Monday, June 29, 2009

"A goodlooking boy like you is always wanted," says the small town sheriff in 'The Fugitive Kind.'

Marlon Brando plays Val Xavier the tortured beauty in Sidney Lumet's groin-stirring stirring drama, 'The Fugitive Kind' (1960). Anna Magnani, Joanne Woodward, and Maureen Stapleton play the three small town women drawn to the guitar playing drifter like moths circling a light bulb on a hot summer night. Brando is the boy-man, young enough to exude an enticing vulnerability and old enough to display the scars of a boxer who has spent years in the ring.

The screenplay was adapted from a Tennessee Williams play penned in the 1930s. Val Xavier is the stranger who upsets the lives of the towns folk: the women who're attracted to him and the men who resent his intrusion. It's 'Sex in a Small Town" with the female leads as gay male stereotypes who've pinned their hopes on a stranger. There's the gay married man trapped in a sexless marriage (Magnani), the pretty young twink (Woodward) who has already done everyone and is desperate to get away, and the brow-beaten gentle soul (Stapleton) who wants to help and has settled for an insentive clunk of a husband.

Both the character Val and the real life actor, Brando, seemed totally self-aware of the sexual power they exerted over others. It seems to me that this power caused him some conflict: he didn't want to abuse it yet he always used it. A model and musician once admitted to me after several beers and bourbon shots that he didn't want to be an unreliable, undependable friend, but that he knew that he could always make new friends, so he'd just let the old ones slide away when they had served their purpose.

"To me a movie is about revelation and human behavior." Sidney Lumet

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson died.

When 'Thriller' came out in 1982, I was a Christian Campus Minister in Louisville, Kentucky and pushing hard on my closet door, coming out as a gay man. By the summer of 1983, I had knocked the door off the hinges and was on my way to New York City where I'd been accepted into the Film School of Columbia University.

The previous years, I had served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, traveling to University and College campuses where I counseled and encouraged young Christians, urging and training them to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with their unsaved peers. When I abandoned my former world and landed in New York, I discovered I'd come upon a different planet and exchanged the fear of God for the fear of AIDS.

More than twenty years later, I've been looking through old Kodachromes, piecing together how I saw the world during that period of my young life.  In coming days I'll share more of those images from my Jesus Days.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

How do you choose one image over another.  That's the dilemma I suffered today with these two similar but very different images.  Which is stronger?  The direct gaze or the gaze to the side?  Which one pulls you in?  Which person do you want to meet?

I've always been drawn to beauty and it disturbs me that beauty is often cast aside as if it were not important enough in art and that it only serves a commercial purpose.  I differ.  Beauty enlivens my world.   Years ago, my nephew, who was only about eight at the time) expressed his exasperation with his older sister's choice of music.  "It's not even pretty," he exclaimed.  Even at such a young age he was drawn to that which sounded beautiful to him.  So even children acknowledge and recognize beauty and find pleasure in it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

After spending a year and a half, searching through dusty and dented boxes brimming with tossed negative sleeves, retrieving images from days past, and then scanning the edits, I decided to pick up my beloved Contax camera and shoot again. Blame it on Spring, but it was time to get out there and do something again. Although it's not that I've not photographed at all, but that I've just shot very little, other than my family in Kentucky, whose likenesses I've frozen on film for more than two decades.

I went into Central Park on a rare sunny day and focused my lens on Justin, a newbie to New York from North Carolina. I had spied Justin at one of my event jobs that I do to survive in the City as a cater-waiter. It always fascinates me as to why a photographer or painter chooses to photograph or paint one subject over another. What makes someone interesting? And how do you carry that quality over into a print or on a canvas? Through cater-waitering in New York, I've met a lot of actor/model types who live for being the center of someone's attention, but what engaged me about Justin -- a part from his fiery hair -- was his subtle air of detachment and bemusement in the people and events going on around him. He didn't seem to be asking, if not demanding, attention.