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HYPO: 07

Working title
+ Slapped around
+ James Ellroy
+ How do you photograph this



WORKING TITLE

About a year ago, I began a new project. The aim was to photograph random stuff and by studying those photos, figure out what the hell the project might be about.

Nine months later, that'd be around Christmas, the projects' direction became (sort of) clear. Now, I (kind of) know what what I'm looking for.

So what do I call this new project? It's too early to assign a final title. But referring to it as "my new project" doesn't feel right either, so I'm searching for a working title. 

A working title is like an elevator pitch, except even shorter. Both are shorthand descriptors and (for me) mnemonic devices.
The first picture, March 26, 2019
For the longest time I was calling my previous (now finished) project The Future, since the work was meant to show a hypothetical future. (It would seem, though, that I only managed to predict the present.)

Anyway, referring to it as The Future was a way of reminding myself what I was trying to do. But that (working) title was too proscriptive, too descriptive. And descriptions deprive a thing of mystery. I ended up calling it After the Fact, which seemed to leave some room for wonder.
Page spreads from After the Fact
But to get back to the present . . . a working title for my new project. 

I want it to be simple and concise, descriptive. The title would serve as a placeholder, to help me remember and understand what I'm looking for. But it's gotta be right.

I began thinking about this a few weeks ago. I'm not trying to force it, just encouraging thoughts to rumble around in the back of my brain, the best place to germinate titles (and lots of other stuff). Sooner or later something will pop out. 
The most recent image



NOSTALGIA

Back in the good old days (January!), we were all going about our lives, treading our well-worn paths. We were discontent in the usual ways, but we were pretty sure we knew the contours of the future. Except for that pesky climate crisis, we weren't that worried, didn't spare too many thoughts.

Then: Pandemic!

Suddenly the foundations crumbled. Now everyone's hunkered down, holed up, hoping to survive this apocalypse.

In the meantime, Shock Doctrine states that during any crisis certain factions (capitalists and power-hungry dicks) will use the disorder for their gain. We can see that happening.

We can also see communities pulling together for the greater good. There is hope in that. But I think we can all agree this whole thing sucks.

And it'll suck more if we (the people) let the greedy (power and money) motherfuckers get away with capitalizing on it.

So what do me make of all this?

Do we wallow in nostalgia for a familiar past, one we knew and were more or less comfortable with? Or do we look for new ways forward?
We're nostalgic for the recent past because by comparison to today it seemed so rosy. But don't forget - back then we were being slapped around by the way things were. And if we're honest, we were slapping ourselves around, too, aspiring to hyper-convenience and luxury. Heck, we were so used to getting slapped we hardly even felt it. Then COVID comes along, and now we're getting kicked in the head while we're down.

Given that situation, would you be thinking, "Well, if I was
only getting slapped around again I'd be fine".

Or would should you think, "Fuck this shit, I'm getting up and fighting back. I'm gonna figure out a way to not get slapped around any more. And I'm gonna try to not slap myself around, either."
When this is over we know the powers that be will want to pick up right where they left off. More for them, less for us.

But I hope (is hope stupid?) that when we (the people) emerge into a new world we won't just fall back into our old patterns and compromises. That we realize the nostalgia we're feeling now is based on a myth created, packaged and sold to us by those who stand to profit. I hope we will have a better idea of what is right and what will work for us.

Let's see what we can make of this.



THE HOME FRONT: novels

We have a well-stocked library. Books to read and, sometimes, reread.

I read a lot of novels. There are a bunch of them in my library I've reread many times. For me, there's a beauty to reaching to a shelf and pulling down a receptacle you've looked into before, opening it up and having another look.
The fiction, reference, poetry section
Perhaps the novel I've reread most is The Cold Six Thousand, by James Ellroy. A history of U.S.A. politics and corruption that begins the day J.F. Kennedy was shot in 1963 and ends with his brothers assassination in 1968.

While politicians make appearances, this story is related through the actions of those behind the scenes: law enforcement, gangsters, Howard Hughes, Sonny Liston and so on. From Dallas to D.C., Saigon, Vegas, Cuba.
It's probably an acquired taste, this book. 700 pages long, almost every sentence less that 5 words.

