Ideas in Photography

Humanity’s major preoccupation is with humanity. We are, so to speak, of the genus homo narcissus, and that describes much of our concerns. Portraiture is the natural result of the urge to record images of ourselves, in all manner of repose and activity. As Remy Saisselin wrote in Style, Truth and the Portrait (1963),

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She was so extraordinarily beautiful that I couldn’t avert my gaze for many minutes. Her eyes met and held mine for that entire time. I knew then that in the years to come, she would have an effect on my life and work. The red hair, those amazing blue eyes, the perfect symmetry of her face, as though it had been manufactured with fine tools rather than being the random product of mere human genes. I never did find out her name, but decided to call her Siobhan, Irish being somewhat exotic in my family. I met her in Santa Cruz, where she worked as a wax mannequin in a store window.

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Earlier in my life, when I was much more engaged with politics and macro-economics, I was offered an executive position in the international department of a major bank. During the interview I was asked about my economic philosophy, particularly whether I tended to side with Milton Friedman of the Chicago School, or John Maynard Keynes. As I have never believed in rigid categories, I responded “Sometimes bits of both, sometimes borrowing from the thoughts of many, including Adam Smith, Friedrich von Hayek, Karl Marx, David Ricardo.” I declined the offer.

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