My dear friend Renata Tavares from Rio has just arrived in New York, her first visit. She seems to like it so far.

My dear friend Renata Tavares from Rio has just arrived in New York, her first visit. She seems to like it so far

I will start posting my own work/life on Road Trips over in the right hand column. I am here no more. Just click there if you dare…

21 Responses to “My dear friend Renata Tavares from Rio has just arrived in New York, her first visit. She seems to like it so far.”

  • a civilian-mass audience

    Welcome home RENATAAAAAAA!!!

    Can you sign my left arm…I promise I am not going to wash it…ever:)))

    let the good times roll MY BURNIANS!

  • Congratulations Renata/DAH !!!

  • Let the good times ROLL!

  • Mencken was right. It’s a third rate Babylon.


    A review of David Alan Harvey’s “(based on a true story)”

    “For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.”–Psalm, 90:4

    “Não é o amor em si, mas nos arredores do amor que importa”–Fernando Pessoa, “Livro do desassossego por Bernardo Soares”

    “Mom, why do you always tell me I can’t do what I want when I just want to DO something?”–Conversation overheard walking on Dundas Street West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, North America, Saturday September 22nd, 2012.



    The I (am/eye) at the beginning of that five-syllable word. The “I” as ocular reconfigured alphabet and the contained trapped by its audacity to begin a word prefixed by a preposition that fingers its meaning and sound toward the gun-shot start of division and collection simultaneous, pointing to both inwardness-inside and the coitus connecting, the door left tight and warming from the world left ajar. How else to alphabetize a book that is less a book of pictures than an unveiling of a self, in all its beautiful messy imperfect sloppiness of honesty.

    A love story.

    So begin with a vowel: I

    The “I” that lends its breath and breadth in a simple and singular expectoration. The I of the author the eye of the reader that joins that act of imaginative and visual and narrative displacement and night-spawn cohesion, the joy of the falling apart and remaining-still that is the essential ingredient of fucking and all its physical and emotional (shall I add teological?) juice. The same juice that lends the mind electric. The same falling-apart and rebuilding that lay at the heart of this book. Entropy and Entanglement. Creeping vine and scattering wind. Breath and suffocation. A world entwined and cut free. A solitude caught in the making of ice, in the pacing of the blue thread like a finger along the spine, a chiropractic realigning the pages of the book. The Of You and Me joined elliptical and left behind wavering. The figure amid the glade of talkative shadows as solitary as the green palm tree that verticalizes the heart in the cavern of night, verdant and alone and firm, just as solitary as the burned, charcoaled flanks of pig-earth meat that’s bbq’d on a spit of fire, just as solitary as the child standing afoot at the sea darkened by climatic DNA and weathered geography, just as solitary as the baroque police-siren lighted red dimple igniting the noise of dance hall or favella, just as solitary as the application of makeup, just as solitary as the smoke jettisoning itself from rapture and lips, just as solitary as a bellybutton lost amid a seesea of pastel light and shapely breasts, just as solitary as a driver bored by the tedium of privilege and scaled accumulation, just as solitary as the space between gun and thought, just as solitary (do you hear), just as solitary as you and I thumbing through the corners and carapace of our lives between printed pigment and page. A thought. A breath. A shutter fingered let loose. A joining and undoing. A hope and a collapse and an unhinging and carving and a spewing and a running and a collapsing and an awakening and a cumming and a distillation distillating (not distilling) and an arguing and a quieting and a and a and a pause and an un-winging. A moment in a momentary life accordianed into a musical unflagging of pictures and moments rearranges. A think-thing. A voice, careened. A dollop of sweat cupped from the night. An ankle atrophied by AIDS’ forlorn gaze and chewing. A clock looked askance. A child. A tit. A crease in a pant leg. A diamond-sprung body. A view. A view garnered by wealth. A view negated by violence and squalor umbrella’d by the sounds of laughter cornered by screams. The same city, the same sea, the same unearthly light above and scattering along. A sky. A moment that both contains and rejects everything. A place and (and) an imagined dream. All of that inside a kited outward. A moment stopped and held like a small and life-leaving infant the touch of which pressed against will shatter those remaining ligaments and longing that hold together the world and that small skeleton of life. A hope, a hope. Just that.

