Why New Jersey?

1975 - Cartier-Bresson - New Jersey - Outside Holland Tunnel

Copyright © The Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation / Magnum

In 1975, Henri Cartier-Bresson came to the United States to photograph, of all places, New Jersey, at the invitation of Jaune Evans, a producer for “Assignment America,” a television show on the public-broadcasting station WNET. Looking back on the experience, Peter Cunningham, Evans’ partner and Cartier-Bresson’s assistant for the project, recalls his impression of New Jersey at the time: “It was a no-past, no-future state of existence.” It’s an apt description that resonates with my own memories growing up there, navigating the gravitational pull between Philadelphia and New York.

Writing for the New Yorker celebrating the re-emergence of Cartier-Bresson’s New Jersey photographs nearly fifty years later, Zach Helfand points out:

Down the shore that month, Bruce Springsteen was agonizing over what would become “Born to Run.” The two artists conjured a similar mythology: asphalt and steel, operatic death on dirty streets, traps and escape. Cartier-Bresson also found humor—two men wearing the same suit, a gaggle of disembodied mannequin heads. By coincidence, Cunningham had been working as a photographer for Springsteen. “In a way, this year, 1975, was Jersey’s birthing year,” Cunningham told me.

I don’t know if 1975 was New Jersey’s “birthing year,” but I appreciate the image of Springsteen and Cartier-Bresson driving the same highways and rural routes, breathing the same salty air, and thinking about and documenting the State of New Jersey, an overlooked and unassuming microcosm of America.

(via Jason Kottke)

Like a Blanket in the Rain

Image courtesy of MACK Books

Alec Soth reflects on his latest book A Pound of Pictures:

For me, photography is fundamentally tied to the physical act of recording. I leave the house and drive into the world. Through the lens of my Honda Odyssey, I watch light bounce off of a million surfaces. One of them catches my eye—the girthiest sycamore in Michigan, let’s say. I park the van, pick my spot, and set up the camera. It’s a simple tool and there’s so much it can’t record. We can’t hear the birdsong nor the crabby farmer who reluctantly gave me directions. My slow shutter can’t even catch the butterfly fluttering near the trunk. We might intuit the tree’s two-hundred-year-old history, but we only see bark, not rings. But, oh, the bark! The film’s emulsion soaks up its reflections like a blanket in the rain. Printing the picture, these reflections coalesce into a body. We hold the weight of a giant in the palm of our hand; flattened and miniaturized, yes, but not a VR genie. Each negative weighs .6 oz.

Further Retreats from 2020

The “Pope of Trash” and “Filth Elder” John Waters offers a “hilarious,” “glorious,” “boldly retro” poster design for the 58th New York Film Festival.

“Retro digital oasis,” poolside.fm (via Daring Fireball).

A retreat and a “redo” all in one: this December, on the occasion of its 30th anniversary, a new, “vindicating” cut of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather: Part III (1990) will be released (in theaters 🤞) and retitled Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone.