The Photographer’s Dilemma (I)

Ariadne Campbell scoffed.

“It’s… really quite dreadful. He’s talented, clearly, but it’s just so… grotesque.”

The woman’s companion, a bulky man with golden hair, dressed in a blazer that was far less expensive than it looked, folded his arms took a step away from the painting. He scanned the composition for a few moments and then returned his gaze to Campbell.

“I have to disagree with you. I think it’s lovely. No, that isn’t the right word. Striking.”

“You’re far too accommodating, Calvin; you never like to say a negative word. No spine beneath all those muscles.”

“It’s not that I am afraid to critique, it’s just in this I find nothing to critique at all. It’s magnificent, really.”

“It’s shock-drivel. I mean, rape… really?”

“Are you sure all that faulty ire isn’t just a result of Lynder Partridge getting top-slot and you getting… well, nothing.”

Some art reviewers from the local papers walked by, sizing up the massive canvas and it’s disconcerting contents. They stroked their stubbly chins and scratched out some notes and chattered amongst themselves about the latest cinematic releases and celebrity scandals.

“You seen the latest Captain Omega film?” A pudgy, balding man with a windbreaker inquired to a young, starry eyed Asain woman who stood beside him. She shook her head mane, “No. Haven’t seen them, superhero movies are rather… I don’t know I just don’t find them interesting. They’re all… it’s like the same film over and over again. There is no dramatic tension because you know the good guy will always win. You know one thing I was thinking about was how morality is handled in these films, superhero films, action films generally,” the fat man nodded blankly, he wasn’t really listening, didn’t really care, his eyes scanned the room, seeking out the all-stars from the world of the arts; there was always a scoop, if one was keen enough to but find it. The woman droned on, “So like, they’re always just like good and noble and whatever which is fine and all except that, ya know, they’re actually vigilantes. I mean, think about it, that’s what superheroes are, really. If someone dressed up in a mask and a cape and went around beating up criminals we’d all think they were crazy.”

The fat man turned to his companion with a knowing glint in his eye, “Lady, we pay good money to watch the mistresses of inner-city thugs throw tampons at each other; I think we’re all crazy.”

The woman gasped and turned to her friends to relay the horror she had just witnessed as the fat man cracked a grin and moved up stand between Campbell and Calvin, examining the elaborate drawing in between darting glances to the aloof duo.

“You’re the famous Ms. Campbell, aren’t you? The photographer, right?”

Campbell was surprised and flattered to be recognized; she tried in vain not to let it show through.

“Yes. Do we know each other?”

“Nope. But I know you know. I’m Ashton Derby,” he flashed a well-filled notepad in front of her face, “Been following your work. Pretty stuff, very pretty stuff, you’ve got a keen eye.”

“Apparently you do as well,” she smiled smugly, luxuriating in her burgeoning fame, “Are you an artist yourself?”

“No, not me. Ha, can barely draw a stick figure. I just like writing about it. I fancy that’s what the shrinks would call ‘cathartic release.’ Or voyeurism… or something like that.”

“What do you make of Partridge’s work; his drawings?”

“They’re… different. They’re kinda… I dunno… disturbing.”

Campbell turned to Calvin with triumph shinning in her eyes, “See, I told you he wasn’t all that.”

“Oh no, it isn’t that I think they’re bad, I mean, it’s like a car crash, it’s horrible but I can’t look away, that’s kind of a testament to the artist, don’t you think? Whole reason I came to this gala event was to snag an interview with the elusive Lynder Partridge, guy never answers my emails, phone calls, nothing. He’s a hermit. Ya know, I tried looking him up… weirdest thing, there are no photographs of the guy anywhere, online, in papers. Must be camera shy.”

Campbell’s heart shrunk. She was so sick and tired of hearing that name. So sick and tired of everyone praising such a rank amateur. This should have been her event. HER gala. If only… if only…

Now it was Calvin who looked victorious, he arched a brow in his friend’s direction as if to say, “Still so haughty?” Campbell crossed her arms about her breasts and bite her lip and then scoffed at the fat man.

