Cell Phone, Laptop and a Latté
An Exhibition of Photographs
Beignet Brunch #2
March 27 - April 19
Helena Davis and Frable Galleries
Since the early 1600s, cafés and coffee houses have served as nexuses for public conversations about politics,the arts, and social life in Europe and the Americas—and for at least a century before that in the Muslim world. The English, French and American Revolutions were largely plotted in cafés of London, Paris and Williamsburg. Coffee houses of 19th-century Vienna and Paris nurtured pioneers in revolutionary forms of music and visual arts. Parisian cafés nurtured the theories and thought of Robespierre in the late 18th century and of Lenin and Ho Chi Minh in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The 1950s coffee houses of New York and San Francisco were the gathering places for musicians creating bebop, cool jazz, and the folk revival, as well as for the poets of the Beat generation. And these same cafés, as well as those haunted by Parisian students, fostered the underground cultural movements of the 1960s.
By the 1970s, however, coffee houses and cafés had begun to disappear from the American social scene. Frothy mochas and strong espressos were replaced by other mind-altering concoctions, including cocaine, psychedelics, flavored martinis, tequila shooters, and oaky chardonnays. Then, improbably perhaps, as the 21st century was dawning, Starbucks adopted the centuries-old idea of combining coffee beverages with a comfortable, sociable environment and turned it into a blockbuster business model. Now my hometown, which had been utterly without any signs of café culture since the 1970s, has, like hundreds of other North American cities, sprouted coffee houses of all sorts in nearly every neighborhood.
As an anthropologist—a student of human culture—I'm fascinated by both the continuity and innovation in contemporary café life. In comfy shared quarters today we can find young radicals plotting the next big thing in art or politics and, at an adjacent table or sofa, salesmen hover over their glowing laptops or work deals on their cell phones. In another corner, young parents gather for mid-afternoon chat while their children play nearby. As a visual artist, I'm excited by the huge variety of colors, textures, and spatial designs today's café owners are creating. And, as a dyed-in-the-wool coffee fanatic, I feel duty-bound to taste every shot of espresso I can get my lips around. As a result, my camera and I have spent a good bit of time (and probably too much money) in the coffee houses and cafe's of my home town.
I think of myself as a student of "street photography:" an art form and discipline that can trace its very origins to Parisian café life in the latter 19th century. The typical tools of street photography are small, inconspicuous cameras with "fast" (wide aperture) lenses. Wide angle lenses are the common choice because they are light, small and don't require precise focusing to produce acceptably sharp results. Film dominates digits in this arena, and black and white is often preferred to color. The typical "subject" of this type of photography is what Cartier-Bresson named “the decisive moment:” the capture of a fleeting glance or gesture or movement, or even a momentary interplay among light, color, texture, and shadow. Certainly, the goal is aesthetic and commentary rather than journalistic or documentary. While people are usually central in these images, they are anonymous: iconic rather than biographic.
Opening Reception Fourth Friday
Musical guests: Gypsy Roots
a small combo playing works inspired by the swinging guitar jazz of Django Reinhart
Free and Open to the Public
Coffee at the Crossroads