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Foot to Eye to Hand



Last Friday, I went on a field trip to the MOMA with my museum buddy Elizabeth to see the Avedon photographs, including the one above, which happens to be Nureyev’s foot. The cropping is all my fault, however, since I scanned the photo from the page I cut out of The New Yorker and pasted into my commonplace book some time before October 1995. Life before I had a paper cutter and a sense that I might actually want to know not only where I found what I was putting in the book but when I found it.

At that time in my life, I knew even less than I know now about photography. Syd was three in December 1995 and I did not acquire an SLR until well after T.R. was born in May 1997. But this photo I liked.

My first reaction to photos is pretty much always to the content. That was what made me cut this picture out. The very basis of Nureyev’s dancing, right there, in great detail.

Now, however, I have an additional lens (sorry…) with which I view photos. This is a photo of the effects of art on the artist. The rough heel, the extensive veining of the leg, the strength and power in the toes, even the implied furious effort of balance implicit in this truncated view of the pose show how ballet transformed Nureyev’s body even as his body transformed ballet. And I see this because another artist whose eye has been transformed by his art of seeing showed it to me.

And, like (I think) James Baldwin says in the part of the interview I can’t find that I copied into that same commonplace book, the appropriate reaction to a work of art is to go out and create another work of art, I offer this writing (yeah, fine, he didn’t specify a good work of art) about the photo about the dancing.

**

In other news, I did my 500 words on the story for the day. Thanks, friends, for keeping me up to scratch!

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