Ol’ Lil Sees Red

April 3, 2010


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A bunch of us went into a bar to talk photo.  “Look,” said Smart Gear, “the best photo has the least in it.”  “So the best photo is some sand on a beach?” asked Sugar Sue.  “Maybe,” laughed the Mixmaster, “though I’m more into paint drying on a wall!”  “Oh, give it up,” said Smart Gear, “you know what I mean.  Keep it simple, stupid.”

“So what about Jeff Wall?  Is he simple, or stupid?” asked the Mixmaster.  “Stupid like a fox,” said Grumble Grim, “never known a Canadian to make it so big with photography.”  “I hear it’s six figures to buy one of his photos” said Pissy Boy.  “There was Karsh,” I said.  “Oh, keep it serious, Ol’ Lil!” said Grumble Grim.  “You think he’s not serious photography?” I asked.  “He’s not serious art,” said Smart Gear.  “All he did was set up fake shots and make money.”  “And Wall doesn’t set up fake shots and make money?” laughed the Mixmaster again.  “Yeah, well he doesn’t glamourize them!” said Smart Gear.  “What’s glamour?” asked Sugar Sue,  “Me, I’d like to be in a Wall shot; that’d be glamourous; but I’d like to have a photo of me by Karsh too, like Ol’ Lil’s.  That’s glamour and a half!”

“Well no fair to make someone glamourous who isn’t!” said Pissy Boy.  “Hey,” I said, “I take that personally!”  “Ok, ok,” said the Mixmaster, “don’t get mad, Ol’ Lil; he just meant Karsh’s shtick is to make everyone glamourous, no matter who.”  “Did you know that the first photo Borcoman bought for the National Gallery was the Karsh one of Riopelle?” I asked.  “No shit!” said Pissy Boy.  “And he didn’t buy it because he thought it was glamourous,” I said, and then stopped myself.  “On second thought, maybe it is glamourous.”  “Like I said, depends on your idea of glamour,” said Sugar Sue.  “Maybe the glamour’s there to make us feel less afraid,” I said.

“Well, what if Borcoman was just trying to give credibility to his opening shot?” asked Smart Gear.  “Such a punster,” said Sugar Sue.  “What?” asked Smart Gear.  “Shot! opening shot!” said Sugar Sue.  “You either need less beer or more,” said Whisper Cat.  ”So Karsh had credibility in 1967 anyway when the gallery bought it, you mean,” I said,  “Now why would that be?”  “Art, thy name is fashion,” said #2 Cat, letting his teeth glisten, “and fashions change.”  “Isn’t it enough of a debate whether art is photo and photo is art?” asked the Mixmaster, “Do we have to drag fashion into it too?”  “Are we back to glamour?” asked Pissy Boy, confused.  “Words, words,” said Sugar Sue, “they keep meaning different things, because we keep meaning different things.

“So what someone means, means something?” I asked.  “You’re saying if Karsh meant to make a work of art, then he did?” asked Sugar Sue.  “Yeah, ok,” said Smart Gear, “He made a work of art, but not a good one!”  “And you get to decide?” asked the Mixmaster. “It’s my world,” said Smart Gear.  “Aha,” exclaimed Whisper Cat, “Total relativity — postmodern condition alert!”  “Where’d the glamour go?” asked Pissy Boy.

“Thus endeth round one,” said the Mixmaster, “and I mean the beer and the fight,” and went to get another drink for everyone.

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