Tuesday, April 13, 2010
I want to tell you about an artist-a photographer named GREG FRIEDLER.
I had never come across his work until I happened to watch a SHOWTIME doc called “STRIPPED” a somewhat oppressive view of his work on his latest NAKED book-LAS VEGAS.
Back some years there were the coffee table tomes New York Nude and L A Nude all glossy and cautiously turned out for a time when having such a thing on the designer glass surface next to your mauve leather sectional made you hip and cool.
Greg is an artist for a grittier loft style art lover.
“STRIPPED” somehow allows the viewer to share a sense of how Vegas can make you a little crazy.
I had done an art show there some years back for a couple of weeks-one of those juried mall things where the show people would come by and buy a piece and then try to return it before you left town but AFTER it had made its splash or crash dive at their cold salmon supper.
Dill sauce and David Copperfield, that girl from SPLASH couldn’t come…
By the end of it all I had gained was about 20 lbs and a terrible cold from all that dirty change pouring out of the slots---all I wanted was to go home to California and regain my stability.
ANYWHERE to get away from Las Vegas.
Vegas is like that-a city to go to and get away from...I feel the same about Chicago.
What Greg Friedler does is stare down a camera at the world while it stands for him NAKED and lets him see all the folds and carnival canvas oddity of the thing without making a judgment.
He is a handsome fellow, angst ridden and intense who can be a brooding storm one moment and then shine like sunrise over Caesar’s Palace the next-from New Orleans as an aside it doesn’t seem to affect his aesthetic much but then who knows-I have no intimate knowledge of the man I watched him on a documentary entice, cajole, demand and persuade…people…into showing themselves in all their vulnerable nakedness to his camera for the purpose of being finally in a book---one of a series----where he stands you next to yourself and without asking the question you answer it-I seem more comfortable NAKED.
I was immediately attracted and fascinated-I wanted in a way to sit down and talk to him at length about all that he did and what he didn’t do.
There is a segment where he communicates with a fellow who most of us would glance at-do one of those “Thank God it’s not me” double takes and then move on by forgetting before we had registered the entire event.
This happens to be a homeless gay man with somehow endearing Dumbo ears and a face familiar in all of its alien strangeness.
GF then does the unthinkable-he hugs the man with all the care and warmth that most of us lack when it comes to one of those “who know where it’s been” moments.
And I, weeping, then wondering why saw it and cataloged it and later chastised myself for even pausing to wonder-the man cares you can see it in his work…it’s right there…you talk about seeing and then you don’t bother to look.
And so goes the journey as he pursues the ultimate Elvis impersonator and finds a showgirl with a costume and transsexuals, female impersonators all sort of flavors for the Vegas buffet of humanity exposed and more than exposed laid bare…
I watched the doc several times-I ordered what of the series I could find and afford-
I prefer the black and white books over the color-that’s me-I am about shades of grey-sometimes colour, as much as I saturate my work with it, annoys me.
Greg just shoots-aims, sees and shoots-he knows the subtlety of nuance-you see it in the film when he is shooting his subjects-I have told people over and over about tension or lack of tension in the line of a hand or how a shadow caresses a hip bone-the slight turn to or away from viewer, eyes…so important eyes...they see, you see that they see…or not.
Much about living, life and the living dead in eyes…
What song is that from?
“Burned out ends of smoky days…”
Eyes are like that.
See, it doesn’t matter that they’re naked and yet it does, very much---he knows that…
Side by side with themselves on the slick pages of the books they know that-you can see it in the photos.
So it is with the homeless, aging, gay fellow, living with AIDS amidst the burned out, shuttered up leftovers of what was Las Vegas---another part of town where you know you haven’t been…no clanging, noisy, flashing lights slot machines here…boarded up, closed down, over, waiting desert dry and parched.
Sadly sweet, bitter sweet…another ending waiting to happen but caught forever before the last breath comes and lonely winds push the memory down the dusty streets to anywhere but here.
YET at the end of it all and having looked at his work, first hungrily and then slowly and carefully/cautiously---at the end of it there is hope and a wanting of more-because there is an honesty that we didn’t get from those first attempts by others at documenting naked people.
This is seeing on another level and like other artists similarly driven to express what they feel (visually or otherwise)-this work may not be appreciated fully until too late to have more of it.
Pity if true.
I got 3 of his paperback books from the NAKED series on AMAZON.COM