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Sometimes the best discoveries don’t require meticulous planning, a long journey, or special shoes.  Sometimes you just have to see what’s in front of you.

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This is some of what Belgian photographer Harry Gruyaert has been seeing and recording for the rest of us over the last 40 years.

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He is credited with helping to prove the point that European photographs could be in colour and still be taken seriously.  Not that there is anything wrong with black and white.

ITALY. Sardinia. Near the town of Cagliari. Poetto beach. 1998.

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SOUTH KOREA. Seoul. 2007.

Mr Gruyaert claims that he doesn’t think much about all this, and he avoids talking about it if at all possible.

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The British Journal of Photography did manage to get a few words out of him, which can be read here

All images © 2015 Harry Gruyaert / Magnum Photos

 

it’s always amazing to see what nature is up to when we aren’t there

white sands national monument john hunterup there in the wildest places, the farthest places from our small lives, that’s where you’ll see what can happen without us.  it is always original, never trivial, never trending.

ice greenland nyteven when these farthest places change because of the accumulated effects of our daily lives. the result is all nature’s own–spectacularly un-human,  beautifully bereft of our precious cliches.

We can’t help but drop our jaws and shed some tears of admiration before we go back to our day job.  But some have chosen to find work, put down roots and raise families right up against the raw originality (and harshness) of remote places. La Rinconada Peru REMOTE-6This is upper Peru. Life unplugged from everything except life.  It isn’t easy of course, but the miracle is that it exists at all.  Found here

Frozen-Ittoqqortoormiit-GreenlandAnd this village is on Greenland in the upper middle of nowhere looking bright, cheerful, remarkably at ease.  Part of a collection here

The only rival to the remoteness of the highest and coldest places on earth are the oceans where, we are told, you might sail for weeks without seeing any land at allocean-yonaguni-ring-shape-oxygen-ascending-risingThe only mark on this part of the Pacific is an air pocket…

landsat image of antarcticaThe remotest places have many lessons to teach us, if we will only listen and look, lessons about beauty, humility, responsibility…

hiroshi sugimoto-seascape-north-atlantic-cape-breton-1996Just look .

Image by hiroshi sugimoto (seascape-north-atlantic-cape-breton)

Music, good music SOUNDS good, of course.  But we’ve noticed that the best music also LOOKS good.

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That’s Edythe Turnham and her Band up there, lookin’ good.     photo Dorothy Hilbert Collection seen here

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Small music groups, particularly, seem to have great visual appeal.  This is something like a family portrait–the resemblance is there–but where everyone has their own special piece of equipment and job to do. Found here.

When we go to see live music, we go to watch as much as to listen.  What we experience at the time, and what we take away, has a lot to do with what we looked at, what we saw.

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Artists of every era have used musicians as subjects.  It’s just natural.

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Fernand Leger, two performances, same band, new look. See here.

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Jan Miense Molenaer painted this portrait of a family musical event in Haarlem, Holland, in the 17th century.

Lots of paintings of musicians at work here

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This scene of how to walk like an Egyptian while playing a tune is from the Metropolitan Museum collection, found here 

In our time, some of the most eye-appealing performances, we think, are given by the string quartet.

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Bretano Quartet.

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Borodin Quartet.

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Performers at the Kairos chamber music festival, go here.

But for our money, nothing quite beats the genius solo performer deeply in tune with the music and the moment

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Miss  Holiday, the song, the look, none before or since quite like that.

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Mr Hendrix was an eye magnet as well as an incomparable musician. Fine photograph by Tom Gundelfinger O’Neal, lots more here

 

Glenn Gould recording the Goldberg Variations in 1955

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Glenn Gould,  Joni Michell.  Music like no one else.  Looking like no one else.

 

Listen up and look on.

 

 

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The world is (still) full of wild things, plenty of them pretty weird in appearance and habits.  Yet we humans have never been satisfied with nature’s menagerie.  Since way back when, we have imagined things even more wild and more weird. Like this unnerving critter photographed by Nhung Dang (spotted here).

 

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No surprise the Japanese have been heavily into conjuring up unusual creatures from the imagination.  There was a whole show of them in London.

 

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The USA can claim many  producers of eye-poppng imaginary animalia, sometimes under the banner of Folk Art, sometimes Outsider Art, sometime…Art.  This wild dog was here.

 

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And in the USA, there is no shortage of well produced, well attended shows featuring objects and  drawings of creatures who have never actually roamed the earth, but which are very much alive in the minds of some artist.

 

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And then there is England, which might hold the all time record for the number of its citizens who have turned their imagination and their natural skills to the rendition of new life forms.  The above drawing is a collaboration of two sisters born in the 1840’s with time on their hands and wonderful, playful minds.  Here’s the story.

 

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Kate Bradbury, a current artist from England, emerged late, blossomed quickly, makes things no one else could never dream of.  This is her  Angel.  More

 

 

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Let’s give the last word and image to the Asians. Eunmi Chun is Korean, and she makes animal figures out of dried intestinal skin and human hair (sometimes gold-leafed), beautiful forms sewn together, see here.

Wild.  Thing.  You make my heart sing.

Nature is the crucible, churning out an infinite variety of living things.  And still, some of us turn our heads and minds to the invention of things that, so far, never were.

Wild.

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If you write, you know him and you owe him something.  If you don’t, you surely know his face. Above photo by Dmitri Kasterine

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Beckett reduced language to its bones while charging those bones with an intensity that carves deep lines in the head and heart.  Silence. Waiting.  This is how we spend most of our lives, but no one had the audacity and wisdom to try an make literature from them.  Until Beckett.

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His plays are what brought his name to the world.

Two photos above by John Haynes

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They gave him the Nobel Prize.  He did not refuse the honour, but declined to make a speech and did not attend the medal ceremony. Photographed by Richard Avedon.

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Samuel Beckett, born in Dublin, lived and died in Paris. Photo found here.

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Along with the gift of his genius for understanding us and putting it into words,  there is that unforgettable face–and head. Photo found here

His only rival, we think, as a writer of influence and a face of riveting attraction was this other famous resident of Paris:

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Simone de Beauvoir, philosopher, writer, provocateur,and arguably, one of the primary creators of what we call feminism.

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Her most influential book, the Second Sex, caused a sensation.  The Vatican disapproved harshly, all the more since Mlle De Beauvoir was born into a Catholic family in the French countryside.

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Her series of memoirs, especially the first (Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter) are as full of humanity as they are philosophy.

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Like Beckett, her life and her writing changed things for us and the influence continues.

Photos (from the top) found here, here, here, here, and here.

When we see these photographs now, we can’t help but recognize the unique, intense intelligence in these faces.  It’s there around the eyes and the mouth.  How could these heads not produce world-changing thoughts?

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