Thursday, April 26, 2012
Beyond The Fifteen: Aaron by Robert J Guttke
'In the future everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.'
There was a time celebrity meant something. My father idolized John Wayne, I never saw his appeal myself, but with close to 250 movies under his western belt buckle, celebrity, is a title he earned. Although there are thousands of actors working today, only a small percentage of them have been able to actually sustain decent careers from decade to decade. Meryl Streep, Dustin Hoffman, Susan Sarandan, Robert De Nero are some of the actors who have been able to consistently obtain decent parts in the last three decades I have been going to the movies.
Sadly however, I cannot really remember the last time any of the celebrities on the list above were on the cover a magazine. Warhol, whose celebrity status was itself questionable, was truly ahead of his time with his fifteen minutes of fame prediction. In the future I am sure Americans will look back and question how stupid we all were worshiping the 'celebrities' currently gracing the covers of most national magazines. The fact that reality 'stars' Heidi Montag and the Kardashian's capture the attention and interest of the masses is a depressing commentary on not just celebrity, but of society in general.
Reality television began as an interesting concept, early incarnations of most reality shows had an interesting mix of real people. Rudy and Sue from the first Survivor are great examples of what the genre was capable of. Warhol's quote sadly again proved too true, as reality shows became auditions for the needy, the mentally unstable and the desperate to be famous. With Kate Gosslin considered a celebrity, any pride, worth or magic associated with the title has all but disappeared.
Artist Robert J Guttke has had his own brush with celebrity. Although he has not photographed movie or tv personalities, as a writer, he has interviewed a few. Unlike celebrities, whose physical appearance is key to fame and livelihood, for Robert, the most interesting people to work with and photograph, are those who just HAPPEN to be good looking subjects by default, meanwhile getting on with their professional lives as fire fighters, policemen and teachers. Some of the most dynamic faces and figures he has captured were found not in Hollywood, but closer to home in Minnesota.
'I've never clambered after or been interested in celebrity. When I wrote my Beauty & the Beast episode back in the eighties, I did not take up the invitation to watch it being filmed. I like to enjoy the magic. The people behind the magic, I have discovered, aren't all that interesting. So it is usually best to worship from afar.'
Robert J. Guttke
Most images of celebrities are rooted in the promotion of that celebrity, a concrete representation of who they are trying to sell to the public. With someone not motivated by capturing or maintaining their fifteen minutes, the image can be more pure, more powerful and simply more real.
'Aaron worked at a bar, starting the night at the front door. I hate bars, but stopped to drop off some photographs. At this early hour there was no big crowd (I am creeped out by crowds) and the bouncy bouncy music was low (I hate bouncy bouncy music). We were chatting when some 'older gentleman' came over and handed Aaron a business card. "I would really like to photograph you sometime," he said. I was behind Aaron, doubled over in silent laughter since I had done this sort of thing in the men's locker room at the gym many years before. The guy went away. Aaron and I continued to talk. A few minutes later some bar-back came over and asked Aaron something, then when he turned to leave, Aaron held out the preoffered business card. "Hey this guy came over to me with is," Aaron began, "and he wanted me to give it to you since he wants to do pictures of you." The bar-back glowed, thrilled.'
Robert describes Aaron as a character, a true individual. Aaron was also human, one with flaws, and he pretty much struggled at every job he had. Aaron finally ended up joining the Marine Corp and currently is working in the military and as a photographer himself.
Before the Marine Corp, during the time they worked together, a mere fifteen Minutes was of little interest to Aaron, his ambitions were more about getting the most out of the here and now. He was funny and quick. One of Aaron's many jobs was teaching scuba diving during the summer. A girl came over and pointed at his Speedo, saying, "Is that a roll of pennies in there?" Aaron immediately answered with, "Ya, do you want me to knock some cents into you?"
The first image in this piece, with Aaron sitting on the chair, is one of my favorite photographs from Robert. I love the pose, the placement of both of Aaron's hands and his facial expression. Robert says that the image has appealed to many in the past, and is a favorite of more than a few collectors. When I asked Robert about the image, his response was that of a true artist, not really responding directly to my query, but instead commenting that he should have painted the legs on the chair gray.
Something few celebrities are really able to do is truly trust. Many around them have ambiguous motives. For Robert, earning the trust of his subjects is essential. Aaron had absolute trust in the artist capturing him. He gave his body over completely to the art and to the process without setting any limits. With celebrities, limits often drive artistic endeavors. Aaron's validation came not from the results of a shoot, and any bit of fame he might obtain from it. Aaron valued the experience of being a muse, and how the relationship played itself out in the creation of the work.
Fine Art Figure Photography by Robert J. Guttke
Robert J Guttke on FH