    Do you get that, can you untangle the curious figments of the world alight? So ok then, close the book and defer to a consonant: P.

    Plenitude, Palanquin, Proprietorial, Protuberant, Pseudonymous, Pussy, Private, Polarity, Paracetamol, Parabolic, Palindrome, Pagoda, Polonium, Paired, Perch, Pounced, Path to the space amid: Propinquity and Palm.

    Is that really (again the vowels) U?

    Pause. Posture. (another vowel): Ache.

    The algebra of language-writ stories, photographic and tongue-to-roof-tied: a mouth tale. Ache.

    The vowels, again: O


    Life spars in an instant and then and there slips forward-toward the something and then:



    Life changes in the unrecognizable mount the way breath fractures its step from the copper in-take of our concavity through the silent soft hum of an exhalation the way the curving land beneath our feet bumbles and joists and cantors without recognizable knowing the earth our death our thoughts the days dotted by our forward moving and if but we are still enough at times or tumbleweed-headlong-over-heels enough in our racing that moment that cardiac infraction a blip can catch us just long enough in its stilled web for us to more than know it but to see and feel and quarter it like geometry as recipe as the sound of her voice tango’d to the shadow on the wall an intact-tact and of that we need only to touch the transformed carving moment once to know it makes up the days and ways that make up the who of the what we are sung from.


    Stick these moments together and exhale. Scatter these photographs each-from-each and turn aside. Have you caught up?

    Sung at last, un-lunged.


    The instant, prefigured as life, changes in that unrecognizable moment, each and every gear-knuckle and tooth-sprocket gap gaping. Agape. Lip crayoning lip, eye juicing the colours and cadences of both the night of you and the tall, bedazzled light. Fecund orifice. Battered battery of bitch’d-up botched breaks: see that between the clothes hung for inspection and the dandied black-tux like a crux of ascension? Citrus and liquor, southern longitude and northern dreamed-upon misshape, night sprayed like a teenage couple learning to palm their fingers (joint to joint) against one another taxied by spray of telephone wire, a night cabaret barker drenched in Mephistopholean menstrual light, two children (an awkward adam, a confident eve) at play at the shore at night whose apple’d orchard of temptation is the ships long off to the distant-right caged by black night, Garagem, Eu maraia pro um premio nobel da paz, Guara Viton, a perfumed bruise-blue white angel tonguing the camera’s eye with her indifference to the shadow’d boy who could carry her in her exhaustion if she’d only known, umbrella bit by an adjacent firework lit by a woman who hides her cranial loneliness amid the sleek dress of her curvaceous beauty, ecstasy tomosis miasma senseless sensibility osmosis honeysuckle nitrate spew of septum and spectrum and frame after frame after frame after frame like a series of x-rays only more optimistic in their vibrant, youthful colour and yearning, recalibrated through an orgiastic repetition, multiplicity not as repetition but as gesture, multiplicity not as show-boating but as orgasm, multiplicity not as accumulation but as archeological specificity (to dig and repeat and dig and repeat as a way of getting at the dan of the time-earth that covered that moment) stroke stroke stroke stroke until one is splayed wide by the fever of a coda and preamble that begins and concludes thus: beginnings and endings are the same:

    We are all based on a true story.

    E. COLOSSAL YOUTH (And Yes the Pedro Costa Film too)

    That man. That boy. The man and the boy. The man and the boy whose solitary appearance throughout the pages of (based on a true story) marks us as guide and as harbour from the siren’s song of that beautiful muse at the centre of this book, woman and city incarnate. Those two males, father-to-son, ancestor-to-progenity, whose simple clear strength allows for the necessary silence need in this most noisy, most cacophonous of photo-books. We need them, those two cinnamon figures in order to negotiate such a circus of lights and holler and howl and desire. It is difficult to remain still while looking through this book, while picking it apart, pictures halved and quartered and by-necessity requiring their expansion. This made, drunken arrangement of accumulated and fixed geographies and emotions and losses. Those too darker figures (against the flair burst of the Muse on the beach). Their skin the color of kiwi shell or banana whelped of time, a steadying of all the mischievous and childish madness of greens and reds and golden, pyrotechnic glamor that makes electric the head and forlorn the heart. If this young woman, Candy, is the muse of this book, its southern cross, then these two others, man and boy, are its necessary gravity and anchor (based on a true story) otherwise it would be a simple and easily read love story: a man is reconfigured by the youth and interceding of her appearance into his life and he falls anew, in love with her, with place with life. But, the story, its form and its syntax, is much more ambiguous that that, if for nothing else that man and that boy. Call it a love story in chiaroscuro. Call it what it is: alchemy and shadow and birth pain emergence. Call it the sound of a person singing about a life, still shadowed, renewed.


