Friday, February 26, 2010

I Know I'm Way Too Sensitive for My Own Good, but ...

I just read this post, which is merely another step in a long trek this particular author is trudging as he dwells upon the nature of plagiarism in photography, and I felt funny. Funny weird, not the other funny. Then I came upon this post, which lit a light bright enough to begin to reveal my own shadowed thoughts to me.

When I read this, my stomach tightened and churned:
In any case, today I had one of those senior moments where the subconscious moments of my brain told the conscious ones about an art connection, which is just beautiful and wonderful, and maybe I’m the last person to realize this (if I am, send me references to other posts or articles and I’ll add them here). Regardless, here are Caspar David Friedrich’s The Sea of Ice (top) and Chris Jordan’s Remains of a home, Ninth Ward neighborhood (bottom). Just look how beautiful this is!
"Just look how beautiful this is!" is an ejaculate that seems to take no accounting of the residing pain and trauma still felt by those of us who weathered the Katrina storm and the subsequent failures of our levees and lived.

I say we lived because I am not certain we survived.

For a city with as great a sense of place and history as New Orleans, the sudden rush of waters that wiped away whole neighborhoods wrenched the seemingly solid ground from under our feet, and we have not regained our footing yet. The discoveries of the bodies we found bobbing in the stagnant pools Katrina left behind or rotting along the gutters of our streets were terrible beyond imagining. Those dead still lie among us. In New Orleans, no one is a stranger. We have all encountered one another in one way or another, for good or ill.

Now we find ourselves preparing for revelations to come that imply that some of those we had expected would look out for us were rather out to injure us. There can be no reasons that can justify or clarify whatever it was that swept over and took hold of those who took to murder, terrorism, and cover-up in the aftermath of the storm. Rather, there will be more years ahead of us for us to try to comprehend and rectify what went so horribly wrong in this hot, damp city during those days.

None of this is meant to indict the writer of that post. It is merely my own response to a common-enough moment of bland thoughtlessness. Certainly, the photographer was aware of what he was shooting. He titled his comprehensive work, In Katrina's Wake: Portraits of Loss from an Unnatural Disaster; and his photographs are beautiful, but beautiful in the context of terribilitas.

That is a far different thing than being pleasing to the eye.


  1. Hi Glenn,
    I completely get what you're talking about. I don't know if it makes any difference, but it seems like the writer was referring to the visual "connection" between the two photos as being "beautiful." The pics arestrikingly similar.

    I could be wrong, but I don't think it was a flippant "oh, what a beautiful pic [of something that killed a bunch of people]!"

  2. Strange how the fist chapter is titled Year One of the New Earth, which is not so very far from the long-time epigram on Wet Bank Guide from Sun Ra: It's after the end of the world. Don't you know that yet? I've been struggling at getting up the strength to read Baum's book and Zetouin, but perhaps enough tragically beautiful pictures will put me back in a place where I can do that. Sometime between now and K-Date 5.0 I need to figure out where to place those images and words so that it is neither an obsessive compulsion nor something compartmentalized and hidden away.


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