Sunday, February 7, 2016

Old school

Charles Le Moon, courtesy of Eugene Weekly
I stopped in yesterday on a strange little pop up show. Charles Le Moon had turned his small Eugene house into a photo gallery for the weekend. The living room walls were plastered with photocards. They spilled down the hall and into the dining room. Hundreds of photos which wouldn't fit on the walls were stuffed into postcard racks in the center of the floor. He'd been shooting for 25+ years, and had collected so many photos he wasn't sure what to do with them all. Typical photographer's dilemma.

What made Le Moon's show unique —and perfect for Eugene— is that his process is deliberately retro. He makes one print of each negative and that's it. Each print goes on a unique card. There were several hundred on display yesterday, and he's got another 15,000 or so in the pipeline. He refuses to digitize any photographs, under the premise that it would add an artificial layer, and somehow remove the one-to-one personal bond with the viewer. Never mind Instagram or Flickr. Le Moon bucks the web outright. He does have a website, but it has no images, which for a photographer is, well... unusual. I've felt the non-web instinct before. My web presence sucks. But I've never seen it taken to such extreme. He's basically living in 1970 still, even as the photo world rockets into the digital realm. 

This stance may be pure but it raises all sorts of questions for a photographer. The very nature of photography is copying, and the magic of photographs resides in part on reproducibility. Or maybe not. I dunno. In any case he is probably shooting himself in the foot in the publicity department. But he seems content.

Le Moon's isolationist instinct came through in the photos. There were plenty of visually sterile barns, flowers, and creeks, as one might expect from a hobbyist. But spicing up the mix were countless original captures, the type of photos that only someone disconnected from the art world might see. He has a painterly sense of shadow, light, and the overlooked vernacular. If he could weed out the chaff, he'd have a brilliant book which might rub shoulders with Ernst Haas or Saul Leiter. But, alas, the chaff might be integral. It almost always is.

After some time browsing, I wound up with two cards. I could've easily chosen more. I'd show them here but it would break the non-digital pact. Oh well. I had no cash so he let me have them on the honor system. I'll drop a check off later this week. Retro.

If you're in Eugene, check it out. The show ends today. 1095 E 35th St.

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