Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Colin Wood: What Was He Thinking?

Last night I watched episode 5 of the BBC's Genius of Photography series. For a discussion about Arbus, they tracked down and interviewed Colin Wood. Although his name might not be familiar to photographers his image is. This is what Colin Wood looked like for a split second in 1962:

Amazingly, Colin Wood is recognizable 45 years later as the boy in the photo. The thin frame and eyes are unmistakeable. Perhaps even more amazingly some of the nervous manic energy that Arbus captured still comes through today in Wood's personality. Here's Wood's take on his portait:

"I was absolutely beside myself with energy. I used to eat Junket, which is this pure dessert. I don't know what they made it out of, some like Dow chemical. I think, I think it was about four ingredients away from Napalm. And I used to eat this stuff, like, raw, out of the box, and by the time I was finished with the Napalm or the derivative, I was like walking on the ceiling.

"So along comes this pacific character with really no connection to the inner world of violence, you know, who's wandering around like a cloud with a Hasselblad.

(showing photo) One of the things I like most about this is these grenades, and I had two of them, and probably the reason I don't have the other one in my hand is because I threw it out the window where we used to live to see if I could blow up the alley.

"From the contact sheet I can see she took about maybe fifteen photos of me, and I was a curiosity for her. And I'm a ham, so in the photos I'm definitely having a pretty fun time, and my feeling about her is that there was this, uh,... I think I liked her because I can see in my face, and definitely here I feel a collaboration, that there would be an encouragement for me to sort of do something a little wacky. She was giving me a little piece of direction. I don't say she suggested I do this, but obviously thematically for her since the other photos don't contain the hand grenade it was important that it be there.

"This is absolutely in many ways capturing an aspect of my life. At the time my mother had just divorced my father, there was a lot of tension at home, I was really very I would say very lonely, but what she was seeking and got which was what her genius is, is the reflection of her own self in many ways, which was very very true, and it was in me."


Ben said...

I always felt sorry for that kid.

Blake Andrews said...

I wouldn't feel too sorry for him. Judging by his appearance on TV he seems like a well adjusted normal adult, so I think it's unlikely that being photographed created any long term damage. If anything it has probably been an asset for him, a crazy antecdote and tie to photographic history. Just speculating of course...

Anonymous said...

Here's the segment, online now...


Anonymous said...

From the Wikipedia Talk page for the article on this pic:


The Time Life book, The Camera, (1970, 1976 reprint), labels the photograph, "Exasperated Boy with Toy Hand Grenade". It quoted Arbus as saying, "At the time I was thinking of doing a story on rich children. I was a rich child myself, more or less. I was just walking in the park and saw this boy, wearing clothes from one of those archaic stores for the rich, with his governess behind him. He tried playing with some tough kids in the park, whom he clearly felt had something he didn't. He was irritated here because I was taking his picture." (p. 222) This statement clearly offers a more sinister back story than the contact sheet does. Verne Equinox (talk) 01:27, 11 February 2008 (UTC)

Your post is the top link returned on a google search of "Colin Wood". Interesting, eh?

Colin said...

I'm the kid in the pic.

She was right that I did seek the tough kids in the park. I'm not sure why--there was no physical threat to me, per se; I was just sickly, asthmatic, lonely, fearful of harm, and sought the confraternity of strength against the weakness I felt inside me. In this way she saw me true.

At seven, I weren’t no angel. I could be cruel, lash out, victimize: fear made me feel weak, a feeling I detested for shame and contested to my detriment. She likely recognized this conflict in me as her own and with this pic unconsciously captured both the shallow-boiling anger and malice within me as well as a kindred, violent alienation within herself. I was her mirror. In this way the clenched fist and silly grenade express what ailed her, me and many temporal beings who comprise the world: wounded love taking refuge in pride.

اليوتيوب said...

the gallery is very classical

Paloma Poma said...

Hi Colin!
Lindsay here, fascinated with this photo. Very curious to your life now, mostly what you look like!😃

Brian Ellsworth said...

This is not Colin Wood
The picture was taken around 1956 In central park ,and just across from Mt Sinai Hospital .When she saw me running with the grenade she asked if I was angry and asked me to make an angry face. If you need more information just ask. I have no proof and don't give a damn about money . I just want people know who is in the picture .

Colin said...

Lindsay, I thought I'd replied to you. Apparently not. I have a pic of me, wife & kids that might answer your question in 1000 words but unsure how to publish it here.