The way I read (and see) it, The Cold Six Thousand reminds me of looking at photographs. That is, the "descriptions" of events are made up of hundreds of minute factoids; each conglomeration of these small facts contributes to a bigger picture. It's up to you to put them together and make some sense. Forcing you to fill in the gaps makes this book, like good photographs, evocative.
Dog shit on the runway. A stripper dodged turds. Welcome to the Carousel Club.
  Cops clapped. Cops whooped. Cops ruled the room. The club was closed to the public. The owner loved Jackie. The owner loved JFK.
  Let's mourn. Let's ride out this tsuris. Let's show some respect.
  The owner loved cops. Your host - Jack Ruby.
  Wayne walked in. Wayne dropped Maynard Moore's name. Ruby seated him. Dallas cops ran tall. Boot heels did it. Wayne was six-one. The cops dwarfed him.
  A bandstand adjoined the runway. A sax and drum worked. Two strippers stripped.
  The club was loud. The combo played "Night Train". Wayne sipped 7-Up. The music fucked with him. The drum pops set up pix.
Bobby! Bobby! Bobby!
  The crowd chanted it. The crowd went nuts. Speak Bobby speak.
  Bobby climbed a flatbed truck. Bobby grabbed a microphone. Bobby rolled up his sleeves.
  The Southglen Mall. Three thousand fans - Speak Bobby Speak! Parkinglot frenzy. Kids on daddies' shoulders. Sound speakers on stilts.
  The fans loved Bobby. The fans fucked up their vocal cords. The fans fucking shrieked. Watch Bobby toss his hair! Hear Bobby speak!
Ellroy, like every good artist, doesn't settle for life (and, thus, history) as it's described and sold to us by the powers that be. He subtracts that mediation and gives us his own version of how he sees things. This is what I aspire to.

Here's his intro to his novel American Tabloid:
America was never innocent. We popped our cherry on the boat over and looked back with no regrets. You can't ascribe our fall from grace to any single event or set of circumstances. You can't lose what you lacked at conception.
  Mass-market nostalgia gets you hopped up for a past that never existed. Hagiography sanctifies shuck-and-juve politicians and reinvents their expedient gestures as moments of great moral weight. Our continuing narrative line is blurred past truth and hindsight. Only a reckless verisimilitude can set that line straight.



HOW DO YOU PHOTOGRAPH THIS: last

When COVID-19 hit I asked HYPO readers to send me images and writing that were pandemic specific. This was in response to the plethora of images we were seeing that were really just photos of the obvious surface of the thing.

Here, in the last instalment if this feature, we see photographs that show us two of the ways we see people these days . . . as a threat, and as fellow travellers.

Ian Tuttle hit the streets of San Francisco where he "
wanted to make something that had more to do with what I love about portraiture, which is making a (hopefully) meaningful connection with a stranger and coming away with a photographic record of that encounter. The human connection, just the act of trusting a stranger, in the midst of the heavy feelings, was such a relief for both myself and the sitter. I think that’s why so many people look so happy in these. People cried, too, but most of all we were just really happy to be sharing some time together."

Pia

What are you most afraid of?
That we’re going to go insane.

What gives you hope?
My work gives me hope. I work at a preschool, and the people there are incredible. The children give me hope.

Ben and his son Leif

What makes you afraid?
All the grandparents in our family… they’ve all got health-related issues. Also, I think a lot about the homeless in this. They are having an especially shit time.

What gives you hope?
All the community activities that are happening. And, our spoiled first-world attitudes are getting realigned. This virus causes us to rethink a lot of things we took for granted. But mostly this wave of community spirit... Block parties -- with appropriate social distance, of course. People coming together for each other.

Debbie

What is something you’re afraid of right now?
I’m afraid for the rest of the world. Refugee camps, poorer countries, the level of destruction.

What is giving you hope?
Connection to people. Community, phonebanking, postcards. The many ways people are still reaching out to one another.

In Ottawa, Joanne Guillemette was startled awake early one Sunday morning by someone attempting to break into her apartment.  She photographed the culprit through the spyhole in her door so she would have a record to show the authorities. These images also seem to be a fitting metaphor for the novel coronavirus.

She writes:

Attempted home invasion during COVID-19 Pandemic, March 2020.

Dreamscape or nightmare?

These are times of unpredictability and stranger happenings. Almost as though we have crossed over into a bizarre alternate universe, observing everyday life unfolding through the other side of the looking glass. 

The comfort of your home, your safe haven, is now converted into ground zero. Your front door the only thing between you and what lurks on the other side. And the looking hole, the only portal feeding you information from what's taking place outside. 



Thank you for reading.
Any feedback or requests
you send me will put a
smile on my face.
And remember to
keep kool.


Tony


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