I guess this is as good a time as any to explain the cover image for “Philadelphia Punklife”. I happened across a collection of over 1000 35mm photo slides all from 1956-1958. The woman photographed here and the man who I assume to be her husband (appearing in other photos) were seemingly traveling the world non-stop during this time. From First Nation totem poles in Banff, Canada to the Red Square in Moscow, from rural France to Austria, Poland and all across the United States, this woman’s demure look is mesmerizing in whatever setting she is found in.
There’s something exciting, mysterious and ghostly about found photographs and home movies which are completely divorced from all of their context. This excitement is compounded by the fact that these photos (particularly when projected) often have beautiful and romantic subjects and composition, despite slightly crooked horizon lines or occasional soft focus. There are many more diamonds than rough and it’s hard not to long for a complete explanation. Each slide generally has a few signifiers: the date (ex. 9/57), the city or country, sometimes the name of a person or place, and Kodachrome/Ektachrome/other data generated by the company that processed the slides. But like most good art, the photos leave more questions than they answer: Who was this beautiful woman? What had she and/or her husband done that enabled them to travel the world? What of their life before and after this period? These images don’t exist in a vacuum; rather, they are part of the infinite fabric of a social world history. That is, this woman is someone’s daughter, perhaps someone’s mother, grandmother, friend, lover, enemy, a saint, a murderer, and so on.
So what of this image and of “Philadelphia Punklife”? I can’t say it’s an entirely coherent connection outside of my own thoughts and aesthetics, but I’ll attempt to relate it. This moment of quiet, calm and solitude is what I long for. It’s a life where we can forget all these things that are distracting or boring like iPhones, bad typography that surrounds us walking down the street, people who eat animals. (I trust everyone has their own list.) It’s a (non-religious) “devotional” life and existence like the films of Pedro Costa, Maurice Pialat, Robert Bresson. “Punklife” isn’t explicitly about guitars and drums, it’s more about having to partition $25 to last six days until your next paycheck. It’s about kissing in cars, walking around in a city by yourself, never having an umbrella, having the most basic things slightly out of reach. An oblique connection, to say the least, but there it is.
In a 1960 interview on Cinépanorama, the interviewers are talking to Robert Bresson about his rejection of theatricality in his films. One charges: “You seem to be looking for a kind of anti-expression. Not only do you not want acting but you don’t even allow realism. It’s as if you make the characters blank, less expressive than in real life.” Bresson responded to this: “I don’t think so. I try to draw them towards the automatism that occupies such a large part of our life.” This automatism, the feeling of blankness that is ultimately neither negative nor positive, is what I hope to project in the songs of PET MILK.
Underrated Dolly Mixture tune.
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A Hollis Frampton Odyssey: highly recommended.
We are looking for some people to help out during the taping of our Bands in the Back Yard episode on Sunday, March 4. It will run late morning to early afternoon and you will need to either stand or sit and just look beautiful like you already do. The episode will be taped just over the bridge in New Jersey, but we will have room for a few without transportation. Get in touch if you can help out at email@example.com