Photo Photo On theWall
Who is the greatest them all? For me many are,but who will famous, who will last ten, twenty, thirty fifty years. Will a Capa, a Brassai a Doisineau appear. Certainly, but most will be forgotten, some never known. I have on my walls the work of four friends who are also great professional photographers ,Bob Miller, Duncan Willets, Andrew Brownlee and Niall McDiarmid. None will be remembered. University educated ,daughter Adelaide when asked could not name one great photographer.
For photography ,which has only recently broken out as an art form ,read in even bigger type musicians, writers,artists,architects. Thousands produce, hundreds make it ,few are feted,even less remembered. Will Eric’s poems, Katie’s books, Barbara and Jon’s music , Legs and Greta’s pictures bring pleasure ,yes; pass the test of time? I doubt it.
All of this was brought on by watching, Last Stop Coney Island:The Life and Photography of Harold Feinstein.(1931-2015) Its three shows this week in the Curzon doc house all sold out. It was the Coney Island that got me. My passion for seaside piers comes from a deep love of down market resorts. The unpretentious determination to have fun, escape wage slavery, the brutal commercialism, the pure humanity of these fun cities , in and out of season, gets me.
And when it comes to peoples’ resorts in the modern era. Its got to be Coney Island. I also love classic black and white street photos. So Feinstein rates. But the big thesis of the film was why isn’t he up there with the Gods. Well there are a lot of great photographers, Vivian Maier showed that a nanny with a box camera can do the business. Every day someone in my family sends me a great photo. Even I have taken the odd great shot. Its not rocket science.
Feinstein was bought by MOMA when he was nineteen but spent most of his life in palookaville. The film talked of his drug addiction, his alcoholism, his various marriages, his refusal to let others mount his work. The film answered the question. No amount of lovers,wives,children, collectors,curators telling me he was a “force of nature”,”a philosopher” and a great human being can alter the fact that he weighted the cards against himself. When it came to being an immortal,he had the cards, he didn’t play them well. But he took great photographs, and isn’t that the point.