Blog Author David Gremp
I enjoyed Richard’s last blog about getting inspiration from the things we hang on the walls. I’ve got some wonderful photographs and art on my walls which give me pride and pleasure when I notice them, but most have been hanging where they are for so long, I probably don’t pay as much attention to them as I should. I painted several rooms about four years ago and there were frame shadows behind each one . . . and have probably returned again already.
When I look to pictures for inspiration in my daily life all I have to do is go to my refrigerator, which I do many times a day. It is there, on the door, that I experience a much more organic form of engagement with images in my ever-evolving life. In one visual sweep I can see the birth announcement photo of our four-year-old grandson next to the first photo of his one-year-old sister. And next to that is a charming photo of my wife, Joanne, and our son Sam taken on a Christmas vacation nearly 10 years ago. Below that is an old Polaroid of Joanne taken over 40 years ago on her lunch break at work that a friend recently sent me. Even the magnets holding the photos to the fridge reflect a sense of history: Paris and Istanbul, from Joanne’s first trip out of the country with her brother in 1997, advertising magnets from local restaurants and breweries, and some with silly anonymous cat pictures (Joanne loves cats!).
It’s been a growing, morphing collage of chaos since we purchased the current fridge about five years ago until I recently removed it all in order to clean it from accumulated finger prints, flecks of food (yuck!) and, yes, frame shadows. I placed everything into a box and now am faced with a blank canvas. Should I return some of the old photos and magnets or should I start anew? And that is the question I face every time I open the door and reach in for another carrot or can of beer.
Speaking of inspiration, I would like to start the year off with my vote for the 2017 Best Book of the Year: American Witness: The Art and Life of Robert Frank, by RJ Smith. Robert Frank’s book The Americans was one of the very first photo books I ever purchased, and I’m sure that I’m not the only photographer who can make that claim. In addition to being an early hero and inspiration, he was also somewhat of an enigma to me. Not unlike another ‘50s “superstar” artist, J. D. Salinger, Frank kind of disappeared from the spotlight after creating a body of work that truly altered the landscape and definition of “documentary” photography that affected the generation or two that followed. In the words of Smith, “Frank faked his own death, an only-the-good-die-young kind of all-American undoing.”
I personally never owned another one of his books and was only marginally aware — mostly through urban mythology — of his films with Ginsberg, Kerouac and other Beats and the Rolling Stones. So it was an unexpected and pleasant surprise to stumble across his biography — unauthorized as one would expect — and read with interest more about the art and life of such a great and mysterious talent. I can’t recommend it enough.