A few years ago I browsed through “Wonderland“. Not the weed-related place of dreams but Jason Eskenazi‘s photobook. It was in a bookcase amongst other books but it didn’t catch my eye, despite the crazy violet cover. The owner of the bookcase insisted, I browsed it and was immediately hooked on how powerful the photos were. A combination of classic street photography with a dash of modern times, all on film, with grain and all that. Loved every second of it. Except the cover.
Of course I wanted to buy it but unfortunately it is out of stock. And the second hand market… well… look it up for yourself, if you are rich.
Last year I met Jason, who was visiting Romania, the second time. After a few days at a seaside photo festival (no comments on that “experience”) he got back to Bucharest and we met for a cup of coffee. We talked for a few hours and he handed me a copy of a magazine called “DOG FOOD” and “The Americans List” second edition.
“DOG FOOD is a photo zine combining archival material mixed with a dash of cynicism and humor. The dog was the symbol of the Greek Cynics. Read-Eat-Enjoy!”. Don’t expect a classic photo magazine. You CAN expect lots of humour, lots of fingers pointed towards the photographic industry, lots of laughter and satire. But don’t think there isn’t any serious material in it.
I had the chance of writing a small funny material in the latest edition. Lovely experience, hope to have the chance of doing it again.
Of course, after retiring from the public life and the social media fame spotlight I became a more reclusive person. I developed strange habits, like petting random cats on the street and talking to them. It’s funny, like they almost can understand you. Well, it’s not like they are talking back and saying things like “Hey! Why don’t you take more photos of us?”.
Yesterday I was sitting on a small bench and talking on my flip-phone with my assistant, Paul Musake, famous nude photographer (because he’s nude a lot), and suddenly mr. Meow, a cat living in the park library came and sat down on my bench.
– Good evening, mister Bassa*.
– Likewise, mister Meow.
– Allow me first to apologize for this interruption. I do, like many of you, appreciate the comforts of the everyday routine, the security of the familiar, the tranquility of repetition. I enjoy them as much as any cat. But in the spirit of commemoration – whereby those important events of the past, usually associated with someone’s 9th death or the end of some awful bloody struggle, are celebrated with a nice holiday – I thought we could mark this May the third**, a day that is sadly no longer remembered, by taking some time out of our daily lives to sit down and have a little chat. There are, of course, those who do not want us to meow. I suspect even now orders are being shouted into telephones and dogs with guns will soon be on their way. Why? Because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, meows will always retain their power. Meows offer the means to meaning and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth. And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn’t there? Cruelty and injustice…intolerance and veterinarians. And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and meow as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance, coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well certainly there are those who are more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable. But again, truth be told…if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror. I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn’t be? Fleas. Scratches. Hairballs. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense. Fear got the best of you and in your panic, you turned to the dog. He promised you order. He promised you peace. And all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent.
Last night, I sought to end that silence. Last night, I destroyed a photographic magazine to remind this country of what it has forgotten. More than two hundred years ago, a great citizen wished to embed the third of May*** forever in our memory. His hope was to remind the world that fairness, justice and freedom are more than words – they are perspectives. So if you’ve seen nothing, if the crimes of this editors remain unknown to you, then I would suggest that you allow the third of May to pass unmarked. But if you see what I see, if you feel as I feel, and if you would seek as I seek…then I ask you to stand beside me, one year from tonight, outside the gates of the publishing house. And together, we shall give them a third of May that shall never, ever, be forgot!
He looked me dead in the eyes, lit a menthol cigarette and left. His fluffy tailed wiggled darkly in the windy night. And, like a shadow, he was gone. Who knows when we will see each other again: maybe staging photos in the Old City in Bucharest or taking bad ones in the Latrin Underground Passage; maybe in a safari in Dobrogea hunting for old ladies and small children. Only time will tell but one thing is for sure. I will be there on 3rd of May 2019.
*Bassa, Christian Bassa
**The Third of May 1808 (also known as El tres de mayo de 1808 en Madrid or Los fusilamientos de la montaña del Príncipe Pío, or Los fusilamientos del tres de mayo) is a painting completed in 1814 by the Spanish painter Francisco Goya, now in the Museo del Prado, Madrid. The painting’s content, presentation, and emotional force secure its status as a groundbreaking, archetypal image of the horrors of war. Although it draws on many sources from both high and popular art, The Third of May 1808 marks a clear break from convention. Diverging from the traditions of Christian art and traditional depictions of war, it has no distinct precedent, and is acknowledged as one of the first paintings of the modern era. According to the art historian Kenneth Clark, The Third of May 1808 is “the first great picture which can be called revolutionary in every sense of the word, in style, in subject, and in intention”. (source: Wikipedia)
***On May 2018 the 6th edition of KAT
DOG FOOD was launched. Buy the magazine and support the artists. More photobooks from RED HOOK EDITIONS in their store at https://redhookeditions.com/
Photos below copyright Paul Musake. Arigatou gozaimasu, Musake san!!