There’s an exhibition on right now in the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto that I would love to see. Patti Smith, punk-poet/rock goddess started out as a visual artist, and Camera Solo features around 70 of her black-and-white gelatin silver prints created from photos taken over the years with a vintage Land Polaroid camera.
The photos are grainy and impressionistic and reminded me of nothing more than my post-adolescent photography phase, a year-long homage to Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire and the fashion photography of Deborah Turbeville. By which I mean, and not in a pejorative sense, elegiac atmosphere=good, technical skill=also good but really, not always necessary.
In using such an old camera Patti Smith accepts the accidental. In an interview with CBC News Sophie Hackett, Assistant Curator of Photography at the AGO, talks about a “Totally accidental double exposure” of Carlo Molino’s bedroom “Overlaid with the pattern of iridescent leopard wallpaper along with some butterfly specimens that he had done, so it emanates like a dream coming up from the bed”.
What emanates most clearly is her fandom. Her photos fetishise the most humble possessions of her idols so Rimbaud’s cutlery somehow becomes more fork and spoon than any fork and spoon since. Bolano’s chair resonates with…something. Mapplethorpe’s slippers are simply tragic. By focusing on the everyday, Smith’s photos give us pause. I’m not entirely sure if they give us any fresh insight into the lives of their owners, any more than a reliquary tells us anything about the life of a saint. It is the tenderness with which they are executed that is telling, and it is their meditation on the private and the quotidian that appeals to me.
My focus recently has undergone a radical shift. Having been stupidly (gratefully) busy for the last six months of 2012 I am now mostly at home seeing things I haven’t noticed in months. And in the contraction of my exterior world I feel an expansion within.
Morning light in my apartment
The Lidl €5 bouquet
Silk Bias Cut Lingerie I’ve made myself, as intellectual exercise and treat for the senses
Rhubarb that Paddy, the last tenant but one, planted outside the bedroom window
Photo 1 (of Patti Smith) from http://www.cbc.ca/news/arts/story/2013/02/07/patti-smith-ago-exhibit.html#
Photos 2, 3 & 4 (by Patti Smith) from http://www.ago.net/patti-smith-camera-solo