Pearls from artists* # 25
* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
February 21, 1924. A hell of a day yesterday. Bitter disappointment awaits the worker in photography.
After risking my neck to get the 8 x 10 camera on la azotea – flat roof – over Tina’s room, the highest vantage point of Lucerna 12, and after straining my back and stripping my nerves to capture a sweep of scurrying cloud forms, development revealed fog – ruinous fog – unmistakably from extraneous light – and a beautiful negative it was, or might have been!
The demon fog can play such uncanny tricks – always I am confounded, disconcerted, mystified until the trouble has been located. All morning I squinted and poked and probed, finally patching with felt the supposed leak due to a warped back, but I lost my negative, as fine a one as any of clouds I have done.
In a blue funk, I was ready to quit, and when Galvan called, accepted his suggestion that we ride into the country and then walk for a while.
North, and out of el distrito federal, he took us to a barranca – gorge – close by – in fact, hardly twenty minutes drive away, yet, from the desolation of this cactus covered gulch we seemed a hundred miles away from any city street. Cactus and rock and the tortuous curves of el arroyo seco – the dry gulch – a bleakness to the spot intensified by a lowering sky, black wrathful clouds, angrily unable to spill their burden of rain. We climbed, we shot, we lay on the dead grass and watched the sunset edge the clouds with rose, and all around stiff cacti in spreading silhouette. Tea with Galvan, his three old aunts and Don pepe – cajeta de Celaya, te, pasas – jelly from Celaya, tea, raisins, and sweet bread.
I feel better, to hell with photography, art, women and all.
Yet – I wished for my camera today. Those serrated stalks of the maguey, their bold uncompromising leaves cutting the horizon, they would make a fine jagged base to a typical Mexican sky.
Nancy Newhall, editor, The Daybooks of Edward Weston: Two Volumes in One: I. Mexico II. California
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