“I can’t believe it. I can’t believe our collective tastes have reached such lows. Decades ago this city used to be the art capital of the world and now… THIS? This is what passes as art? This ghastly aberration?! Lynder Partridge is nothing more than an over-hyped elitist.”

Darby was taken aback and for a moment he stood in stunned silence; he’d not expected such a sudden deluge of passion. Calvin only sighed, it was not the first time he’d witnessed such an outburst. Before either of the men could respond, a new voice fluttered over the air, low and scratchy and strangely sonorous.

“I’ve been called many things, Ms. Campbell, but never ‘over-hyped’.”

All heads turned to behold a man of middling height and pale flesh standing before them. The intruder wore an off-white suit, expertly tailored, a red tie and a jet black overcoat, tipped at the collar with expensive furs and leather loafers that clattered musically upon the gala’s marbled floor as the cane that followed with them. His features were sharp and angular and his opaque blue eyes reflected the light in prismatic sparks that were diluted from the thick and serpentine whorls of smoke that roiled up from a daintily clutched cigarette – half smoked – which he held in his left and leather gloved hand.

Darby’s face lit up as he saw the man, his long-sought quarry as Campbell’s own fell in dismay. She’d not actually expected to meet the man when she’d accepted invitation as Partridge was notoriously aloof. Some who knew him reported that he was partial to month long vanishing acts; where he went was anyone’s guess.

“M-Mr. Partridge! Hello, I’m-”

“Ashton Darby. Newspaper man. Culture reporter for The New Daily Standard. I read your column,” the fat man waited in vain for the artist to comment on the quality of his writing; when he did not, the light faded from his eyes and he twirled the notepad with agitation, “And you are Ariadne Campbell, and this must be your friend,” Lynder turned to Calvin with the faintest trace of a smile and extended one of his thin, leather-gloved hands.

“Calvin Mercer, pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr. Partridge.”

“Likewise.”

“Do forgive my friend here, she sometimes gets a little carried away, I’m sure she didn’t mean-”

“I meant absolutely everything I said,” Ariadne snapped hotly, her gaze narrowing and her mouth going taunt. It occurred to her suddenly that this chance encounter opened up a whole world of new possibilities for her career. Perhaps, she thought, Darby would even write her up in one of his columns! If there were to be a public spat, surely someone would pick it up. One of the tabloids. One of the screamsheets. Tantalized, she steeled her resolve.

“Your art is dreadful.”

Darby nearly gasped while Calvin simply shook his head in resigned vexation; why, he thought, could she never behave herself? There always had to be a show…

Lynder’s face registered nothing. His facade as placid and impenetrable as a Venetian mask.

“You’re a photographer, are you not, Ms. Campbell?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“What I should fancy is truly cause for dread is the photographers’ dilemma; the photographer is a documentarian through and through. He does not create, he captures creation.”

“All art is documentation.”

“This is true. Art is documentation of one’s own creation, not of anothers. The photographer who does not arrange his or her own scenes, why,” Lynder finally turned towards her, it was the first time he had looked directly at Campbell since he’d entered the scene; his head level, piercing blue eyes unblinking, “She wouldn’t really even be an artist at all, but merely a voyeur, a vessel for the real actors to communicate. A medium.”

Campbell froze having noticed the gender switch – he to she – she’d heard the words but they did not instantly register in her mind. When they had sunk in she groped for a retort but there was nothing other than the rattling of the crowd like a great and baying pack of hounds echoing all throughout the hall surrounding and her own rapid cluttering thoughts which slithered up from the viscous recesses of her frantic mind. She had never considered such a position before; she knew he was wrong, of course, indeed, had to be, but she could not articulate why and in due course began to question her own conviction. I’m not… I’m not just some documentarian. I’m an artist. Just like you. Only better. Far better. You think you can talk down to me because you’re on the rise? Because you’ve got a little bit of local fame? Because you got the gala slot and not me?! I’ll show you, you arrogant bastard. I’ll show you!

