BOMB Magazine - - CONTENTS - by Zachary Lazar

Per­haps nowhere in the world is the line be­tween beauty and kitsch finer than it is in New Or­leans. The city is fa­mously awash in beau­ti­ful liv­ing cul­ture—brass bands, sissy bounce, gut­ter punks, Mardi Gras—point a cam­era any­where and you’ll get an ar­rest­ing im­age, though it will prob­a­bly be one of a thou­sand just like it. Choose black- and-white and you’ll get eerie voodoo nos­tal­gia. Choose color and you’ll get ex­otic loud­ness. This lev­el­ing ef­fect is also true of rep­re­sen­ta­tions of the post- Ka­t­rina city. Ex­hibit One: the sober­ing vi­sion of the ru­ined house cov­ered in vines. Ex­hibit Two: re­silient chil­dren dressed up for a sec­ond- line pa­rade in the same blighted neigh­bor­hood. In re­al­ity (not in pho­to­graphs), nei­ther is a cliché. But there are so many pho­to­graphs of New Or­leans that it of­ten seems im­pos­si­ble to make a fresh one.

The re­mark­able thing about A Stranger to Me, Kevin Kline’s new se­ries of tin­type pho­to­graphs, is how they man­age to say some­thing new about the city, care­fully re­fract­ing its essen­tials, as in Lou Reed’s Ber­lin, through a per­sonal story—a love story. Kline has made twenty- one im­ages of his long­time part­ner Brian Wait­man, who en­acts poses rep­re­sent­ing sig­nif­i­cant mo­ments in their six­teen-year re­la­tion­ship. Wait­man is “Mr. High Pock­ets,” the big- spend­ing night crawler in a top hat, and he is a par­ody of a white mag­is­trate in a wig of cot­ton balls, and he is a proxy for Trayvon Martin in a hoodie. He is a pris­oner in stripes, a saint in a hair- shirt made of beer can tabs from beers ac­tu­ally emp­tied by him and Kline, and he is Venus de Milo as a black man whose van­ished arms be­come an em­blem of a gen­tri­fied city that has grown sig­nif­i­cantly whiter since Ka­t­rina. In the cap­i­tal of cos­tumes and dis­guises, Wait­man, in his un­know­able mul­ti­plic­ity, is Kline’s muse, and Kline por­trays his now ex- lover with star­tling in­ti­macy. The slow and ar­du­ous tin­type process, which pro­duces one- of- akind im­ages that are im­per­fect and hyp­not­i­cally “an­tiqued,” seems ideal for memo­ri­al­iz­ing a love story. These par­tic­u­lar tin­types are much larger than usual (20 by 24 inches), pro­duced by Kline with the help of Bruce Schultz, who in­ge­niously at­tached a 530mm lens to an ice-fish­ing tent that be­came the com­bi­na­tion cam­era and dark­room that al­lowed for such mon­u­men­tal scale. Their up­dat­ing of the old tech­nol­ogy, used by Civil War pho­tog­ra­phers, is ideally suited to a city in which that old war of­ten seems to be still in progress.

A good por­trait pho­to­graph hits us like mu­sic, then holds our gaze by re­veal­ing layer af­ter layer of some­one else’s in­ti­macy. Kline aptly de­scribes his se­ries as a study of “race, bore­dom, sex­ual iden­tity, poverty, and beauty.” The plates, alive with Wait­man’s im­age, are sin­gu­lar and iconic. They are dream­like me­men­tos of a pri­vate world—half holo­gram, half da­guerreo­type. They cap­ture the spirit of New Or­leans, and— as Ge­orge Dureau did, as E. J. Bel­locq did—make it uni­ver­sal. — Zachary Lazar is the au­thor of four books, most re­cently the novel I Pity the Poor Im­mi­grant.

A WEST­BORO SAM­PLER, 2014, wet plate col­lo­dion tin­type, 20 × 24 inches.

op­po­site: MR. HIGH POCK­ETS, 2013, wet plate col­lo­dion tin­type, 19 × 23 inches. be­low: SHOES FILL UP WITH WA­TER, 2013, wet plate col­lo­dion tin­type, 20 × 24 inches.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.