Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Last Bey of the Series: "The only thing I knew how to do, is to keep on keeping on."

Two Girls in Front of Lady D's

c. 1976, printed by 1979

Dawoud Bey

This is the final photograph of the 8 days of Bey blog. I recommend the book, Dawoud Bey, Harlem USA as a gift to a friend, a relative, a lover or yourself.

The composition of this photograph is compelling, nostalgic, funny and sad. The poses of the girls juxtaposed show skepticism versus joy. There is real attitude in their knees and their bell bottom jeans.

The signage with its offers of ice cream, chicken and chips, frankfurters, chili brings me to the comfort food present.

There are 34 duotone illustrations in this book and the reproduction your screen only hints at the depth and character of the photographs.

The quote in the title is from Tangled up in Blue, written by Bob Dylan sometime around 1974. I am always somehow Tangled up in Blue.

Bey 7, From joyous transport to desponding woe.

A Woman Waiting in the Doorway, 1976 printed in 1979

Dawoud Bey, Harlem USA

When I began this series of posts, I wanted to celebrate a Chanuka gift, namely, Harlem USA. Peggy and I had seen this exhibit at the Art Institute. She bought me the book which includes twenty five photographs from Mr Bey's first exhibit at the Studio Museum in Harlem.

Within the span of a week, I learned of the death of a young woman, Elana Ernst Silverstein in our community. She was 29. On Friday, came the shocking news about the murders in Newtown, Connecticut.

George Frideric Handel wrote the music for  Judas Maccabeus, an oratorio, in 3 acts about events of 170-160 BCE that make up the spine of the Chanuka story. In act 2, the war against the Seleucid Empire has taken a turn for the worse. An Israelite woman sings and the chorus repeats:

"Ah! wretched, wretched Israel! fall'n, how low,
From joyous transport to desponding woe.

There are no answers to the human condition. Sometimes we experience so much joy that we are moved to tears. Other times, the tears are bitter and wrenching.

We wait in the doorway. Between joy and woe.  Angry. Suspicious. Hurt. Fearful. In shadows and in light.

Bey 6, Consolation, A Woman at Convent Avenue Baptist Church

1977, Printed 2010

This is the only photograph in the collection where there is no view of a face. It is a remarkable composition of the woman's hat dominating the frame in sharp focus. In the rest of the photograph the people, the pews, the altar become blurred  and ultimately unrecognizable.

It can be read as a statement of faith and constancy. Or dreamy mysticism. Looking ahead despite a lack of certainty.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Bey 5, I believe the Children are our future, Five Children

Five Children c. 1976, printed 1979

I love the interaction between the children and photographer. It is hard to see the two kids on left hand side of photo. The one of the far left has a sweet Afro and the one next to him has his face obscured by the boy in the middle. These kid in shadow are distant from the photographer in space and in relationship. They are observers of the photograph.

The three children in the sun are the stars of the photo. The boy on the left looks distrustful on the man with the camera. The girl in the middle in confident. The composition of the shadow across her face adds to the mystery of who she is and what she is thinking.

The boy on the right is my favorite. He's got this great tough guy pose and he is like 9 years old. Since I am so old, (61 at last count) that I lose track of ages.

It is the 7th day of Hannukah. I am taking a day off and it is 50 degrees in the middle of December. Global warming or great holiday weather?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Trombonist from the 369th Regiment Marching Band, 1977, printed 1979

Bey 4 .I really should have started this series on the first day of Hanukah. The marketing department let me down because they thought Hanukah it always right around Christmas.

Any, tonight is music night and Peggy and I worked on our exotic dulcimer/guitar rhythms. (As it were)

This man with a trombone seems very pleased about something. It think it's music. You know he's got some pipes because he's playing a trombone. I feel like he's been playing the trombone for many years. He enjoys wearing the uniform and performing. There is cool wall art or something over the man's right shoulder. It looks like a cup cake logo. In the Park Slope of the day. Over his left shoulder are Venetian blinds.

You know what Venetian blinds represent.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bey 3, or am I losing count.

A Man in a Bowler Hat, 1976, printed by 1979.

This man does not have an easy face to read. He has the "Mona Lisa" smile. The man is dressed like a million bucks, white tie, and of course, the bowler hat. It looks like he is in front of his home. I can't tell if he is in a hurry to leave or he has just come back and wants to walk up the steps (or down, depending) as soon as this picture has been shot.
There are nuances in his eyes and eyebrows but this gentlemen could keep a secret. If you made a deal with him, he would live up to his end. And so should you.
It is the 6th night of Chanuka. The so called "meh" night of the holiday. So named by a very small and sometimes amusing column in the New York Times. We have been having a swell Chanuka. A big key for us are the candles and the presents. We do not discuss in detail the Maccabees            successes in war and peace. You can find a form of the tale on
I don't really know what happened during the Maccabean times. It is not Santa at the mall. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Bey 2, McKinley the Shoemaker

This is the 2nd of the 12 days of Bey. Photographs by Dawoud Bey in his book Harlem, USA.

This man is at work. The clock is to the left of his head right above the calendar. This is a photo about time. A man has worked for many years, presumably as a shoemaker. He is not thrilled at the moment. Frown on his face, smoking a cigarette , sitting on a not very comfortable looking chair. This gentleman would like to be gone.

I love the Gordon's Gin crate. It adds to the scene of what looks like a bad day at work. That is just my opinion.

It is the 5th day of Hanukkah. The Maccabees...Are they role models today? Violent, religious Zealots. Times have changed. Zealots remain Zealots sometimes even to the same cause they began with.

Hanukkah is a fundamentally less cheerful folk tale than Christmas.

Am I  crazy or does the guy in the photo wear a yamulke?

Monday, December 10, 2012

12 Beys of Chrismas or 8 of Chanuka

1. For Chanuka (sic), Peggy bought me Dawoud Bey, Harlem, USA. This is a book of photographs taken by Mr. Bey in the 70s. Mr. Bey grew up in Queens but his family is from Harlem.

For the next 12 (or 8) days, I will post a photo from the book.

This one is on the cover.

It is called, " A boy in front of the Loew's 125th Street Movie Theater, 1976 printed in 1976.

This kid is cool. At ease and confident. The tile work on the box office reminds me of something. A belt. A poster. It is very evocative of that era of the 70s. The kid's shadow on the glass of the box office. It is very spiritual.
What is that book in his hand? Is it musical notes? Is the kid a musician?

I received this book on the 3rd night of Hanukah. Recently in the N. Y. Times, the 6th night of Hanukah, was on the "meh" list. Not hot, not not. Just meh." I  have no opinions on the nights of Hanukah. They are like 8 children. Who are your favorites?