Thursday, September 2, 2010

James Joyce, Jim Clark, & Jesse Alexander

There are two portraits on my office wall, James Joyce and Jim Clark.  
      Joyce, along with WB Yates, revived the English language from its Victorian torpor. Mixing street slang, myth, bawdy dreams and the gyre of human history, Joyce made  the everyday thoughts of a lovable  adman, Leopold Bloom, heroic.   I was born on BloomsdayJune 16th, the day Joyce's grand glorious novel, Ulysses, (in whose shade all novelists now write) takes place. And I grew up to be an (unheroic) adman. So naturally I am biased when I put Joyce up on the wall for inspiration.
            Jesse Alexander's photo of Jim Clark is, as most students of the sport will tell you, the great portrait of a race driver. Clark's eyes have that thousand yard stare of combat.  A month later he will be dead.  A kid ran across the track at Hockenheim, a tire deflated; there are theories, no one knows for sure why his little Formula 2 Lotus skidded off the wet track to broadside a tree at 150 MPH. 
            The photo is on my wall as a reminder of the risk and intensity it takes to compete at the highest level.  And as a reminder of Jesse Alexander's great innovation in photographing the sport.  Jesse shifted the focus from the glittering, lethal machines to the men and women who drove them.  He was among the first to take motor racing beyond the level of spectacle and make it human. 
            In those celluloid days before monster zoom lenses, automatic bracketing, digital editing, etc. Jesse was on his hands and knees at the edge of the track, looking through the viewfinder of his Leica, getting to the heart of racing.  Go to his web site, see for yourself.     


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