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Monday, 31 December 2012

Forgetting the Words


Housing and back porches in the inner city of Uptown Chicago, Illinois, a neighborhood of poor white Southerners: photo by Danny Lyon, August 1974 

The purpose of words is to convey ideas. When the ideas are grasped, the words are forgotten.

Where can I find a man who has forgotten words? He is the one I would like to talk to.

Chuang Tzu: from Means and Ends (xxvi. II) in The Way of Chuang Tzu, translated by Thomas Merton, 1965

Two youths in Uptown, Chicago, Illinois: photo by Danny Lyon, August 1974

Abandoned house on the North Side of Chicago, Illinois: photo by Danny Lyon, August 1974

House in the inner city of Chicago, Illinois. The inner city today Is an absolute contradiction to the mainstream America of gas stations, expressways, shopping centers and tract homes. It is populated by blacks, Latins and the white poor. Some of the best American architecture survives in her "worst" neighborhoods, only because it hasn't [yet] been demolished: photo by Danny Lyon, August 1974

Photos by Danny Lyon (b. 1942) from the DOCUMERICA series, an Environmental Protection Agency program to photographically document subjects of environmental concern, compiled 1972-1977 (U.S. National Archives)


Anonymous said...

love the quote" ...I would also love to talk with that man...:) "words are source of misunderstanding" (The little Prince) Un gran abrazo para usted Tom!

Hazen said...

One of the things I like about Chicago is just this sort of architecture, and the industrial buildings too, from the same period. Chuang Tzu, Thomas Merton, Danny Lyon . . . a great triad.



Saturated (Kodak?) color in Danny Lyon's photos conveys something words can't get -- "becomes evidence" of days gone by, where are those "Two youths" of yesteryear?


light coming into sky above still black
ridge, white edge of moon behind branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

light by which we see light,
located in themselves

becomes evidence, following
end of that, photo of

silver of low sun reflected in channel,
shadowed green slope of ridge above it

Dalriada said...

I'm reminded of the late 70's early 80's a period when meditation was central to my living At that time I could barely put sentences together and had to painstakingly relearn how to write prose . . .

Some days I regret having made that effort

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

"He is the one
I would like to talk to"

Me, too.

TC said...

The paradox built into Chuang Tzu's saying is a reminder of the close family relation between what we call humour and what we call wisdom.

Danny Lyon's great photos of this part of Chicago in the years immediately prior to its "renovation" (gentrification) bring back powerful memories indeed, "becoming evidence" of a lost but not entirely forgotten past. My first ten years were passed in a building just like those in the top two shots here. Second storey back porch with rickety stairwell, precarious wooden railings: that's the frame in which I remember the world first appearing.

I love Danny Lyon's handling of Kodachrome, the brown and brick red tones marked with vivid bright red passages -- the medium in the hands of a master.

The red spots leaping out like semaphores... one recalls the story of Turner coming back for a last look at an exhibition of one of his grand seascapes just before the public opening, studying the canvas again as if for the first time, and then applying a single daub of bright red that brought the whole work instantly to life, forever.

All it took to turn the work from something very good to something unforgettable was that one abrupt red splash.

When the ideas and the words are lost, there are still the colours.