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Atget

Icon from http://www.op.net/~uarts/krupa/index.html website which was desroyed ca. 2001, Nothing lasts forever, but a lot of things don't even last long, on the Internet.

Back before 2002 on the Internet, there was a lovely little website devoted to the sewers of Paris. There were pictures and text. It was very "low tech" (maybe HTML 3.2?) but it was good quality. It is now gone, along with all the other good things in the past. Much of the past (and present and future...) is not good. But some of the past had value. Surely to be able to walk in the street in the above picture would be preferable to walking on a street in Levittown, on Long Island, in The United States of Ronnie and Nancy, yes? Or immigrants from North Africa who want to keep their religiously bigoted uncivilized social customs but live off the French Republic's social services?

The one time I was in Brussels (Belgium) I went out from my hotel, running on cobblestone streets like the one in the above picture, once even in light drizzle and fog like in this photograph. I should be able each time I walk out the door of my domicilage to enter onto a street such as this one and never have to see anything like a raised ranch tract house or a Dunkin Donuts franchise store.

When I worked at The Baltimore Museum of Art (1970), we had a travelling exhibition of Atget's photographs (that's how I learned about him). The photographs in the exhibit were, of course, beautiful. Also beautiful was the single large wood shipping crate in which the whole exhibit was packed. All the photographs were small and the same size; each had a slot in a row in the crate and there were maybe 20 slots wide per row and 8 rows high. All you saw in theloaded shipping crate were the edge of the plexiglass frame of each photograph in its slot.. One could have exhibited the packing crate with all the photographs stored each in its slot, contrast with some inane piece of "minimalist" art like something Dan ribo-Flavin might have made (what a jerk!).

Mr. Atget was apparently a very strange man. I read he lived on bread, milk and sugar cubes, or something like that. But he did make it to 70 years old. He spent the last years of his life documenting the old city of Paris. Who needs to travel anywhere when one has such an æsthetically rich surround at home? Obviously, we want modern antibiotics and anesthetics. But why do we need to be impinged upon by all the techno glitz stuff?

Atget USA 2021

In the earliest faint beginnings of dawn (before 5AM), when I can just barely make out where the road ends and the vegetation alongside it begins. In the moist, warm, foggy midsummer air, my middle-class Westchester New York suburban neighborhood looks largely like Atget phosographs, as I walk carefully down the almost indistinguishable road where there are no cars driving at this early hour. I can barely make out the large trees everywhere, and I cannot distinguish the trees from the overgrown obnoxious weeds -- they're all just a little darker than the gray sky and road. I cannot see a lot of things, and the few things I can see are vague outlines. This is fortunate because the things I cannot see are mostly not pleasant for me to see. The illusion is broken only by the few house lights that are on at this hour. There are no street lights (if there were any, they might be Magritte-like?). As the light gathers and everything brightens and things become more clearly differentiated, the illusion diminishes, to be replaced in broad daylight by the reality of single family dwellings in suburbia -- not as bad as a Levittown or other cookie-cutter "development", but not anything like Atget's 19th Century Paris. In the gathering light of day, it once again reverts to looking like what it is.  
 
 

+2022.07.17 v003
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