Saturday, November 7, 2009

Black and White Photography by Chris Crawford

Chris Crawford has been carrying around a camera since he was a boy, taking thousands of photos ranging from people to landscapes and old buildings in the final stages of decay. He is an artist who has eyes that see things most of us don't. And so, like a cat bringing home the delicacy of a small creature, he brings it to us. "Look what I found. You can't imagine windmills like these." Chris brings us pieces of humanity, nature and the odd assortment of the bizarre, treasures all.

For a few days now, I've been thinking about his black and white photography and what it means to me and why. I wasn't sure if the intense feelings his photos of Indiana stirred up in me were caused by memories of my time up in Indiana, or whether the beauty of the photographs, the sublime simplicity, was the deeper cause. No matter, I felt his work viscerally. This has happened to me before as in Munich when I went to Das Alte Pinakothek, a small museum housing an incredible collection of Renaissance paintings, as in the incredible symphonies of Mahler, as in the dance routines on America's Best Dance Crew.

Here are some more thoughts I had last night about his work: I wrote him I wanted to buy his book if he had one (he doesn't.....yet) and I wondered later why I had that need. A book often stays closed, as my photo books do. What I really want is to own the photography. I want to own the feeling of place because of what it evokes in me, be it a face, a tree, a building or the sky. I want to possess that beauty and that moment. Of course, that's magical thinking.

So what is it really? Can the photographer actually capture that light for eternity, then pass it on to us? In Chris' case, he can. He does. His images are for all time and matchless in tone, texture and substance. It's really a partnership between soul and nature, so the buyer is getting both, the man's eye and feelings and the beauty itself.

On some days, I wish I could eat the sky and often do with my eyes - one reason I live in south Florida is for that predawn Light. I feel it organically and wish that time would stand still. That may explain why I loved flying. I was swimming up there in the middle of it for seven years.

The other thought I had was that Chris's work is simple, approachable, intimate. On the other hand Clyde Butcher's work is large, powerful, spectacular, entertaining and glossy. Both are lovely. But the two disparate works attract different viewers. Only a small fraction of us like the large, beautiful, entertaining and glossy photography. Many more of us are frugal, simple, real and approachable. The latter will stand for hours gazing at Chris' work because in its power and incandescence, it moves us to tears.

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