Campbell made a showing of carelessness, sighing and turning from Lynder as if he bored her, though, in truth, it was to escape his gaze. Most people looked off at regular intervals when they were talking with someone but Lynder’s eyes never wavered, he was focused wholly upon her, expectant, she assumed, of a reply. She didn’t like it. Didn’t like him or his weird eyes or his fancy coat or his preened dress clothes beneath it. Didn’t like the gala and the insect clattering of the crowd.

She wanted to get out. Needed to get out.

“This conversation bores me, I’m leaving,” she thought that might do it, that that would stir some hint of passion from him, rouse some semblance of anger. But there was nothing. His cold, blue eyes and his sharp pale face remained wholly immobile, unfazed.

Momentarily, Lynder inclined his head respectfully, sincerely, “Good’day, Ms. Campbell.”

It took considerable willpower for Campbell to keep herself from running from the gala. The bastard had won, she thought to herself, and what was more infuriating was that she was fairly certain the battle was entirely constrained within the confines of her own mind. He had won today, but she vowed she’d never allow him the upper hand again.

*

 

She scanned Darby’s column as soon as it was released. There was no mention of “Ariadne Campbell.” Ariadne cursed herself; I should have made a better impression on Darby and a worser impression on HIM. I should have… I should have…

“Something on your mind, Ms. Campbell? You look worried.”

She turned to her model where he stood in the albescent loft, naked and holding a fig. Putting down the paper upon her worktable she looked up at the man and shook her head.

“It’s nothing. Hold the fig a little higher.”

“Like this?”

“Yes, good. Good.”

Only it wasn’t good. It was a stiff and cliche sub-par Renaissance-era facsimileism. It was deplorable. She looked at the digital camera reel, picture after picture of the lithe, muscular young man in various poses of heroic splendor as hackneyed and messageless as the splicing on-to of Roman columns upon a Brutalist facade. She had attempted Homeric Joe McNally and ended up as just another amateur floundering at the fathomless edges of the new. She sighed and leaned back, setting the camera down with a dull clack upon the worktable and sipped some lukewarm bourbon from a small, squat wineglass. She hadn’t been able to find any of the damned shot glasses, she wondered idly if Calvin had thieved one for his upcoming flat-party. He’d better not have…

“Ms. Campbell, I could really use a stretch, like I said before, I don’t mind posing a little over-time, and we’re,” he looked towards his mobile phone’s clock, “ten minutes over, “But I’ve been doing this pose for almost twenty minutes straight, neck is killin’ me.”

“Yeah. Sure. Fine.”

She was only half listening. Frustration’s savage increase consumed the whole of her mind. She couldn’t find her shot glasses. She couldn’t get a gala slot. She couldn’t get featured in any of the big name art columns even if she was being recognized by their writers. She still couldn’t think of rebuttal to Lynder’s rebuke and as a consequence had decided to forego her typical photographic methodology of streetcrawling for real-life scenes in favor of a elaborate and meticulously crafted designer-fantasy shot. What bothered her most was that the draftsman had not spoken out of anger, but out of concern and curiosity. His low and sonorous voice echoed still.

Art is documentation of one’s own creation, not of anothers. The photographer who does not arrange his or her own scenes, why, she wouldn’t really even be an artist at all, but merely a voyeur, a vessel for the real actor’s to communicate. A medium.

A medium… is that all I really am? A vessel? She wondered with horror, her hands closing tensely upon her sunless knees, her lips and brows trembling with emotion. The week had begun so promisingly and now everything felt wrong. Fate was taking the piss.

“What’s the matter?”

“I don’t pay you to psychoanalyze.”

The model threw up his hands in entreaty, his mouth going taunt, eye mired in confusion and a mild but growing sense of irritation.

