Saturday, April 26, 2008

Trashed Beach Photographs

On a recent visit to our Celestial Coast beach, I was shocked to see the detritus of human existence omnipresent everywhere on the beach; tangled in seaweed, scattered among the shells, and nestled in the beach grass.* I decided to take photographs of the junk in order to show how terrible we humans are as stewards of the planet. However, upon returning home and opening the jpeg files I discovered a kind of beauty in the torn and mangled objects - plastic bottles scuffed to a matt finish by surf and sand, orange plastic strands woven into the seaweed, Neptunian macramé, and a torn and rotting shell-fragment encrusted slipper – as though the photographic compositions of sand, shells, seaweed, driftwood, and other natural objects somehow elevated our trash to a special status it does not deserve.
Or perhaps I’m just a crazed artist who is able to find radiance in even the most mundane particles of his diurnal existence. In either case, I am (never the less) appalled at the amount of junk we casually throw into the sea as if it were nothing more than a trashcan placed there for our convenience by God.

*The words "Celestial Coast" as used here are based on the Celestial Railroad that existed along the coast between Jupiter and the north edge of Lake Worth for a brief period before Flagler built his railroad along the coast of Florida.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Baron Willhelm von Gloeden: Part II

As part of the series of Journal entries about contemporary alternative gay male art versus traditional gay male art I explore the history and relationship of photography in general to gay male photography in particular.
In fact, he was not a baron, just the prototype for the pretentious homosexual benefactor of young boys, and a pederast in contemporary terms. Never the less, such a statement is an over simplification for an extremely complex and talented man. In the current conservative mood in these United States of America von Gloeden would probably be arrested for his love of boys, though I think he might be tolerated in the European West. He was born in 1856, the son of a forestry agent who worked for the Grand Duke of Mechlenburg-Schwerin. His father died when von Gloeden was a youngster, and his mother remarried Joachim Baron von Hammerstein who was a politician and journalist, baron in name, if not title.

Wilhelm left Germany for Italy in 1878 because of a pulmonary condition, possibly consumption, and found instead the answer to his psychological and physical needs as a homosexual man and the concomitant cure for his evidently somatic illness. In Taormina, Sicily von Gloeden lived the life of the wealthy sponsor for the young men of the village, not only taking exotic photographs of them that made him famous, but supplying the boys and young men with the funds necessary to found businesses that in many cases survive to this day in memory if not in fact in local family lore. He was single-handedly responsible for making Taormina a destination for European, British and American tourists.

*(Censored by the writer because of concerns with Web interference by the US Federal government.
Wikipedia Commons, "Image: Gloeden, Wilhelm von (1856-1931) - n. 1544 - da - Amore e arte, p. 74.jpg", viewed 10: 33 AM EDT, Sunday, April 20, 2008.


Goldman, Jason, glbtq: an encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, trangender & queer culture, arts, Gloeden, “Wilhelm, von Baron (1856-1931)” © 2002, glbtq, Inc. Viewed 8:52 AM EST, March 3, 2008

Koymasky, Matt and Andrej, “Wilhelm von Gloeden – The Boys of Taormina,” The Living Room, Last update, July 10, 2005. Viewed 8:54 AM EST, March 3, 2008.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, “ Wilhelm von Gloeden,” Viewed 8:20 AM EST, March 3, 2008.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Baron Willhelm von Gloeden


As part of the series of Journal entries about contemporary alternative gay male art versus traditional gay male art I explore the history and relationship of photography in general to gay male photography in particular.

On first examination of the literature, I wondered who came first, Von Gloeden or F. Holland Day? I’m still wondering. Both, men worded at the same time, and both, men of wealth perfected the use of light in their photographs, experimented with textural elements, and used classical elements in their photography simultaneously. Both took photographs of nude young men that would place them in the category of pederasts today. It is stated in the literature repeatedly that von Gloeden had sex with his models, but not so with Day. It may be that the more puritanical elements in American culture prevent such exploration of Day’s life. Be that as it may, I propose that these two men from such disparate parts of the globe were the product of zeitgeist working in Western cultures.

* Image based on “Figure d'Etude” (ca 1835) by Hippolyte Flandrin.

Wilhelm von Gloeden, “Men by Wilhelm von Gloeden,” Wikimedia Commons. Modified 17:49 GMT, June 11, 2007. Viewed 6:37 AM EDT, April 11, 2008.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Lago Atlántico

Joe and I go to Blowing Rocks on Jupiter Island to gather shells. There the ancient reef is at the foot of the narrow beach and protects the dunes from storms. However, during the past few years beach erosion has removed the lower part of the beach, and created a steeply pitched narrow strip of sand where the dune has been chewed away. I marvel that the limestone barrier created by billions of sea creatures over the course of thousands of years affords so little protection for the beach as our oceans begin to rise at the very beginning of this period of global warming.

Be that as it may, this particular day all was calm and the Atlantic was like a huge lake stretching it’s 180-degree arc marked by baby wavelets over the exposed reef. I have many photographs of Joe in a stoop as he searches for shells in the holes the usually robust waves have scooped out of the limestone. He has found so many olive shells in these sandy pockets that we have bags of the oblong shells waiting to be mounted on future craft projects. I am better at locating the little Screw Turritella shells deposited above the reef in the narrow strip of flat sand before the steep rise of collapsed dune begins. The latter are used to make Christmas Tree ornaments, and Joe plans to cover our mailbox and post in Rehoboth Beach with the olive shells.

I am posting this photograph because it shows the completely exposed reef, clear and calm waters of the Atlantic, and the magnificent deep blue subtropical sky and clouds to excellent advantage. These glorious elements, shapes and colors of nature, both here and on Cape Henlopen, Delaware, are the very reasons I work to make my scribbled pastel drawings in retirement.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Intracoastal at Sunset #2

Another evening spent with my partner, a glass of wine, the setting sun, the water and clouds. I always take the camera, and we go to our bench at the end of the dock. The evening sky and the water are constantly and gloriously changing. “So obvious,” the alter ego says. But not so – if I don’t take the time to use the senses God gave me to be in this world, I won’t notice all the subtle and not so subtle beauty of the variations in it. Crossing boat wakes created the exceptional reflections in the water this evening, and I especially enjoy the backlit violet, mauve, salmon and pink clouds. Our bench is located across the Intracoastal from a small piece of natural landscape created by a tiny county preserve. In fact, so little is left of the natural South Florida landscape, and I often try to picture what passengers on the Celestial Railroad saw from the little train’s windows as it traveled South from Jupiter, Florida, through the non-existent stops of Mars and Venus to Juno, at the north end of Lake Worth. There were farms inland with pineapples, and other tropical crops, but palmetto and sea grape covered sand dunes would have paralleled the Atlantic Ocean all the way to the horizon in both directions. Juno was the capital city of Dade County that included all of Broward and Palm Beach at the time, a Ninety-mile long stretch of the Sub-tropical East Coast of Florida. The Seminole Indians had won their war with the United States and so the Indians still remain to this day. At that pre-Flagler time the Indian population probably exceeded that of whites living in the small coastal towns. Paradise was buggy, sweltering hot and humid in the summer, but lovely and cool days with warm nights made the winter attractive, and that climate eventually enticed Flagler and the rich Northerners who filled this coast with an eighty-mile long strip of concrete.

No matter the concrete, the sunsets from our small piece of Flagler's railroaded (pun intended) paradise are magnificent.