Friday, March 10, 2006

robert capa

"if your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough."
- Robert Capa

On June 6th 1944 Allied forces attacked the beaches of Normandy and the 'Atlantic Wall': a mass of concrete bunkers, mines, tangles of razorwire and guns. that day soldiers, only anonymous human beings, volunteered their veins, bones, lungs, blood, legs, arms and skins when they jumped off hundreds of boats and ran directly into a firestorm and rains of iron.

Robert Capa carried no gun, only two Contax cameras when he jumped off with the soldiers, and shot 108 pictures over two hours. Later, the negatives were accidentally melted by a lab technician and only 11 survived. here is one of them:

Capa was a war photographer, and he witnessed many wars. He was there during the Spanish Civil War, the revolutionary war in China, in the aftermath of WWII in the Ukraine, and was there in Italy, in Germany during the war. He was there in Mexico too. The fact that Capa walked among bullets and fire to see these things and bring back their memories for others to know about is something. He died in 1954 in Vietnam, May 25th, 2:55pm, stepped on a land mine, in the afternoon.

one of the last soldiers to die in the Second World War, taken by Capa ten years earlier.

But Capa understood something that comes through all his pictures. In all these terrible things the adult world makes, violence, cruelty, fanaticism, that it continually makes, human beings themselves are as innocent and good as children, if you catch them at the right moment. And that is what Capa waits for. His work is valuable if only for having borne witness to moments of life that would have been erased under the wheels, the bombs, the lies and the arrogance, and that is something. One of his common subjects are children in war zones, and especially the expressions on their faces, or their attitudes in their savage environments-

And I understand now why he was drawn to this subject. Kids in war zones look strikingly noble and innocent, and from there its not a far stretch to realize that the adults in these wars still possess in far more abundance childlike qualities than we realize. At least, Capa sees it:

In these adults, among all the death and suffering, in their faces we see innocence, courage, fear, nobility present in such an unassuming and wide-eyed way. The mass of human beings live under the chaos and cruelty of the world without having any understanding or control over it, while a few well-placed people, with no more and often less capacity to decide the fates of millions, decide what to destroy and what to create. But Capa sees this innocence in us, maybe he sees it grow and stand out in times of violence and fear. That we are really children, affecting the world with the power of adults, still lost and new to the earth, still frightening ourselves with our capacity for violence.

And thats why I love that motherfucker.

Monday, March 06, 2006

valentine's day

in early february, among the snows retreating into puddles, the low winter sun drifting, waking slowly like a bear, blinking for a little while then going back to sleep for a little longer, in my wandering and stumbling through this unasked-for life, after haven come from across the country and back, seen the wars of the street, the geniuses and the devils of the backalley apartments, roamed the wooden hills and seen moose galloping across the northern highways like a hero in an old story, lain in the arms of brief lovers beside overflowing ashtrays with all the poetry of Juliet's poison, i have old scars that i no longer remember where they came from, seen my friend's meltdown and go mad in this million year old earth me and him only know this small day, the strangers who crashed on my floor in their private wars, the tranny who never revealed to her lovers she had boy parts and so risked death, looking out the windows of trajic hotel rooms, the brotherhood shared in industrial basements whilst chasing dragons,

one day in early February i got a heartbreak so bad it nearly tore me in two and watched love walk away so easily after all my clumsy romance and my torn jackets ten years old. And everywhere i noticed the blue of the early night sky, and i sat with the young drifters and they told me all the good and terrible things they had seen, i wandered down to the city where the big smoke rises and walked among the steel statues of a wild future, i found friends in unlikely places and kept sorrow out for a night here and there. They offered their booze and their cynicism, their faith and their uncertainty, because anyone with a heart, and i mean anyone, knows what alone is.

she was a beautiful girl, and i lost my chance before i knew i had one. i dont know where she'll end up, but wherever it is the sky will be the colour of bluebells and the storms will be crazy symphonies of rain and clouds graceful like the bellies of mares. She loved innocence, she loved the wounded, and to my sadness she fell in love with another before my very eyes. But in her defence none of us are allowed to choose who we would love, and we must get up in the morning and live the next day wherever we are.

On Valentine's Day i watched over the kids and woke them up the next morning and got them into that day, and i dragged myself home and caught the little birds singing in the bare branches and fell into a troubled sleep, while my love, i knew, kissed and had inaudible conversations. In this small town at the northern edge of the world, among the forests and farms, i wondered where i would wander off to next, and all the sad and beautiful things i was going to see and love whether i wanted to or not.