Tuesday, December 9, 2008

All American

Burk Uzzle, Desert Prada, Texas, 2005

"It's now come to the point where I personally believe I'm being had. It's hard for me to look at what's happening and not conclude that your bosses have decided to systematically screw the photographers. What is the value standard that is at work here? How can this not lead to a progressively more shallow magazine? How can I want to go the extra mile for such people?

I just don't want to go along with it any more. I want to be paid fairly for my work. Just as I bring honor to your pages by investing my talents, and experience, and caring - I feel it is only right that you should fairly honor my abilities and commitment to fine work.

And I really don't like having to conclude that management people, thinking only with their calculators, are taking advantage of the vulnerability of young, naive photographers that have not figured out that they and their careers are being sold down the river.

Let's all get through this bad time, and start growing again".

This is what Burk Uzzle wrote in 2001 to Newsweek (source), turning down an assignment for the above reasons.

Former Magnum member and later two-terms president of the agency, Burk Uzzle (see also here and here) is one of the great storytellers of American life, interested in "small towns and ordinary places", as he wrote himself. His photographs are full of irony and visual strength, paving the road for a lot of photography to come, and even his most recent pictures are absolutely fresh, younger than many works of his generation, wiser than many who came after him.

Burk Uzzle, Cowboy with Pink Eighteen, Wheeler, New Mexico, 2006

His images made me think about another great explorer of the American paradox, Henry Wessel, who completes Uzzle's effort providing us an insight of the 'other' America, the glittering triviality of California.

Henry Wessel, Waikiki, 1985

Questo è quello che Burk Uzzle scrisse a Newsweek nel 2001 (qui la lettera), rifiutando un lavoro per le ragioni sopraelencate.

Membro della Magnum per diversi anni e presidente per due anni consecutivi, Burk Uzzle (anche qui e qui) è uno dei grandi narratori americani, dedito a "piccole città e a luoghi ordinari", come lui stesso ha scritto. Le sue immagini sono piene di ironia e forza visiva, e preparano la strada a tanta fotografia venuta dopo. Anche le sue fotografie più recenti hanno una grande freschezza, più giovani di quelle di tanti della sua generazione, più sagge di quelle di tanti venuti dopo.

I suoi lavori mi hanno fatto ripensare ad un altro esploratore del paradosso americano, Henry Wessel, il quale in qualche modo completa l'impresa di Uzzle dandoci un'immagine dell'altra America, quella della luccicante trivialità della California.

Henry Wessel, Southern California, 1985


Anonymous said...

Hello! I saw first photo at Paris Photo Fair and I asked the gallerist as I liked it a lot. The gallerist told me that it is a photo of an installation of the artists Elmgreen and Dragset, link here,

Fabio Severo said...

Which could lead to the question of what makes the picture, the photographer or the artists' installation. But Uzzle's body of work is full other beautiful images, hence probably the dilemma is not so relevant.

Anonymous said...

I like his photos, his subjects and also his attitude.
I guess it was only that the picture is very bizarre and I couldn´t believe this place exists.
Perhaps other questions could be, should artists who do site-specific projects be good photographers, or collaborate with a good photographer? As photos will be the way they will show their work.