    Ostensibly, (based on a true story) is a collection of photographs by a one of his generation’s finest lyricists, a seasoned Magnum photographer whose contribution to documentary photography lay in his poetic and literary interpretation of people and place. A photographer whose life’s work has been less about ‘reporting’ of a place that how he feel’s its light and the play that light and loneliness work their tango with one another. Harvey is, if nothing else, a poet of the lonely, a writer who forgoes often the need to ‘get it right’ for ‘what the light and colour did to us’. More than understanding what a good frame looks like (a la Bresson), Harvey understands as well as any other, what and how light surrounds and isolates and makes worth-living surrounding and it carves and envelopes. Less about the photographic beauty of place, Harvey has always had an uncanny instinct for being ‘inside’ those spaces demarked by light and colour and drama. At centre is always a person (child, man, woman) white-water rushing over all that cadenced world around. And yet (based on a true story) is a very different book, something new it seams to me for Harvey. It isn’t new in its cacophony or its formally imaginative structure, but in its refusal to kowtow to the principle that a photography book need be comprised of all ‘formally beautiful pictures.’ This is not a photography book, but a story, a novella, a soliloquy of a person mad with love, for a woman, for a place, for the body of life.
    Shot entirely in a place that Harvey has well-documented previously, a place he knows well and is enamoured with, Rio de Janeiro (January’s River, Summer’s playground), (based on a true story) contains some of the types of photographs that one expects from Harvey. Beautiful, isolated images struck narcotic by his physical (is it reductionist to suggest sexual?) sense of light and space that allow individuals to stand guard or apart astonished by the fulsome light. One, when looking at a ‘classical Harvey image’ not to become both in love with the living and marked sad by life’s failure to assuage the loneliness. It that kind of ambiguity that makes the best of Harvey’s work so nourishing: a measured optimist who in his orgiastic love of living is still hoping that the fullness of the outside will fill those small corners of hurt that lay open and exposed. And yet, this is not a Harvey book in the mode of ‘Divided Soul’. While “Divided Soul’ was a book comprised of extraordinarily beautiful pictures, it never felt like a book to me so much as a collection of greatest hits. An iconic book and a book that powerfully argued the importance and essence of the diaspora-broken nature of the soul, particularly throughout Latin-oriented culture (see literary), it still was nonetheless a book of pretty pictures thoughtfully edited and narrated. It was a book that left the reader with admiration and respect but it was still a one-story book. As a reader and a photographer, I long for books that fuck with me and my head.

    (based on a true story) is a book for fucking with.


    At the centre of this book is a story, one story, but I do not know it. Frankly, I don’t care what it is for I have already invented my own story for it. Obviously, it is partly the oldest story in the book: Boy meets girl, girls greets boy, boy falls in love with girl, girl accepts/rejects/waits/offers/twines with boy, boy falls in love, girl shutters him into life, boy through girls sees anew, sees her anew, sees all anew, reconfigures himself. Boy follows girl along the labyrinth of her life, her body, her mind and goes ballistic. He loses himself in all of her and follows her (night to day, beach to night shop to favella and back again) and realizes that in all of that travel that is what he long searched for: a path, a carnival of awakening. Her hair, her scent, her words and thoughts and body, like Ariadne’s thread leading it out of the Minotaur’s maze. So, ok and so what. Yes, there is clearly that here. There is a muse, a white-skinned (amid all that other dark and bronze and earth-rich colour) mermaid holding a popcicle and balloon-ball and cotton dress as he is washed ashore from the holding and storage of his life. It’s clear that something in her ignited him and allowed him to see anew a place, and a manner of seeing that became young and vital again. But if this were the only story here, or if this were only the ‘real’ story I would have grown bored. Why a book when our own lives are so heroic in their boredom and negotiated hunger-filled grasping? Because (based on a true story) is not THAT story, but something else.

