Leitmotif Anyone?

A Geometry of Peoples   

I was talking to my friend Dan the other day while walking our respective hounds (you know, Dan Edelstyn of The Bank Job, Power Station and How to Re-Establish a Vodka Empire{Netflix}). (here he is) We were talking about marketing. He knows a lot about such things; funnels and the like….I know, I don’t get it either or at least, its a known unknown as Rumsfeld once said. Anyway, the point is he suggested that I need to whittle down the subscriber list to those who are actually interested. The important people. Get rid of all the rest.  Just keep the really good looking ones. So if you are reading this, you are on that list. There are only four of you. You could talk amongst yourselves.

    That wasn’t the point of this post. But now there’s only five of us, I can tell you that I’m in one of those perennial re-appraisal modes which used to be called re-invention. While not actually re-inventing anything, I did realise the huge influence of two images I first came across 33 years ago while studying lens cap removal at art college. They were by the legends that are Yousuf Karsh and Arnold Newman. Karsh’s portrait is of Le Corbusier in one of his buildings in 1954, leaning forward in profile, lit by an obtuse light and surrounded by a geometry of interior angles.(pic) I can imagine Karsh micro directing the great architect, mainly because of Corbusier’s slight expression of bemusement; left hand on thigh, leg up, lean forward. He may be in the process of getting up of course but he forms a diagonal which cuts across the shadow blocks and mimics the light triangle splashing across the top right. Sublime.

    Newman’s image is of Igor Stravinsky sitting at a grand piano in 1949, facing the camera while he leans on the instrument with lid up.(Moma) His head rests on his hand so forming a triangle with his elbow and mirroring the lid prop. Perhaps the sitter was slightly bored, perhaps directed. We just don’t know; it’s an unknown unknown. It is however, a stunning composition which places just the head and arm of the famed composer in the far bottom left of frame, a small repeat of the piano geometry which dominates the landscape like a mid-century painting of black, white and grey forms. The importance of the subject is inversely proportional to to his size in the composition.

    It is also incredibly annoying because it is impossible to emulate (without a law suit). I’ve photographed many pianists over the years and that image is always sitting on a nice comfy sofa in my frontal cortex laughing at this sweaty snapper. Perhaps I could have politely asked Daniel Barenboim if he would be a good fellow and lie on top of the piano in a triangle pose while I set up an overhead. It would be lame of course.

    So, I already knew I was no Arnold Newman or Karsh but in reviewing my old and new images I discovered how influential those portraits have been for me. I now humbly submit my newly discovered leitmotif to you for review in a new gallery. The four of you can get together with the portrait in my frontal cortex and have a jolly good laugh.

 Later, Peter

A Geometry of Peoples