RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition. He does have an amazing PATREON, but also *normal* ARTIST WEBSITE too.

Thursday, March 10

MNZ: B&W Magazine March 2011

Very occasionally I'll buy the fancy photography magazines, mostly for pictures for the shoebox full of same-sized magazine cutouts that I've accumulated for over a decade now that I used for the old beerbox haiku and am planning on starting to scan into the cyberwebs because I am bored with the pictures you find inside the cyberwebs. At the same time, I feel weird about that because these are real actual magazines in my life that I'm not sure I should throw into the 1s and 0s boxes. But whatever.
I am convinced that somehow these art photography magazines are aware of my sampling purposes, because all too often most all their photos are just a little too small for my purposes. They know what's up, and people are possessive of the eventual potential awesome ramifications of what I may do, because the trend in our minds is to purchase awesomeness. These people want to maintain all control of who purchases their pieces, even if it's just a vague corner of one snapshot of this or that. Capitalism has poisoned us in so many ways.
The occasion upon which this issue was bought was because it had Shelby Lee Adams in it, who is this dude from Kentucky who did some normal photography work, but then made his name off of taking pics of his hillbilly brethren in their natural dwindling habitat, doing the things they would normally do. He utilizes lots of light and portrait style poses, but in normal spots, to make some pretty spooky stuff with some pretty scary people. Liberal elite types have accused him of exploiting the poor, and perpetuating stereotypes, which is kind of funny that the elite have to defend the poor from being exploited by the elite. But also, the problem people seem to have is it's not straight photojournalism, which I guess ruins the poverty porn aspect of it. If you are looking at awesome pictures of fucked up hopeless poor people, I guess it's better if you are just sneaking pictures of them without interacting. Shelby Lee Adams' most famous scene may be a grinning Deliverance-harkening family sitting and standing around a hung and slaughtered pig. On that day, Adams actually purchased the pig, so that the family could slaughter in the traditional ways, and have the pig. They would not have afforded the pig otherwise, so some have suggested Adams is setting these people up to exploit themselves.
The thing is - and this is all gone through in detail in a movie called The True Meaning of Pictures - he does these portraits and pictures of families, give them copies, and lets them allow or not allow him to use them for his books and shows. They may not get paid royalties off the images, but the families he is in constant contact with definitely receive compensation from Adams, in the form of food he may bring by, or simply the friendship. And let's be straight here - if an AP photographer snaps a Pulitzer winning photo of a woman with her face covered protesting in the bloody streets of Tripoli during the Libyan thing going on, and that photographer gets mad scrilla off the use of that photo, it's not like he's back out there searching for whoever that woman is to give her a cut of the action. The crying woman in that infamous Kent State shooting photograph from the '60s (or was that in 1970?) didn't get shit except a life of questions about, "Hey, ain't you the chick in that picture?"
I like Adams stuff a lot, because even now, those way lost poor ways are being sterilized by Wal-Mart. Tacking tin coffee cans over holes in the wall or floorboards of the house is being replaced by cheap Chinese goods. Seriously. Wal-Marts are big with country folks, and an hour drive twice a month to spend government money on cheap goods is a common thang amongst these folks. I saw how it changed my own grandparents when it came to Farmville, Virginia. It has an effect, and that effect has trickled deeper into the hollers and hills than I think most people realize. The ability to scrape and scratch it on hardscrabble ground is being phased out.
Part of this is white guilt though. White people are trained to believe white people automatically have it better than everybody else. And there is truth to that, just so you don't think I'm going off on some WHITE PEOPLE WAKE UP tangent here. But that is a segment of white people, not the entirety. There are a bunch of broke ass piece of shit white folks who have been pieces of shit for multiple generations, and stand very little chance of escaping that in the next couple generations. So to white people who are not fucked from birth, these shitty broke ass broken white people are examples of bad white people - those who are racist and ignorant and were the ones who probably enslaved and exploited others. Problem is, these broke ass and broken people have never had the social position to do such things. It's just plain old ignorance, no mass conspiracy to keep the rest of the world down. These fucked up hillbillies are as apt to become part of the wealthy elite at birth as your average inner-city crack baby, which is to say highly unlikely.
But fuck it man. Nothing's gonna change. Poor people are gonna be fucked, and rich people are gonna make the rules. They elected a (half) black President, and hillbillies are still doomed and the inner-cities are still crushing zones for the soul. And if a guy wants to take spooky but oddly beautiful pictures of a tiny sub-set from one of those wretched of the earth groups of doomed Americans, then goddamnit, I think it's a good thing.


Anonymous said...

Please do a review of "Winter's Bone".

Raven Mack said...

either this comment was left by my wife, before we planned to watch this movie tomorrow night, or someone is hanging outside the living room window while we talk. maybe that's why the cat is so sketched out tonight.