Given the mundane world office workers endure it's no surprise that an after-work visit to the pub is an obligatory social fate for Londoners. But, i've listened enough with inner tedium to the day-after stories; the self-pleased (heroic), hand-on-head moan, "Aaaggh, what a night!”
One can accept a rock star’s life of back-room decadence or even a high society social gathering of fakery, but to go out on a friday night, stand around in some sound-crammed, over-priced pub or club, scrounging for conversation, while the effects of crap beer or wine numb the brain, feels a crude way of being among friends.
Why is getting smashed, and paying for it, the badge of saturday morning accomplishment?
Perhaps the answer lies in the words of Desmond Morris:
“The true appeal of this type of interlude lies in its shared pain – the cruel humour, the loss of self control, the threat of violence, the nausea and the hangover. Members of any group that finds itself faced by a shared disaster experience a powerful emotional-bonding process. Kidnap, hostages, shipwreck survivors, soldiers under fire, all become bonded more intensely than people enjoying relaxed relationships….The shared hangovers give the drinkers the sense that they have emerged from a group trauma. And they feel strangely closer for it.”
I've had my share of drunken revelries, but it seems rather disappointing to find this enactment of trauma actually provides a sense of valuable togetherness. Sadly I have to admit some sense of social accomplishment myself.
"Frank had taken off for Peru, like a naturalised Huck Finn in Mark Twain's novel, because he wanted to escape the commercial success he was beginning to have in New York shooting for fashion magazines. He felt that failing at something was more stimulating than succeeding..." - The New History of Photography, Konnemann
The American traveler photographer mystic is a popular strain of photography and seems to have become a process, originating in Evans, where the face of America is redefined each time someone photographs it in a new way.
'Ordinary' America, in this tradition, appears, largely, to be the subject matter, whether by 'on the road' shots, direct portrait, mundane streets or odd suburban paraphernalia. Ironically the audience, generally speaking could not be further from this apparent 'common' world, yet it is amongst this audience and through its media where the identity of America is actually defined and reflected visually.
If they (our folk outside the photographic sphere) get to see these works at all, would they not be looking at themselves and their pictured environment with perplexity rather than recognition? I suspect, too, that they would be too busy living their ordinariness to waste time on a photograph. Perhaps they won't even be aware, 20 years from the shutter's moment of truth, that via a gradual cultural osmosis, photography will have given them a new face and called it America.
Because cultures don't really model themselves on the photographic image; they develop instead along their own lines of traditions and norms, we may find the public visual map of America, widely differing from its actuality and that the pictorial definition is far more about the photographer (and his following) than the subject and their identity, however noble or ideal the pursuit.
Was America ever like Stephen Shore's vision, if so is it still that way? For those of us that aren't in that world we may really think it is, if we don't carefully notice that the dates say 1973-1979, or when at some point we are shown a differing image by a new generation of photographers.
We've tired long ago of the oft repeated 'superstitious' fear claiming that the camera steals one's soul. Perhaps though, it's really true, well in so far as it substitutes it with a select fake?
"We're full!", the flat faced caretaker said. We'd arrived late and without booking.
With nowhere for us to go she was forced to concede a 10x10 foot cell - her own room, she claimed.
Later as the moon glanced into our valley we could feel the fleas and hear the scampering, rustling sound at the base of the bed. We couldn't sleep and went outside to sit on the rocks while the slow ball of a moon drifted upward gradually dinimishing in size.
In the morning some tourists left. We were given a Banda (cottage), with a great stretch of Ngulia valley before it and right next to a tree full of loud weaver birds.
We unloaded the car then drove aimlessly for hours - corrugated roads and viscous horse flies and baking heat - seeing nothing, or a rare beast or just impenetrable green thorny bush.
Then at camp again, the weavers had stopped chattering. We sat around on the verandah with our drinks looking out into the night.
"The dogs were still alive.
"They were pets, abandoned by owners fleeing in panic. You could see dogs of all the most expensive breeds, without masters - boxers, bulldogs, greyhounds, Dobermans, dachshunds, Airedales, spaniels, even Scotch terriers and Great Danes, pugs and poodles. Deserted, stray, they roamed in a great pack looking for food. As long as the Portuguese army was there, the dogs gathered every morning on the the square in front of the general headquarters and the sentries fed them with canned NATO rations. It was like watching an international pedigreed dog show. Afterwards the fed, satisfied pack moved to the soft, juicy mowed lawn of the Government Palace . An unlikely mass sex orgy began, excited and indefatigable madness, chasing and tumbling to the point of utter abandon. It gave the bored sentries a lot of ribald amusement."
Before you've even hit the second page, you're immersed, bullets singing past you, rusty bars and heavy knives jabbing at you, and the smell of petrol on flaming flesh.
The insanity of racial violence bought to you by way of 'beach bum' photographers and, dowsed with intimacy and history; girl friends, mandrax and bhang parties, Reuter contracts, suicide and Afrikaner gunslinging racists (itching for a full on battle to the death with black people). Out of this chaos emerge images that win the pullizers, sell newspapers and signpost history.
But the awe dies, you've realised, that in fact, bringing yourself to within a hairsbreadth of death (yours or someone else's), might not be so heroic after all, it's like voyeurism into lunacy, but once you've seen it, an apathetic deadness sinks in, faith in life destroyed when you see how much is now left to repair.
Apartheid has barely faded and the Rwandan genocide is coming alive and then Iraq and Iraq, and shit you know I've missed some. bang, bang, bang!
The Bang Bang Club by Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva