jolie laide

jolie laide

I started this when I lived in Brooklyn and struggled for grace in a city that grants moments of beauty and ugliness breathtakingly close to one another. Now I live in a place where things are a different kind of ugly and the beauty is pedestrian. I struggle with that.


The woman tells the story of her father teaching her to swim, his hands supporting her in the water, the important lesson of learning to float because floating will save you if you are imperiled. I try to imagine a father's hands on my waist, a weightlessness, and I do, I can, but it is not imagining it is memory. Of my father lifting me up, up but we are not in water, we are on the roof of our high rise building, and now he is holding me over the edge too far too far and I do not know what madness, what lesson he is trying to impart with my life balancing on his hands, on this parapet.

This memory sours my day. Someone has vomited on the sidewalk, and covered their shame with a newspaper. Beyond the rectangle of paper is the splatter of forceful sickness and a light rain has fixed the whole mess fast.

The women line up for a photograph I see suddenly, in their careful dress and styling, everything they are trying to hide: a thick waist, short legs, oddly set breasts, an overall lack of grace. They angle their faces towards the camera, expectant, and I would like to see a natural heliotrophism but I realize that here too is the result of hours of examination and camoflauge, the heads held just so, the approach to the lens so exact as to hide puffy undereyes, a jawline gone blurry with fat, a weak chin, an unlovliness.

Walking to the subway after work I take photograph after photograph, trying to frame what I see, trying to find balance in the rust and thievery, the hustle and garbage, the slums and disdain.


Blogger slickaphonic said...


I don't know exactly why, but this entry *gores* me.

maybe because I've felt quite ungraceful meself, lately...

12:46 AM  
Blogger remue-menage said...

I recognize the drift described here - from swimming to trauma

the nausea, the physical discomfort

unlike slickaphonic I like your harsh gaze - it carries the precision of some-one who is acutely aware

feminists always decry the violence of the masculine gaze (masculine violence in general) - but I think all gaze or sight (including that in the viewfinder of your cameraphone) is a violent reduction

1:12 PM  
Blogger ttractor said...

I did not mean to be un-empathetic when I looked at them, they were asking, no, demanding, to be looked at. They seemed to feel entitled to admiration. And suddenly the artifice was just so apparent.

I would like to be considered beautiful, talented, special. But I don't think I should get that consideration if I haven't earned it, and to get it from people who don't really know me...didn't Emily Dickinson write something about the croaking of toads?

2:21 PM  
Blogger ttractor said...

I will have to think more about the gaze and its violent reduction. I am not sure there is a 1:1 correlation, but the possibility surely exists.

When I am shooting rust and garbage I am trying to find the lyrical. Perhaps that is unfair to the garbage, and I should shoot it brutally. I guess that would make it sort of fanciful bullshit of me to find beauty in it. (this sounds sarcastic, but it's not. I'm pondering) What do you think?

2:30 PM  
Blogger remue-menage said...

by violent I don't mean brutish ... and I do - it is both more simple and complex than that

your cameraphone - takes three-dimensional space and converts into two-dimensional space

that's what I mean by violent reduction - what's brutal about it is that it's a distortion (every photograph is a distortion)

your is distortion is what you tease out of the cameraphone and what it means to you, what it means to the viewer

I love that you find beauty in detritus

in any case, don't overthink - or allow me to overthink what it is that you do

reminds me of the jazz saxophone player Sonny Rollins - a critic told him that his playing was astonishing, and he stopped playing ... for 5 years

just do it, Baby

I love it

5:17 PM  
Blogger four inches of ego said...

On another note, I am rather partial to the description of the makeshift cement that appears here and there on every sidewalk in every city -- whether it be vomit, discarded luncheon, or what-have-you.

But, on the issue of the gaze, I have always been enamored with the ways in which Degas uses the gaze. He produces implicit critiques of the male gaze as predatory by placing the viewer in the position of an implied watcher within the painting rather than offering conceptual relief by allowing the viewer to observe a painted figure standing in those pictured doorways.

To put it more plainly, he makes me feel so guilty and dirty for ppeing at those dancers in their dressing room.

8:13 PM  
Blogger four inches of ego said...

I meant "peeping" not "ppeing" in the above post, but today I have been having typing difficulties.

8:14 PM  
Blogger ttractor said...

well, and I agree that Degas was making you peep and I do think that his feelings are revealed not in a lyricism of form but in an awkwardness of pose. High class porn, in the worst sense of the word.

2:26 PM  

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