    It is a story about form, about the redemptive alchemy of telling stories, or inventing and sharing. In fact, I would argue that (based on a true story) is about a generous a book of pictures I’ve seen in a long time. Harvey, in truth, is not the author of the story contained within, but you reader you are the true author of this book. It is your story to configure in which ever way and order and manner you with. We’re blighted by the dictatorial power of the author, always. When we read something, we are at their mercy. As a writer and a photographer, I’m no less ensorcelled and enthralled by my own narcissistic voice (see the the absurd length above to which i’ve been scribbling, q.e.d.). Most of us, who are also photographers, create a story we have something specific in mind and we ram in down the throats of our readers. While we way offer ambiguity and complexity in the meaning of a particular image or even in a specific edit, most of us offer but one sequence and though that sequence may offer myriad readings, there is still the dictation of sequence, firm and solid as a stone–unmovable. Harvey has completely rejected this by allowing not only for a myriad of readings, but for an arrangement of sequences that are both part of the compositional form but also part of the readers ability to take the book apart and put together, reconfigure parts, sequences, pictures, the entire publication at her own will. The book comes apart.

    Much like Mikhailov’s “yesterday’s sandwich,” (based on a true story) is a fold-out book, a book whose photographs have not been bound but are lose and can be re-arranged in whatever order the reader wish. I’ve done this, as an intellectual and photographic and editorial exercise, a number of times since I received the book. The book challenges the reader to make up their own sequence and damn if I don’t like a good challenge. I’ve tried to put together different sequences depending on my mood (or level of sobriety or exhaustion) to see how ‘my’ edit would compare, or how I could reinvent this story using the same pictures. But wait, there is more. If this were its only ‘trick’ (like Mikhailov’s book which allows for re-arrangement and re-edit because all the photographs are cardboard prints), it would be ‘fun’ but not quite the heady experience that it really is.


    Origami (n): the Japanese art of folding paper into decorative shapes

    Origin (n): the point where something begins. ORIGIN: latin origo.

    (based on a true story) is a very Japanese photo book. The Japanese photo book is sui generic beast. For me, more than any other ‘type’ of book, the Japanese photography book as explored and continued to explore both the notion of the photo-based story but, more importantly, has explored how to expand and explode the medium. Where so many picture books take a decidedly linear and sequential approach to the picture-sequence as narrative, the Japanese photo book has directed both the use of pictures as a way to tell a story but also the form and ‘kind of picture’ that of which a photo book should be comprised. In this sense, (based on a true story) steers toward that channel. Not only is this book comprised of pictures that many editors might see as ‘throw aways”, a book comprised of pictures that are decidedly less ‘good/poweful/beautiful/meaningful’ than some of the more typical Harvey pictures. To wit: sausages crisping on a fire, a solitary and green-tongued palm tree, a palm from, a golden mask and all the multiple frame sheets as if taken off the editor’s light table. At first, the ossified viewer might see these as substantially less than the ‘classic’ Harvey pictures, but what Japanese photography books taught was that the inconsequential narrates the outer side blunderbuss of the ‘beautiful’ substantive picture, that things rhyme not on their own and need the cushion and crush of both an opposition and sibling to ring sound from the vowels. Many of the pictures in the book would have, even a couple of years ago, not made a Harvey edit in one of his student’s workshops. I was, frankly, overjoyed that he allowed this at last in his own understanding of what constitutes a sequence that good stories are not simply a sequence of good pictures but comes from collision and opposition and unexpected coalescence from difference. That damn palm from is right out of Moriyama and god bless that insight.

    And then there is the origami of the way the pictures are folded together. Initially, each picture is cloven and joined in relationship to another as half (or at times quartered) which reimagines each picture anew. This origami comes in reverse. Rather than build the folding of paper into a shape, (based on a true story) unfolds. After the initial read/looking, the viewer is compelled to pic the book apart, to peel apart the crane’s wings and the frog’s legs and the diamond’s carats, until we see the original pictures for what they were originally as shot. I am still at a loss as to which I prefer: the truncated individual pictures in their halving and their collision with their page-partner or their true-self unfolded. Does it even matter for both are part of the whole. Gestalt as drunken generosity.

