I shot this picture for Forbes as part of a story on robots in a windowless basement at John's Hopkins University. For whatever reason John's Hopkins' campus gave me the creeps. As a matter of fact, the whole East coast gives me the creeps; I do not know why and mean no disrespect. May be it's something about deciduous trees, bricks and mortar, trench coats or cheap suits; may be it's the humidity or dunkin' donuts, heat lamps, hedge funds and Hampton estates. The chief scientist, who's name I do not recall ran his lab like a tribal chieftain yet fawned over me, ingratiatingly. I felt something not unlike emphathy, as he seemed to have too long suffered the inequity of scientific discovery; having toiled endlessly in the basement's shadows; obsessing over his life's work, on the edge of insanity; brought on by years of self discipline, teaching assistants and grant writing.
Because images are often personal this picture owes it's strength only to day's memories and is nothing if selective. It came back to haunt me after going to the Whitney, while in New York on business, to see Taryn Simon's intellectually seductive™ show titled: "An American Index of the hidden and the unfamiliar".
May be that's another thing that enervates me out about the East coast. It still seems mired in the classics and the Academy; the Academic Industrial Complex; that obsessive need to ascribe and prescribe intellectual meaning to everything, for personal gain, notoriety and respectability, an all together American neurosis; well may be not.... but when you combine it with old money and local politics, it makes for powerful cabal.
The thing is, Europeans have been doing it for centuries and it has become as innate and as inescapable as it's irracesbale history. It's the reformation, the industrial revolution and cabinets of curiosities; it's in the genes, it's in the culture; and it smells like balls and chains and filterless cigarettes. Americans tend to come to it to hood wink their barbers and candle makers. Respectability is owning a winery.
I have to admit that Ms. Simon's "The Innocents" was far more interesting than her more recent indexing of the hidden and the unfamiliar; hidden and unfamiliar to whom? Seems a bit presumptuous, but if you ever want to find out, ask a Brit; masters of the arcane, the obscure and the sun stroke.
At this point Ms. Simon I am afraid might be masterfully gliding towards the cold, self absorbed and calculated grip of an all too familiar niche; something she might not have done altogether innocently. Obfuscation after all is the intellectual class's best return on its money. Obfuscation loves its own company; it's the narcissism of the artfully idle rich. "I say, could you please pass the Derrida...". Don't get me wrong she is not at this point fallen for that routine but could well be on her way; the center is hard to please, the palace is a fickle intrigue. After all I do like her work and think she is a very talented and thinking photographer but hope she returns to less esoteric projects; this one, however well thought out and executed feels a little too contrived for my taste. Dang, I hope I don't write too many of these kinds of entries....and if I do, please shoot me.