician always on the road. When he's on the prowl with his camera he's taking everything in, his eyes bouncing around looking for the next picture. Always autobiographical, his photography has travelled the globe along side the music. In my opinion Summers is a gifted shooter and his books well worth acquiring.

Ralph Gibson was studio assistant to Dorothea Lang and later Robert Frank in the 1960's. Then subsequently the founder of Lustrum Press, an important early publisher of art photography books. Since then exclusively an art photographer (and icon). Ralph told us that Dorothea Lang gave him the best advice ever which he imparted to us, damned if I can remember though. He also said he never picks up his camera without knowing the exact image he's going to photograph. A passionate guitar player he has taken inspiration for his images from both instruments and musicians.

Danny Clinch has photographed many of the great musicians of our time. With the persona of a musician and respected as an artist in his own right, he moves freely in the subculture that has grown up around sex, drugs and rock and roll. Clinch related to us what it takes to break into a career like his. His 'Johnny Cash by the Stage Door' photo was his last of an hours long session with the star but he knew it was the photo he'd come there to take. He also talked about getting Neil Young into an old Cadillac for a photo shoot.

All three are confirmed Leica film camera users, the suggestion of digital brought groans from all quarters on the stage. After the discussion Ralph Gibson and Andy Summers made themselves available for a book signing.

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