When I first saw the light of day, my parents were utterly stumped. I was supposed to be a boy and my high-pitched girly wails interfered with their well-laid plans. They only had one name picked out, Giacomo, in honour of my godfather, a famous soccer player and family friend. He and I were going to have a lifelong bond and a shared name.
Trying to make sense of the world and life through food and words.
“Quite often I feel as if my soul is in the past and my mind is in the future”.
To say that Luther Gerlach is in love with the past would be too reductive. It might be more accurate to say that Luther Gerlach is in love with the photographing technique and equipment of the past that allow him to take photographs of modern subjects as if it were still 1850.
In his words: “By reducing subjects to their essence, and using the journey of process required to produce them, I create photographs that reflect an emotional state. This journey of process involves the use of large-format cameras and lenses dating from 1850 to 1920, which I have been collecting and restoring for many years.”
In our digital world, devoid of worries for wasting film or wasting time, with airbrushing and apps, and everything in between, that can elevate mediocre photographers to passable ones, dedicating one’s life to taking photographs that require mind-boggling detailed work, could seem a bit anachronistic. But, looking more closely, it’s a search for integrity.
Luther Gerlach fell in love with the art of photography early in life.
“My passion for photography began at the age of ten. My father’s anthropology studies led our family throughout the world, providing the inspirational canvas for what was to become my lifelong devotion to the art of photography.”
Through the years and “the growing standardization of photography”, Luther found trying to understand “the meaning of line and light”, using them to create poetry on a canvas, more interesting than just pushing buttons.
For over 20 years, Luther has been taking photographs using original cameras from the late 19th/early 20th century and developing the images using the wet-plate collodion process, a painstaking, multi-step technique that uses a chemical solution on glass plates to capture images with remarkable depth of detail. A good day will yield half a dozen photographs as subject, light and composition must be studied at length and perfectly aligned before the shutter opens.
The results, be they portraits, nudes or landscapes, possess the warmth of the sepia tones, the dreamy notes of times gone by but seen through the eyes of a 21st century artist: they can be magical and unsettling at the same time.
“[The cameras] have a magical quality which helps me to bring forth an undefinable depth of feeling and poetic structure in my photographs. My primary concern is that this art communicates not only on a factual level, but on a level of beauty and emotion.
Many thanks to Marie S. for introducing me to the artist.
All photographs copyright of Luther Gerlach – For more information on the artist: luthergerlach.com
“In the years before we were married, we were ‘just dancing’.” The Moral Indefensibility of the Defence of Marriage Act
My first, openly gay pal was a guy called Mark. We worked together at an Advertising agency in Johannesburg. I was 19 and the Creative Department secretary. Mark was a budding art director. I was fascinated that he only ever wore shades of grey. He was amused that I said anything that came into my head – and knew how to pronounce Tao correctly (he was a huge fan of ‘the right way’).
We had lunch together every day – sitting in the sun outside the ugly concrete building that housed our agency. And imagined our futures. I would travel all over the world and be rich. He would find someone who loved him, get married and have a gracious home – filled with his delicate watercolours and sunlight. We would tease each other about the role reversal, and plan what we would wear to his wedding. Then he would laugh and say ruefully: “as if …”.
A few days before July 10, 2009, Sir Edward Downes, Conductor Emeritus of the BBC Philharmonic, and his wife, Lady Joan, travelled to Switzerland. Lady Joan was in the final stages of cancer and Sir Edward was completely blind and severely deaf, although not terminally ill. She was 74 and he was 85 and they had been married 54 years.
Leo and I have been conducting a love affair of sorts since my teens, when I first opened a four-volume paperback of “War and Peace” and fell madly in love with Prince Andrei and Natasha, and thought it extremely unfair I wasn’t born a century and a half earlier.
It might be a bit presumptuous of me to give advice to parents, as I am only half a parent myself – I raised two step-children which, let me assure you, is a very different ballgame than having children of your own. From my 50-year-old perch, this might also sound like the usual “when I was young things used to be better” kind of tale but, looking at the over-parented children I am often in contact with, I am fairly certain they would all benefit from less protection and more exposure to travel. Or life in general.
A couple of days ago, walking back from retrieving the trash cans from the bottom of my driveway – a despised but necessary evil – I stopped to observe my dogs engaging in a bit of problem solving. They had heard one of the neighbours’ horses whinnying from an unexpected direction and were curious to see what was going on. Unfortunately, trees, a fence and a low wall impeded their view. Portia climbed to the highest point she could think of and stretched her neck – still not good. Ottie pondered the problem for a few seconds then, counter-intuitively, marched down the slope, circumnavigated the wall protecting the propane tank, hopped on a conveniently placed crate and, from there, climbed to the top of the low wall. Mission accomplished. For a few minutes, I put everything else aside and immersed myself in my very own National Geographic documentary.
The guessing game I inflicted on my unsuspecting guests was “what would we have eaten on a Sunday night in 1861?”. Blank looks ensued. I thought inviting people over for dinner and preparing a meal straight out of Mrs. Beeton’s “Book of Household Management”, in the interest of finding out if food cooked in the 1860’s could stand the test of time, would be fun and a conversation starter. As the day approached, I wasn’t so sure anymore. Did I have a plan B? Not really and no restaurant delivers where I live. In the back of my mind I decided that a bowl of pasta would be a respectable fallback if all else failed.