Monday, August 17, 2009
My today's mailbox contained the small but perfectly formed catalogue for the Marks of Honour exhibition, curated by Nina Poppe and Verena Loewenhaupt and recently shown at Foam Museum Amsterdam and Kaune, Sudendorf Gallery, Cologne.
The curators used William Eggleston's comment to me on the cover, "Don't talk bullshit, what are you doing." How funny!
They go on to say:
"There are statements that can cause considerable embarrassment. Harvey Benge experienced this when, on a November evening in 2001, he was invited to a party in Paris. The photographer from New Zealand suddenly found himself sitting next to William Eggleston, the old master of New Color. "Bill remembered me... and asked me what I was doing. I told him photographing the urban social landscape." He retorted, "Don't talk bullshit what are you doing." "Making strange pictures in cities", I gulped, trying to recover the situation. I hope he understood..."
Such a sharp remark is an excellent reason to take a look in the mirror and think honestly and in concrete terms about the criteria one should actually use to assess one's own photographic work. All quasi-intellectual attempts to justify it cease to be valid. Instead, two unpleasant questions force themselves upon us: what is the benchmark for our work? And who is actually the "Guide"? In the case of William Eggleston it did not take Harvey Benge long to find the answers. For him, this "remarkable man and remarkable photographer" has remained a shining example of and, today, is still the anchor in the various phases of his career. It is not only the personal meetings, but above all the photobooks on the bookshelves at home that are within such easy reach and, at the same time, are a source, inspiration and gauge. For the project Marks of Honour, Benge therefore chose William Eggleston's Guide from 1976 as a point of reference, citing tongue-in-cheek the tricycle on the cover that shook the photo world to its foundations for so long in the 1970's. Benge's small book, a 16 page record of a visit to Eggleston's home town of Memphis, Tennessee, is a perfect example of what the Marks of Honour project is all about. He has affectionately borrowed not only the dictum of the democratic viewpoint, but also the size and appearance of the book that is his example. This is a master honouring his master."
Posted by Harvey's Blog at 2:14 PM