As a teenager in the 1960’s, I had already made my mind up to be a photographer. However, there were a few influences that solidified the idea and made the prospect of a career in the trade legitimate for me.
I lived in England and the art world was in full flight. The climate to be an artist was very encouraging. Princess Margaret, the Queen’s sister, had married a photographer, Anthony Armstrong-Jones. There was the glamour of the great fashion photographers of the day: David Bailey and David Hamilton, and the avant-guard photographers of Magnum International. I was also influenced by great movies like Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago and of course the James Bond series. And locally in the northern English town of Blackpool, where we lived, the summer was ripe for a budding young photographer with the entertainment and tourism industries shouting from the sidelines.
Then came a movie that seemed to aim at me personally. “Blow Up,” with David Hemmings in the lead roll as a photographer. This film influenced me into becoming comfortable as a photographic artist, which in turn has given me a creative life of adventure. I hadn't seen this film for many years until I bought the DVD. It’s dated for today's audiences, yet for me, it still holds up as an icon of the era. I remembered it fondly.
The photographer is a dreamer, a curious individual who lives the busy life of a high-flier, photographic artist, much like the popular London photographers of the day. He treats his work as a part of everyday life, as with most artists, but he also has the arrogance of someone who is good at what he does, and knows it. So anything goes.
The film is very European in many ways (directed by Italian Director, Michaelangelo Antonioni) yet the film became, and added to the popular culture of London in the sixties. It was based on Julio Cortázar's short story, The Devil's Drool.
The art of photography is about imagination and make-believe, and so is the world of “Blow Up,” where nothing is exactly as it seems. It is all manufactured, an illusion, including the truth. Is it there? Yes. No it isn't, so lets make-believe it is, or lets make it happen. In this uncertain world, the photographer suddenly stumbles on a mystery, a murder, where he tries to uncover the elusive truth, but he becomes unraveled by the enigma of what truth is. To quote Wikipedia, "... it dealt with the challenging theme of the impossibility of objective standards and the ever-doubtable truth of memory."
People have been trying to find meaning in this film for years, but "Blow Up" is an ethereal romp where nothing is as it seems, much like the world of photography, entertainment, film making, news and politics. So, if in the end the meaning is meaningless, just enjoy the ride.
Wonderful performances by David Hemmings and Vanessa Redgrave.
As for my profession, it has been anything but meaninglessness. I have had the ride of my life: visiting more of the world than most people, meeting more individuals of diverse cultures and social standings and coming to terms with myself as I see others play the game. It is a wonderful world if you can see it through fresh, inquisitive and meaningful eyes. In the end, we all make our own meaning, and we, as the individuals that we are, have the power to create almost anything we want for our lives. Especially happiness.
- Duane Michals
“When I die I want to go to Vogue.”
- David Bailey