    Which leads me to the most important form of the entire book: its generosity. It hands over to the viewer the reigns. All obsessive artists are egoists. Each of us hunger-strick by the need to both control and to carve apart. Harvey no differently (at this point, for record’s sake I should acquit myself by publicly declaring our close friendship) and he’s iron-poked me as well as an egoist when it comes to my own work. But, what ego is left when an author allows the reader to reinvent the story given them, allows the reader to create whatever they want (including the edit) from a body of work than he has worked so tirelessly on. There is not David Alan Harvey edit to this book, there is only the reader’s edit and decisions and that is an act of generosity and empowerment for the viewer that is extraordinarily rare and radiant.

    Origami as gift. Paper cranes are acts and gifts of love.

    Scattered over water.

    I. A STORY

    There is but one story though it is a maze and amalgam of all the stories highwayed and detoured throughout our life. Formally, there may be one story for Harvey contained within the folds and creases of this book but the wade of the book is shaped into something else. What story lay at the heart of each of our lives?

    What is your story? Speak it.


    Lyrical (adj): expressing the writer’s emotions in an imaginative and pleasing way.

    Polemical (adj): relating to fierce discussion; Origin, Greek polemos ‘War’

    David Alan Havey is a lyrical man and the body of his work, and the imaginative contours of his life, has been defined by the lyrical, the imaginative

    It sometimes seems to me that there have always been essentially two kinds of photographic books. One easily digestible and innocuous and comprising most of the books that we’re dieted and died upon: a string of pictures either bound by some contextual umbilicus or some authorial bibliography, meant essentially to provoke and evoke a simple response: look at these moving/beautiful/thoughtful/important/valuable/instructive/reporting/truthful/respectful/necessary photographs, look at this photographer whose picture prowess you should admire. Like laundry upon a spring day, the pictures gather and snap against one another and remind us of the ‘importance’ and the ‘beauty’ and/or ‘necessity’ of pictures as stand-alone objects, as verisimilitude, as aesthetic function, as something to behold more so because they are pinched between flat-press and gut-stuck binding. A book of photographs that is essentially about the elevation of the singular picture, of the photo as logos, of the photo as something to aspire to or at least sequence of pictures as something fecund just because it is a picture. A book, simply snug, of pictures that celebrate the art and language of pressing light against some kind of chemical or digital emulsion as a way to tell a story. The kind of book that the reader walks away thinking, ‘great pictures, talented gal that photographer.” The kind of book that often chemicalizes our aspirations to run out and take photographs and yet these books, so often, lay dormant and deceased after a few viewings because they ring sweat more from the desire to ‘be like that, make things like that’ than from the much more complex and hard-to-shake thought-fuck that is the other kind of photography book.

    And there are the picture books as play, as idea, as window in the act and function of sentience, of living. A book defined and programmed much less from either the pictures contain therein or even in the practice of picture-telling to begin with than with the idea of book as thought-fuck, as yoga-pose, as a way to re-think imaginatively how to construct a story. A book that may begin in the grammar and form of photographic practice but quickly moves toward something else: thought as movement of body and experiential reckoning. To be bitten by not a photograph, itself, but what the combination of pictures (any pictures) can do when applied against the ache and arch and thrusting of one another. Form vs. Content. Apollo vs. Dionysius. Think of Julio Cortazar’s novel “Hopscotch”, less a novel than a way to decide through the vicissitudes of language and experience, both thought and experience. Less narrative arc than arc for its own parabolic beauty.

    Polemical poetry. Not idea as argument but idea as poetry. Form as the morphology of poetry. Form as a song whose narrative may appear less obvious but within those signs and coefficients sing magically about the way we live and think and experience life to begin with. How to sequence pictures that are less about a moment scene that about the physical and sentient experience of living and thinking and forgetting and bubbling it all together like a witch’s brew.

    Harvey has always been a more a lyricist than a polemical orator and yet, can one separate one from the other? Not argument for its own sake but for the poetry of act of thinking. Ecce Homo, are we not in that galloping. Not binary but amalgam.


    How does one measure the geography of their life, tape walk the space of the land and the width of the sky that rafter’s the living of your coupled and solitary waking? How to make sense and order of all you wish to express and all that expresses itself through you and with you so that others can gather, liked palms of soft earth, that meaning and importance in their hands. The knowing and the taking, the yielding and the yarning. A night as the clock work of your life shuttled between the sweep of the day’s minute hands and hour clocking.

