For those of you readers who have been with me all these years, for those who know me personally, for those fellow artists that I went to college with and studied from, and for those readers still discovering this website: please indulge me for a moment to tell you about an important member of my family who passed away a few months ago.
My cousin Edward (first once removed) was a professional photographer, and he is a primary influence and role model for all artists that have come from my family since. He is in fact the reason I am a photographer. This was my fathers cousin, so I did not benefit from knowing Edward personally, as he moved away to New York before I was born. However his photography fills my earliest memories, and was ever present in my grandparents home as I grew up. It is solely through his photographs that I understand photography as art.
[ dfunk adds: My direct influence and role model as a professional artist is my uncle David. It is through David that I benefit so much from Edward, who served as the same type of role model for him. It is my uncle Davids example that led me to became a painter, and to achieve an advanced degree in art. CLICK HERE to read David’s reflections on Edward in his own words. ]
It really was not until I was older and received my education in contemporary art history and painting at Center for Creative Studies that I began to understand what a serious artist Edward really was.
Thinking back to Professor Joe Bernard’s contemporary art history classes at CCS, with all the slides and stories about the Manhattan artists in the late 50’s and early 60’s – I realized that these were my cousins personal friends. I had learned all about Edward’s friends – as some of the most important artists in American history, completely unaware at the time.
Ever hear of Robert Rauschenberg ? This photo was taken in 1960 right after Edward moved from the Cass Corridor here in Detroit to 2nd Avenue in Manhattan. I have seen the hand written notes from “Bob” to Edward. For those of you not familiar with Robert Rauschenberg, he is basically America’s Pablo Picasso.
If the name Rauchenberg is not a “household name” enough for the average reader, how about Andy Warhol ? Edward was friends with the Factory people, including Andy and his then partner and artist Billy Name. (Billy Name is the one who painted the original Factory silver). Edward was to document all of Warhol’s activities for a book. However, Warhol’s idea of bartering for work, was to let you “get famous” by working with him. Edward was disinterested in “fame” in lieu of actual payment, so he moved along.
The people that are in his stunning Warhol period photographs are some of the exact same Factory characters that appear in Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side“.
For all my dear friends who work at, or have, or are attending North Farmington High School: one of the best stage productions I have ever seen a high school group perform was the Broadway version of HAIR put on at NFHS. Brave and true to the original, it was simply stunning.
(my prayers go out to all teachers in the Farmington school district who are now suffering an unemployment holocaust this week – btw)
The original people who wrote that musical and brought it to life were also among my cousin Edwards close friends. This is why I have known this musical by heart since I was 4 years old, and why I still sing “Good Morning Starshine” to my two year old baby when she wakes in the morning.
But Edward’s professional work are not the photographs that I became infatuated with since my earliest childhood. I only learned of all these stories about Manhattan and the amazing people who filled his life recently.
The ones that were blazed in my mind were of my family. The ones that were around Grandma’s house, photos of the family from an earlier happier time. Photos that showed my Grandfather working his garden. Great aunts and uncles having corn roasts and large family gatherings. Intimate portraits of loved ones, shot with the eye of a brilliant artist. Portraits that reveal way more than an ordinary photograph should be able to. This is the thing you can not learn, can not teach, nor can one imitate.
If one photo in the world is responsible for my obsession with photography, it is the below multi exposure composite piece done of my Grandfather. This is the one I remember staring at since I was my daughters age.
Rest in Peace, Edward. And thank you so much. You were our shining prince.