People who might not know first Canadian Poet Laureate, George Bowering might think he is an old grouch. I know him well enough to dispute this. But I must admit that if you say that one plus one is two he will find some way to object.
A few years ago I photographed him wearing my mother’s red shawl. I asked him to write something to accompany the photograph. Here is the blog with his little essay. I should have known that he was going to persist on the idea that my photograph was not of him.
|Photograph and design - Robin Mitchell Cranfield|
This year he has published a book of essays called Writing and Reading. It is published by New Star Books. It has the interesting concept that the book begins with short essays and they get longer as you go the next one.
Some months ago (quite a few as I have been thinking about this rebuttal for a while now) a package arrived. My Rosemary asked me if I had purchased a book. I told her I hadn’t. Inside was Writing and Reading. I then threw the box away. My Rosemary is thorough and looked inside and told me that there was a cheque for $100. I wondered until I found on page 28 my photograph (originally in colour) in stark black and white. I read the essay. After reading it I decided to tackle (again) Susan Sontag’s On Photography and Roland Barthes’s Camera Lucida.My volume of Barthe's book has been consumed by years of literary silver fish.
I allowed some time for what I had read to sink in. I used many stickies to mark relevant passages for my rebuttal.
But then I came to the conclusion that the serious Mr. Bowering just likes to argue at a time when conversation is pretty well gone. he does it because he has a keen sense of humour.
I will leave it up to those who read this to make up their own minds if my photograph of George Bowering is indeed of him.
But I did find an old blog of mine where I found something that might serve me well in a gentle and well-mannered rebuttal. Here it is.
The passage in question by Susan Sontag:
The powers of photography have in effect de-Platonized our understanding of reality, making it less plausible to reflect upon our experience according to the distinction between images and things, between copies and originals. It suited Plato’s derogatory attitude towards images to liken them to shadows – transitory, minimally informative, immaterial, impotent co-presences of the real things which cast them. But the love of photographic images comes from their being material realities in their own right, richly informative deposits left in the wake of whatever emitted them, potent means for turning the tables on reality – for turning it [in italics in book by author] into a shadow. Images are more real than anyone could have supposed. And just because they are an unlimited resource, one that cannot be exhausted by consumerist waste, there is all the more reason to apply the conservationist remedy, if there can be a better way for the real world to include the one of images, it will require ecology not only of real things but of images as well.