    A way? If even if impossible, there it is in the trying. And that trying, if even in misstep or error, is the measure to begin with. The book that only you were meant to write and patch together from the palm fronds you happen to pick up or discard. Feel the tug and the patchwork, you were meant for that strain and stringing.

    For me, the best and most true books always pitch against the only two things which matter, the love and the leaving of your life. The love for the waking of things, for the making of things, for people and time and your own life as it it measured by the joinery of others. The leaving of that and them as well. Love, be it romantic or spiritual or sexual or intellectual or divine, for the other. That other may be a person, or people, it may be some made up or making up thing. That other may be a partner, a project, a place, a project, a moment when all that seemed wrong with the world seemed for a moment to have vanished in the luminous song of being alive. This too then is reminded by the taking leave of and from that moment of propinquity. Love and Death, the one begetting the other and the spinning of the gravity pull between each. We cannot love anything without feeling that tug and strain, and yet it is that tension that allows both and each a part and apart to make sense, if for a moment, of all that beginning and ending.

    As I have watched David work his love around the moments of this past month, it is impossible for me not to see both at work, all that he loves and cherishes so much in this life: his friends and family, his art, his wondrous need to make the singing of this life as much a part of work life and the working of his life, his teaching and caring, his joy and his frustrations, his disappointment and neglect and his incorrigible power to make it right, to make right and open his life and his heart. At the heart of David’s photography, in the architecture and framing of all his pictures, the best ones, is the same out-the-window gaze and determination. The young, polio stricken child who left alone, through no fault of his or his family, who made a pact with himself that he would not allow the walls enclose him or his vision or the living of his life and vision. There it is in each photograph. That space, that wilding horizon is there in the lines of the hips and akimbo’d arms of the women he is drawn toward, of the solitary men surrounded by night and neon as they themselves drink up the dark space around without fear or measure, the sea is both larger than that hospital window and smaller, for even that cannot contain what he wishes to make right and make thirst. His is always a solitary one, but a brave and ferocious and lyrical one. Sisyphus refusal to allow the boulder to surmount his determination, his refusal to fall deadened by Tantalus’ thirst for he knows and keenly understands that it is the thirst that matters and not the abetting of it.

    Nourishment comes from the desire to seek and not the quenching.

    By the end of the month, it seems clear to me that what seems to be best about One Night in Rio are those pictures that remind me that David, that each of us, is unyielding and refusing to parse the love and loss but instead are putting them together there in the same frame. What also has been interesting is watching what seems to be David’s own growing-into that realization. Like all first moments, like all electric starts, it is never clear, born more of the jolt of production and fever than of standing back and allowing one’s own, one’s own body’s recognition of the pace and production of what seems to make best sense. As the Wall evolved and changed, I found it interesting that so many ‘participated’ in the cataloguing of the pictures, choosing pictures they liked and trying to be a part of the making and yet, that cannot ever happen. For the making, just as with measuring of one’s own life and thoughts and experiences, can only in the end be accomplished alone. Part of the development I watched, was what appeared to be David’s understanding of that too. And yet, in his generosity and willingness to expose himself and allow others to both see and bid, to speak up and against and to ask, he never once (as I probably would have done, still in my immature self and stubborn unwillingness) suggested that. He, rather princely, refused to tell his audience to shut up and leave him alone while he got down with the doing. Instead, he invited participation not to help him, an impossibility, but as a learning process.

    You cannot teach people how to make a book, how to write or photograph or edit. You cannot teach somehow how to take measure of the process, how to ‘see’ what makes sense, what is your sense. Only in the actual doing of your own, can that rhyme and rhythm be understood. Only you can write your own book, only you can best understand what ticks your speed and cantor, only you. And still, it was with that understanding that David accomplished what was best for me as a teacher. He was patiently continued even amid all the vicarious living of others. I wondered how it would end, not for him or for the project but for the viewers. How would they react to the leaving and the bereavement. For me, in truth, I wished for the end from the moment it began because as photographer, as a writer, as a friend, I wanted David to just settle into his gallop without worrying of what others needed, of what others needed from him. What I need from him, simply, is the same thing I need from all those who I love and live entwined. I need him to just live and focus on all those things which make him, that makes both his life and his photographic work so exemplary. The diligence of the silversmith, the patience and commitment of the lifeguard, even when the beach is empty and rain-spilled.