“Yeesh. Sorry. Don’t know why you’re in such a foul mood today. I was just worried about you-”

“I don’t pay you to worry. I pay you to do good poses for my work. A task at which you have miserably failed. Look at this. It’s cartoonish,” she held up the camera reel screen for him to observe, “See. Look at this.”

“Those were poses you asked me to do.”

“Well, you didn’t do them very well, did you?” The question was rhetorical. She knew they were bad and she knew he knew they were bad. She just wanted him to suffer for it. He wasn’t an artist but he’d been around enough artists to know what was aesthetically pleasing and what was schlock. It was his fault, she thought, anger rising with her body from the couch. HIS, not mine!

“I don’t know what else you want from me.”

“I want you to leave. You’re fired.”

His eyes went wide, “What? Why?”

“Just get out.”

“An explanation for my CV would be appreciated.”

“I said get out.”

He turned to leave, hurriedly dressing and snatching his phone up from off the counter of the exposed kitchen island. He paused at the door and turned to look at his former boss with equal measures of disappointment and disdain.

“You ever wonder if you can’t get into the big galas because you aren’t talented or if its just because you’re a unbearable bitch? Food for thought. Have fun with the rest of your life.”

She was expecting an infuriated slam but he closed the door gently behind him. As his feet clattered down the old tenement hallway Ariadne moved to where he’d stood before the counter, as if to envelope his afterimage. Some indeterminable amount of time clocked away into nothing before she inhaled deeply and poured herself another shot of brew, sipping the golden drops in quick, nervous gulps, cursing her former employee in her mind. You never really cared about my work. You probably only cared about me because of money. Maybe you wanted to fuck me. Well, now I’ve fucked you. Bastard. 

Outside the cars tore at the concrete and a flock of birds she’d never seen before squealed by, as if in protest of gravity’s suzerainty. The city screamed and she screamed with it.

 

 

Cradle The Fire

All subjective ontological regressions terminate in the abyss of unknowing, into the great void beyond all ken, into the “and then what?” The et ferro here asserts himself, realizing this, he works towards making of himself a glorious pyre which will burn up the amniotic null. Out of darkness, light and out of light, darkness. Darkness fostered by his own hand for the safeguarding of his prizes. The et ferro is preeminently a creature of shade, a acolyte of Apophis – the world-encircler, o’er thrown by the father of Shu and Tefnut. He lies beneath unknowing, seeking to excavate from it the treasures waiting beyond the facility of all limits of perception. -Introduction, First Precepts of the Et Ferro.

A man dies many deaths. The death of the body and then the death of his line and finally, the death of his legacy, the death of his memory, this, the final annihilation. It is dreams which act as the steely bulwark against all such dissolution, whereby the forward-looking man, the man of the morrow, the et ferro, boldly proclaims his defiance of disintegration. He wills to be and from that willing, all other vectors open up before him, gates to which, in goodly time, he might, as yet, fashion a key. What is important is that he affirms those dreams of engagement with the world and ensure they supplant all dreams of escape, for he knows that there is, as yet, nowhere to flee. Our fleeing space must be constructed when the seeding time comes; til then we echo for those still waiting. From dream to deeds he echoes through time, the reverberations of his reshaping of the world far out-pacing his mortal expiration. He moves against entropy, even as it sustains him. “Mad,” you might say, but not nearly mad enough for those of us who behold the end of things in their fullest conceptualization, for those of us who are able to cleave aside the insane shackles of optimism and pessimism alike; blinders all! It is not enough to merely wish that such-and-such were of a certain way without a proper knowing. Those who stumble along such a road have chosen a trepidacious path, for it is, after all, the same as every other, they – those mangy sentimentalists and utopians – have merely folded the wool of their selfsame and mushy brains over their eyes all the better to blot out the pitted spines of the jagged abyss yawning before them like a great and terrible maw. They believe that if they are to fall it were better that they did not see into where! Comfort here is a pathetic balm when the spines, the teeth of that all-consuming mouth, will pierce and tear the flesh and bone all the same and finally swallow one up to the last.

