Friday, December 4, 2009

This Way Lies That

Life creeps by on a day-to-day basis and you just don't realize that, in spite of the seemingly slow crawl of minutes in those days, it is moving really swiftly. It just doesn't seem that long ago - half a lifetime?! - that I graduated from high school or indulged my (semi) punk life. That is the disturbing nature of time.

In a convergence of both (high school and punk) comes this brutal slap to the head - a reminder that those days are further behind than I remember.

Seattle punks photographed by Lavine in 1983

Michael Lavine and Thurston Moore have released a new book, Grunge. Moore supplies the essay for the piece and the photos come from Lavine's shots of street punks in Seattle during the early 80's and from his work shooting the Subpop bands that followed in their wake. It's a little bite of history - the taste of bittersweet nostalgia.

Moore is, of couse, the leader of the deified, Sonic Youth. Lavine is a leading commercial photographer having shot numerous album covers for Nirvana, Soundgarden, Beastie Boys, Jay-Z, Notorious B.I.G., White Stripes, and Sonic Youth, among many, as well as being a video director. He has in recent years become a much sought after advertising and magazine shooter for Vogue, Esquire, Outside and the like. The two of them, Moore and Lavine, are neighbors in Soho and the idea for the book came to them one day when Moore stopped by to borrow Lavine's fax machine. An old portfolio of photos was sitting out and one thing led to another.

Nirvana photographed by Lavine in 91

Michael Lavine and I went to high school together (the other half of the convergence). I doubt he would remember me, but he and my brother were pretty good friends - fellow photographers and classmates who shot together often. Over the years I had heard that Michael had found some success in his field - that he was described as "the guy who shot Nevermind" - but I wasn't aware he had reached the "top of the call list" level.

Mike, then

The fact that I recall Michael as just a young friend of my little brother in a time long before the one we currently live within has a certain absurd dissonance when I try to reconcile the memory and the present. We were young together, shaped by many of the same cultural changes (though he was much closer to those forces than I), and our lives - mine, his, and those of our peers - have become fat and padded since those days. I feel out of sync with how much thread has wound around the spindle of our lives, how long ago so much of what seemed to matter took place, and how strangely sad that fact is.

Michael, now

I am not alone in my inability to reconcile the space between what was and what is. Michael gets it too. As he says regarding Kurt Cobain:

"My association with Kurt has been so potent that much of my career has been framed in his shadow. I am regularly introduced as “the guy who shot Nevermind”. I am trying to figure out a way to develop a legacy that is not dictated by my connection with him but it seems highly unlikely that I will manage. Not that its so terrible to be in my position but I do wonder if I will ever be able to accomplish anything of any greater value. I had my 15 minutes already. The reason that I bring this up is because I am feeling guilty about the prospect of landing a book deal with Abrams partially because they will be able to put Kurt on the cover."

In any case, it's a beautiful book. So think about it as Christmas approaches for those whose lives might be as distinctly out of sync as mine.

Michael also has an interesting blog, My Aim is True, that's worth a read.

Poison Ivy and Lux Interior shot by Lavine in 91

A gallery of more mainstream Lavine portraits is here. (Lest you think him an egomaniac, the title of the gallery, Michael Lavine Knows More People Than You Do, is not of his making. The gallery was put together by a third party.)

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