    The French in their inimical way speak of le petit mort, that confluence of life and death that comes at the moment of the bodies’ exhalation, the coming apart during the moment of cumming. The orgiastic moment not as orgy but as solitary coming apart in the coupling of one’s body with another’s. The reminder that that moment of absence both ecstatic and quickly disappearing, the beginning and the ending.

    In the end, (based on a true story) is not about the beaches or the woman/women or the beautiful light and colour, nor the lyricism of David’s frame and palette, nor really about fucking and being fucking by life and with life, but really is about something simpler. That child, even when divested by the sexing of life, shall not really ever be infirm for he shall take that falling away and remake again and again and again.

    David made this book long before he’d traveled south. He made it long ago when he had harnessed his strength and optimism to the view outside the window that both housed his polio-picked body and the world beckoning. The hills may be different, the skyline a different glow, the back-tie affairs swapped for others, but it was there long ago.

    The benefit for me, just that simple. The birthing and the giving. Fly that yourself, each of you and cadence your cantor and slipped steps. That is his gift and is at the heart of both the book and this process.


    Take a look.


    (based upon a true story) is David Alan Harvey’s most physical and honest book. Less a book about picture-taking than a think-tank of self-revelation, it is a beautifully youthful, full-of-self honest expression of what it means to be alive, what it means to hunger for light and body, for colliding crowd and sentient silence. What I cherish the most about the book (contrary to all the verbal and intellectual pyrotechnical acrobatics just scribbled above) is that it is remarkably simple and true. This is a book less consumed by proving the photographer knows how to make a god-damned beautiful photograph (something Harvey does not have to prove) than about driven by the need to share the fevered loves of his life and that be the awakening of and for the living. If Harvey’s beautiful and powerful ‘The Divided Soul’ was a simple and straightforward expression of his particular keen eye for poetic rendering of life caught between the struggle of being born of a the passionate crowd to which he is incessantly drawn and the quiet, solitary drama of making sense of the pull toward and away. Go figure.


    What else if not that?


    Shall I describe its top-spin crossing forehand. Shall I describe the relationship between its beautiful, formally ‘classical’ beautiful pictures and their conversation with those pictures that reject a certain lesson-plan of what-makes-a-good picture. Shall I talk about its relationship to Japanese photography books in its honing of thought and form, in its very-Japanese attention to the infinite possibility of a design that acts more as a gateway to what it can-be in the reader’s imagination than to what it wants to be? (oh, yea, I have). Shall I discuss the cleverness of its multiplicity, of its shape and undoing. Shall I tell you that it is both a book and an exercise in lego-heart parts that gives the reader amble opportunity for deconstruction and reconstruction and re-imagining of picture and story through a taking apart, pining on the wall tossing on the floor scattering around, the ‘pages’ which are neither picture nor photograph nor poster but more graph and imaginative decoder ring fingered by each reader. A maze, Ariadne’s hair-threat in blue pinching all those pictures, accordion like, which like a prism fracture and redact one another by both their placement (cloven when first seen because of their halved selves next to another picture) with others and then set loose by their unfolding and re-arrangement. Shall I tell you of the generosity of a photography book, of a photographer, who is willing to allow You to remake and re-imagine the book from scratch that he worked so hard to birth into the world and then gave it away.

    In a word: this is your book, your story however you deem it.


    Get this book by dint of purchase or borrowing or browsing or bereaving theft. Think on it.

    (based on a true story) is both a formally beautiful book and a thoughtful incarnation of what it means to scatter through the live-life of a beloved place and of this place you carve your own, the living we all inhabit. However, its generosity lay not in its pictorial beauty or in its formal invention or even its celebration of the photographic tongue and torque of bringing forth things, but in something much simpler. It is a celebration of the human drama and imagination and all the carnivorous hunger to which it points toward.

