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THE MAN WHO STOLE GEORGIA O’KEEFFE’S LITTLE BLACK STONE,
This review is from: As I See It: The Photographs of John Loengard (Hardcover)
Some 20 years ago or so I went to a photography exhibition during “Encontros de Fotografia”, in Coimbra - Portugal, which impressed me a lot. The pictures concerned Georgia O’keeffe and her environment in New Mexico. At the time I was not so interested in Photography as I was to become later, the reasons in both cases not being relevant for what I want to write now.
At some point, I wanted to discover who had been the photographer and did some search which led me to John Loengard’s “Georgia O’keeffe at Ghost Ranch” (actually, the photographs I had seen were by Myron Wood).
The book on Georgia O. is wonderful and I emphasize this because the great merit of “As I see it” is to free Loengard from the O’keeffe images, at least from where I stand. O. K., O. K., there are two in the book, but they are masterpieces and I am aware that I am making a strong statement.
Mr Loengard says his work is a mixed bouquet. Nothing wrong with that. We have excellent portraits (Merce Cunningham’s, for instance); unusual images (Cartier-Bresson flying his kite); events that got to newspaper front pages (Ted Kenny arriving for the funeral of Mary Jo Kopechne), landscapes (The Aghileen Pinnacles); some irony ( The supper intermission at Glyndebourne); “la joie de vivre” ( The Beatles in a swimming pool); and I will leave it here since I just want to exemplify.
Different people read (or, rather, see, in this case) the same book in different ways. I would like to point out two threads that I followed while browsing through “As I see it”.
-“The image within the image”- This is, perhaps, the main one and there are lots of examples to illustrate it ( Avedon’s portrait, the Turnley twins). Ocasionally, the link, which is “supposed” to be the picture’s subject, between the photograph itself and “the second degree image” - that is, the image within the image – almost disappears in a subtle way ( André Kertész and his distortion). Some other times, the second degree image is only suggested, as we have in the spectacular picture of Leibovitz, where she stands on a gargoyle of the Chrysler Building in N. Y. to photograph dancer David Parsons, posing on another one . At first I thought it was a fake (do these people not suffer from vertigo?). The irony here is that, in the end, Ms Leibovitz ended up preferring an image she took in her studio, a less riskier place we all agree.
-“The pairing way” when two two pictures face each other. The most brilliant example is Brassai’s eye and Georgia O.’s little black stone. But there are others: Bill Cosby and the negative; George Nakashima and Loengard’s son.
That every picture tells a story is commonplace. I am much more interested in what is behind, what happens before. Therefore I found the notes accompanying each photograph, at the end of the book, important material. They are interesting, informative and amazing in some cases. What happens afterwards is worth looking forward to if it leads to a book like this. If the end of the story happens at an auction then I would say it is an “.unhappy end”