09 April 2007

When The Child Was a Child...

The Photography of Mary Ellen Mark

Early morning on Rainbow Bridge, Rat leaps eighty feet into the water.

Rat (Voice over): I love to fly. It's just you're alone, there's peace and quiet, nothing around you but clear blue sky. No one to hassle you. No one to tell you where to go or what to do. The only bad part about flying is having to come back down to the fuckin' world.

I got the new Adbusters in the mail the other day and was immediately taken aback by the cover which is based around the top photograph. The younger looking boy looked very familiar. I wondered whether it was someone I had worked with but then it came to me. A few years ago I saw a documentary about Seattle's street kids called Streetwise. The film was made in 1981 and was inspired by the photography of Mary Ellen Mark.

Franz Kafka once said, "A book must be an ice axe to break the sea frozen inside us." I'd say, that should apply to all art forms. As a social service worker, it is all too easy to become numb to the daily tribulations of society's less fortunate. Some days a 'client' might mean nothing more to you than an hour's worth of paper work. Devouring Mark's images, certainly thawed my spirit, frozen by an inefficient, underfunded 'system' and a seemingly endless supply of 'clients,' temporarily at least. Mark's photography, to an extent, also renewed my faith in the role of the artist in this mess of a culture. But more than that, it helped me admitt that I'd rather be an artist than a social worker.
Beauty from the filth, prettiness in the shittiness.

(When the child was a child is the first line of Song Of Childhood by Peter Handke which serves as the opening monologue to one of the greatest films of all time.)