    Think on it, sift through it, toss it and turn it upside and each-and-every way. Then give it away and walk. Walk out into the light, bright as electrified shell-sand or verminious as night’s dark throat, and look around at all the scattering. You were meant and fit to piece together all of that, all of the debris, detritus and dendrite of your life. Not a puzzle but an unclothing.

    Snap it back to shape and lean forward.

    Q. ALMOST DONE (an aside)

    Its never done until we are undone. Maybe that is why I am writing against an ending, against the refutation of expansion. Though we must end things, and are ended, maybe in our too-long singing-out and scribbling against the boredom of endings and all their neat qualifications we become who we are. Against those who want neat, coffin-tight boundaries that can’t be picked apart nor reseeded like dragon’s teeth. Maybe we continue because the end is not now, not ever, the end.

    Maybe that is the story at the heart of this book.


    How many folds in a paper crane? How many parts to a book? How many parts to a written thought, in essay form? How many sides of you?


    Now: Go, make it your own.

    Go, for fuck’s sake.

    Strive through this life, shuttle yourself between carnival madness and simple silence. Make it your own. Not theirs, but your own. Bind your life and your seeing and unseeing to that carapace.

    A child footed at the tongue of the sea hoping and hopping at the lapping sound beneath him just at reach. Ring that and remember that and take that throughout the taking and tugging, the lifting and the losing. What do you have to lose if not that?

    Breaking slowly, click by click, and wide.

    Your ache is all our ache.

    Fly that.

    –Bob Black
    September, 2012

    This essay is dedicated to three fine men: my son Dima Black, my father Robert Black and my friend David Alan Harvey: familia, lubricare, amor.

  • Lyrics do not come easy to me, simply shedding a tear, but fuck me Bob, I need a drink now and it is only 8am.

  • Right on Bob, right now…
    Reading this while waking up is a mystical experience…
    It touches my subconscious … I feel intoxicated..
    Let me make a coffee a re read this!

  • So did you like the goddam book or not?

  • Got to M. You do like the book. Okay.

  • And stop abusing the word penultimate. It never did anything to you.

  • akaky: penultimate, like akaky irl, loves to be abused! ;))))

  • BOB,

    Had you given us just F, G, and H of the above, I would have said this was a masterful review and a fitting poetic tribute to David’s book of photographs.

    As for all the rest of it, I don’t for the most part really have a clue what you’re talking about.

    I fear you will be offended, and many readers may misunderstand my use of the word, but my honest reaction to your “review” is that it is far beyond the bounds of “excessive” and is in fact “monstrous.”

    I have nothing against exhibitions of “dueling metaphors,” but why use bludgeons when a rapier will serve far better?

  • Sidney :)))…not at all offended….and its totally excessive and monstrous….no worries, tried to physicalize the review the way the book was made and the way i experienced it….repetions, collisions, overabundance, etc…if i’d only done f, g and h it wouldn’t have been the beast i wanted to create….i dont want to defend it but at the heart of its structure is a certain story by david foster wallace and the films of pedro costa..but that would be revealing much too much….anyway, this wasn’t a ‘review’ (that could have been condensed to 2 or 3 paragraphs) but instead something else: a linguistic reaction to the book, not as review, but as separate and i hope companionable object…

    no worries sidney, who but you and a few others would ever read the whole think anyway….and that’s fine…

    as for bludgeons…they’re just as important as rapiers, depending on intent ;)

    all good, the words were for david as an expression of what the process of having this book did to me and my language….then again, mabye all those pictures of candy on the inside covers was ‘excessive’ too…and that’s what i loved :))


  • Hmm, or is the party here?

    Hi everyone.


  • I suffer from the siren call of corporate work and no creativity, where images die slow deaths on my memory cards, only seen once or twice and then left…

    sad. Changing that.

    I am back!

  • a civilian-mass audience

    Welcome back BOBBY,ANDREWB,NANCY…

    I will be out protesting…rubber bullets,pfff…as our Spaniards friends say:

    Viva MY BURNIANS…keep reporting

    running like BOBBY

  • a civilian-mass audience

    AND YES…as BOB wrote:

    Polemical (adj): relating to fierce discussion; Origin, Greek polemos ‘War’

    the “polemos” has started!!! the time is now!

  • To paraphrase Usual Suspects, “The greatest trick David ever pulled, was convincing Burn he wasn’t here. And like that, he’s back.”

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