Americans born in the two decades following World War II grew up in an atmosphere of prosperity and hope. Between 1945 and 1970, US production of goods and services quadrupled, and much of the country began to take its modern form, with highways, motels and office buildings. By 1971, virtually every American household had a refrigerator, a washing machine, a TV and a vacuum cleaner and one in three had more than one car. Sure, there were problems, but wages, especially for manual workers, were rising, some of the worst legal barriers to racial equality were gradually being dismantled and, at least at first, the futile horrors of Vietnam were not widely known.

Dawoud Bey represents the first generation of young Black photographers radicalized by the Black Arts Movement to also fall under the hypnotic sway of DeCarava’s work and then forge their own paths to lensing the everyday beauty of the Black community. By the post-revolutionary 1970s there was no miracle or challenge for this generation of artists in seeing the iconographic faces of the Black community as works of art. Instead they faced the test of making art equal to the proliferation of the diverse beauty in the community’s DNA.

Sometime in early 2019 Kim Bourus invited me to her gallery, Higher Pictures, in Manhattan, to show me a book by Susan Lipper titled Grapevine, a classic I’d never laid eyes on, and Kim had a hunch it was my kind of book. Photographed in stark black and white with a flash-mounted Hasselblad, Grapevine chronicles scenes from daily life in a small, rural enclave in West Virginia.

Because Paul Hameline is an artist and a professional model, he isn’t quite naive. So he can be stoned, but he doesn’t really fit the description of the stoner. He is a partner in the room, often times steering the ship, because he is interested in how his image fits with all the images that have come before him. And I am thinking about the same thing. The raw materials, skin, carpet, foreskin, thin poster paper, ashes, a phone. I’m in the room with the subject of this history and when I’m not collaborating like this, I am steering the ship, but in this case we are both wondering what it’s like to be more naive (on his part) and more (parasitical/perverse) on my part.

In response to all my questions about his honeymoon in Sardinia, Guido told me I should also talk to Maurizio Preda. I therefore found out that there were actually three of them on the trip. Guido and his wife were accompanied by one of the close friends with whom he and Marta shared a house during his years studying architecture at university in Venice before they were married. So I called Maurizio to hear his account of the young photographer Guido in Sardinia. Talking to him was like opening a treasure chest of precious memories and anecdotes told with the enthusiasm of someone who gets excited about the great friendship of a lifetime, as if Guido were as dear to him as a brother.

We were southerners. People accustomed to the south’s smallness, its lack of majesty and moment – not at all people who “traveled,” but who only took “trips” to single destinations for single reasons, after which we came home where we belonged. Still. Easy to imagine how the great national cataract could appeal to us – we, who had to be up north, anyway, this one time – even if the appeal didn’t feel instinctual, seemed a bit wrong, even if we’d never known we wanted to go or could go, only knew about the falls off the cereal box, and then only that it was there.
Someone in heaven must have sketched the panorama stretching before me: people at rest, tucked into nooks and crannies. In each pocket is a different group or family, lovers, friends, different ethnic backgrounds, cultures, religions, all sharing the same place, the same lazy instant. This kaleidoscope, so serene and sublime, feels almost unreal, like a mirage. To make sure it’s true, I take a picture.
I love deeply everything about this book, starting with the title, quietly printed on a modest cover. The Russian superstition, which I practice devoutly, of sitting for a hushed moment before a long trip, evokes the sadness of goodbyes and the thrill of upcoming voyage. And I love the voyage that ensues here, thrusting us without introduction or ceremony into cramped apartments, saunas, buses, the gorgeous expanse of wilderness and stretches of streets; unabashed but awkward bodies fighting the cold, luxuriating in the sun; shared tea, cheap alcohol, and food around small kitchen tables or wherever it can be found.