“To crack a nut is truly no feat, so no one would ever dare to collect an audience in order to entertain it with nut-cracking. But if all the same one does do that and succeeds in entertaining the public, then it cannot be a matter of simple nut-cracking. Or it is a matter of nut-cracking, but it turns out that we have overlooked the art of cracking nuts because we were too skilled in it and that this newcomer to it first shows us its real nature, even finding it useful in making his effects to be rather less expert in nut-cracking than most of us.”
— Josephine the Singer, Franz Kafka
These photographs were taken a long time ago, while living in Colorado, then California and finally Nova Scotia. Most of the pictures were shot while travelling across the U.S. and Canada, often on a Greyhound bus, stopping along the way to visit family and friends. Photography was an excuse to travel and travelling was an excuse to take pictures. It was exciting to re-shape a childhood obsession – wandering the streets of New York – into an adult profession. Coincidentally, the books I was reading confirmed the importance of careful observation – Nabokov’s advice on how to be a good reader, “notice and fondle details”, also describes the photographic mission.
And then, to discover that other photographers had marked a trail! The pictures I loved had many things in common: they were taken outdoors in public spaces; they were full of prosaic details; the photographers didn’t ‘make’ things to photograph, they ‘found’ things to photograph; the pictures were in black and white; the subject was often ambiguous; and the photos were full of contradictions – they were funny yet melancholy; they were precise descriptions yet strangely mysterious; they were faithful to the material world but also about each photographer’s quirky imagination; every picture described something saved but also something lost; they were two dimensional but created the illusion of three dimensional space; they were critical yet affectionate; and while they were full of social content they seemed intent on solving uniquely photographic problems. In short, the pictures were complicated and oxymoronic, and as a result, it felt like they were “true”. At heart, the photos echoed what I think WH Auden meant when he wrote: “Poetry is the clear expression of mixed feelings”.
You can press the “Play” button to activate the slide show, or you can browse the images using the left/right arrows on the screen or keyboard. Clicking on “Alvin Comiter” in the title bar will take you back to the home page where you can select other projects. If you’re using a touch screen you can swipe to the next photo.
All photographs: Copyright © 1970-2020 Alvin Comiter