View Full Version : Photography: An Archive of Our Lives

Dec-15-2005, 14:34

Most of us, without particularly meaning to, have accumulated--from commercials, from ads in magazines, from picture books, from movies--a mental archive of images of the West, a personal West-in-the-Mind’s eye in which we see an eternal pastoral, very beautiful but usually unpeopled. These potent images, pelting us decade after decade, finally implant notions about how the West was explored and developed, in a word, won that are unrealistic. Photography has helped to redress the balance little by little with its rich but disordered resource. Over the last seventy years studies of various kinds and the occasional autobiography, like We Pointed Them North(1939), have helped to alter the picture that is engraved on all our brains from TV and the movies: Roy Rogers, Gene Autrey, the Lone Ranger, Butch Cassidy, et al.-Ron Price with thanks to Larry McMurtry, “High Noon”, a review of The New Encyclopedia of the Amercan West, editor Howard R. Lamar, Yale UP, in The Australian Review of Books, December 1998, pp.17-19.

The enterprise began, perhaps as early as 1894 when the first Baha’is landed in America from the Middle East, or even when the Letters of the Living travelled throughout Iran in 1844 and thereafter. The twenty-five years from 1894 to 1919 was a precursor to the year 1919 when the Tablets of the Divine Plan were read and a pioneering program began that is now eighty years old. It is a program that is immensely diverse and operates at local, regional, national and international levels. It is important, as the Baha’i community comes to describe this vast and complex story, that it avoids a tendency to an affinity with the reverential writers of medieval England, to endless edification and to what is called hagiography. There is a need to emotionally individualize stories so that readers will not have to piously wade through hundreds of pages of lifeless prose.
-Ron Price with thanks to Edward Morrison,”When the Saints Come Marching In: The Art of Baha’i Biography”, Dialogue, Vol.1 No.1, Winter 1986, pp.32-35.

Defining character,
determining worth,
touching on the personal,
bringing people out of
verbal concrete,
through understanding.

Needing an eye
for telling detail,
a certain dramatic power,
analysis and interpretation,
with incisiveness and conviction,
with no doubt about its being true,
a willingness to deal with the unpleasant,
for we need more than a glimpse.
We need the story of the saintliness
in all its unsaintliness.

It is as difficult to write
a good life as to live one.
We want to know we are not alone:
for the community is its own ritual,
the greatest drama in the world of existence,
something forever new and unforeseen,
devoid, in writing, of appearances and pretentions,
a mysterious development, this writing, of many values,
conveying to the reading public
insight and a knowing who they are
into their lives.

Ron Price
1 February 1999

Dec-15-2005, 14:39
Here is a sample of that archive....of a rich, inevitably disordered, diverse, but awesomely wonderful resource for our eyes.-Ron

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is holding a retrospective this month, in April 2000, on the photographical work of Walker Evans. I know nothing about Mr. Evans, but his photography was an interesting document on his times, a record of his days and years, the sentiments and styles in the first half century of American history and a personal autobiography. The brief summary I saw, perhaps ten minutes, on The News Hour with Tim Lehrer went by so quickly I did not catch it all. But it had something to say, indirectly, about my own autobiographical work.-Ron Price with thanks to The News Hour with Tim Lehrer, 5:00-6:00 pm, 7 April 2000.

Showing my world as I see it:
a poet warrior, heavily armed
with the stuff of my life, my
world, my religion, my soul,
a document over three epochs,
a record of my days,
not so plain and simple,
clear and visually straight
from the shoulder as Evan’s work.
But, with Keats, an almost instant
transmutation of impressions,
thoughts, reading and ideas
into poetry, well, what some
might call poetry, what I might
see as a study for poetry.1

1 See Robert Gittings, Selected Poems and Letters of Keats, Heinemann Books Ltd., London, 1981(1966), pp.8-11.

Ron Price
7 April 2000