Sunday, September 10, 2006

It was listed as a "lecture"

Images so powerful and compelling that the added intensity of sounds, poetry and music drives me to silence.

I wrote those notes after the first half of a multi-media presentation by Larry Towell, a Magnum photographer, and Mike Stevens. As part of the "Wish You Were Here" lecture series at George Eastman House, the format was certainly not lecture.

The first half presented images of The Mennonites, followed by photos of "the disappeareds" in Guatamala, then Palestine. All were accompanied by poetry and verse, bones and other percussion instruments all by Towell, and Stevens on harmonica and bell.

My gut was pulled out of me. The Mennonite photos were touching and moving, but the Guatemala photos were beyond moving. Near despair combined with rage are the only words that I can muster, and they are not adequate.

Thankfully, the second half was far different. Titled "The World from My Front Porch", the series of photos and songs composed by Towell document family life in and around his farm. Towell plays guitar and has a good voice, but as his accompanist apparently had remarked, only knows one key. And his melodies are all roughly similar, though pleasant. The songs are, to me, distinctly Canadian, being rooted in the land and with a rural flavour that is reminiscent of other Canadian songwriters of the folk genre.

My emotions were twisted and wrenched again, however. It all made me incredibly homesick, and my eyes welled up. I thanked him afteward for "making me cry", and we had a short chat about it.

Right now I am drained and affected. As one of his poems elucidated, Guatemalans died for cheap cotton dresses in North American stores.


Jay Gannon said...

Towell is an amazing photogrpaher.
You should check out some of his photo essays on magnum in motion,
and also chack out Alex Majoli's work.a

WeeDram said...


I spent a long time today, after returning home from the presentation, perusing Towell's work in the albums there. I'll check Magnum in Motion tomorrow; thanks for the heads-up.

One thing I noticed is that the slides he presented are not as good technically as the 'shopped images on the website. It didn't really diminish the effect (obviously), but it was interesting.

I'm familiar with Majoli's work and I agree he's very good. I'll re-visit.

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