It is from such a recognition that we ought to recognize that existential acrobatics of dancing-about-the-void are both futile and head-thrashingly annoying. No one has the feet for it, for we’ve yet to cultivate the agility. Machines for future times! The inability to acknowledge this fact, a most tiresome routine. All this babbling about “purpose” and “meaning” codified into the stones and trees and movements of celestial bodies or apparent in the general trajectory of history itself. How anthropomorphization drags the mind through the shabby rubble; those battered souls who’ve undergone its ravishment seem to have naught left in their skulls but jellied slime! What is more deplorable is that such is not the case; how many intelligent bodies malformed, how many sterling minds perverted, by this unfalsifiable and seemingly irresistible inclination towards agency-imposition, of Fate!

Those who are yet to come must sheer themselves of all of it. Away with your fickle cries of “predestination.” Away with your shuttering moans of “nihilism.” Away with all pathetic whining of “ultimate purpose” or its lack thereof! Near we draw to nothing of the sort, lest the poison should sully our pristine memory palace, shattering the lovely urns and portraits from the walls with a mindless reptilian fury. They shall not pass our defenses, our palace is too high, our moat, too deep; girded by caltrops and trenches and arrows, valiantly slung from bold and stalwart towers! We call forth a cannonade! Shoot them down, shoot them down! Back, you invaders! Back into the mud and the muck, back into the jellied slime from whence you slither! This shall be our cry. Melodramatic you say? Good. All the better! For it will not be by staid argumentation that we should, as of one body, rise above the murky undercurrents of the populace at large but by dramatic excitation. Nor is it by argumentation that we should convince them; and why should we? Before we convince anyone of anything, we should ask, “Are they worthy of the gesture?” and “are we worthy of asking?!” A baying mob is ever unimpressed by formal logic, preferring instead, the escapism of spectacle, as the Romans well realized. Failing it, the demand for libation will invariably deteriorate into catalytic howls, thirsting antecedents of a wild and grotesque bloodletting; the emergence of the lower brain. No, don’t call us “snobs” we are no such things, “elitists,” yes, but “snob,” why we should resent that deeply! A elitist is not one who, at the first, places himself or herself, as a member of the elite, but one who merely recognizes that those who are of superior attribution should be harried to the front of all that there concerns them. The gaudy flame of our creativity cannot but falter under the auspices of the indolent and insane. Thus, why should we then pass to the great and seething mass the torch or set them about crafting another? That would be foolishness supreme. They’ve not the wits for it. But neither do our “intellectuals” who scribble in their ivory towers endless tracts of faux indignation and righteous proscriptions! Truly, the new theocrats; only theirs – unlike the musty and ascetic religions of old – is a faith of imminent promise and all the more alluring for it. Here and now the paradise! they proclaim, with wild gestures and charts of sorry correlation. But we shall not be seduced, we’ve heard the tale of Odysseus and know well enough all their proclamations of idle splendor amounts to nothing more than slavery. Indeed, the academic is far sorrier than the rabble, for at least the rabble, from which we draw many of our number, has loyalty and that gentler sense of empathic dignity borne neath the dusty sun of shared tribulations and muscle-rending labor; at least they have a pride of their kith and kin and all their precedents. Drawn up in their cloister, the hermetic pendant cares only for his status, his paycheck and the security it brings.

Away with all of that! We will not be monks, absenting the world, nor the baying crowd which mindlessly engages it; we will instead move as eagles, dashing through the thermals, effulgent in the golden gale, ducking in and out of the mundane broil with a flaring of feathers to pluck the snails from the briny swallows. When we split, with our gilded talons, those spiraled shells open, a blazing fire there we shall kindle. Once spied we shall raise up our voices as one and send forth a message to all the world:

Let no hissing downpour abate the flame of your ceaseless fervor, bright men of the morrow! Like Prometheus, we bring that good and radiant stuff which cleaves the tenebrous smog from Fate’s great loom. In goodly time we shall burn even that to the ground, scatter its remnants to the four winds and construct our own in its stead!