Thursday, November 4, 2010

Art Brewer Lecture at the School of Visual Arts

As is the way around New York, around our particular New York, things tend to work on a weirdly tight schedule. This is not the way it is in other places I've lived, I know it is not the way Antonio likes to envision the time-frames that encompass his life, but it is nevertheless the relationship we currently have with time. So if the lecture starts thirty minutes late, I'm generally going to have to leave at least thirty minutes earlier than the end. That is, if the whole shebang takes the allotted amount of time. Which never happens. And one usually can't just leave in the middle of something. Except a lecture. Or in this case, a slide show. All to say that while Antonio was allowed to be about fifteen to twenty minutes more generous with his time, we both ended up missing the much coveted Q&A portion of Art Brewer's SVA lecture/slide presentation tonight. That said, we did glean some good insights, or what I'd like for you to refer from here on out as insights, from the show. Or at least certain things struck each of us differently at different times.
What stood out to me is that the surfing action shots had an energetic focus squarely on the magical interplay of board and water. Almost as if Brewer would watch the way the water shifted around the rails, or the way the board weighed on top of the water, and take the photo at the most interesting hydrodynamic moment, trusting that intriguing interaction would necessitate the right stylistic contortions of the body by the best surfers in the most critical part of the wave. As if the whole composition extends out, not from surfer, or wave or maneuver, but from the aquatic life of the board itself. A pretty magical thing to focus on. And one I hadn't put too much thought into before.
Antonio remarked upon the sheer "otherness" of the class of photography on tap. A fortunately unfettered access to an array of surfing stars in their supple nubility surfing pristine breaks yet to be ravaged by human overcrowding at a time when getting there looked like more of a concern than which equipment to pack. The whole thing just seems so removed, so special, so other, as Tony put it "just in another class." When the weight of Art Brewer's forty years of interaction with surfing presses on your corneas, it just weighs different.
Before starting the slide show, Brewer did introduce a few concepts, the most interesting of which was the idea that he started photographing to share. He didn't start photographing to capture the moment, or make some artistic statement, or find a way to fight the system. He just thought it was neat to get out there and share some memories with friends. And that's about as good as it gets.

Sorry we don't have more to say. I can assure you, had we been able to stick around, our challenging and insightful questions would have zinged Mr. Brewer through and through. Through and through. But it seems like an inordinate amount of thanks is due to one Malcom Lightner, who, while being a surfer himself, has been able to open up new opportunities to previously landlocked photog wannabes as SVA's Director of Operations for their BFA program in photography. Nice job Malcom. If you ever need an on-site video editor down there on one of those surf/photo class trips to Rincon...

And a quick reminder, right before or after or during your commute to see the Endless Summer on a massive scale (see below), Mr. Brewer will be signing books at Mollusk over in Billburg.

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