Of Demons and Lyon

On Wednesday, which was Cinco de Mayo by the way, I went to see a talk by legendary photographer Eikoh Hosoe. The photographer was in town to receive an award and agreed to a talk and book signing at Aperture Gallery the day before the presentation. Aperture has just released the re-publication of Kamaitachi. Eikoh Hosoe is very personable and gave a very pleasant talk about his work starting from his first series, Man and Woman through Ordeal By Roses to Kamaitachi. He also displayed the re-interpretation of his work in scroll form. It was very interesting and exciting. He got into a little trouble trying to unroll the scroll and talk at the same time. The Aperture staff heroically stepped in to assist.

When it came to the book signing part of the evening everyone dutifully lined up to get his copy of Kamaitachi or whatever book they brought in to have signed by the artist. I was about the 12th person in line and what I noticed from my vantage point is that almost everyone in front of me had 4,5 and even 6 books for Hosoe to sign. Most were not Kamaitachi which was what he was there to sign. I always get annoyed at this. These people take up his time and most are booksellers trying to up the value of their commodities.

This reminded me of another book signing and talk I went to at The Whitney. Danny Lyon was there speaking and signing copies of his book, Like A Thief’s Dream. Mr. Lyon is a very passionate man and easily disgruntled. The evening became tense when the audience questioned him about his witnessing of a possible rape and taking pictures.  Mr. Lyon, bravely and passionately held his ground and defended what he thought was the proper thing to do. At the book signing portion there were the usual, book dealers and collectors trying to have him sign copies of his classic book The Bike Riders and several others. He staunchly refused to sign any of those and I admired him for that. When I went up to him to have my copy of Like A Thief’s Dream signed he muttered something about me being the only person to actually have bought the book. He was very pleasant in that New York disgruntled sort of way. I remember asking him about his subway photographs which I liked but which Mr. Lyon never fully realized as a series or body of work. He muttered something I didn’t quite catch and then turned away to speak to a young woman who popped in a comment.

I thought Hosoe-san would react in a similar fashion but to my surprise he was enjoying the book signing. He would ask where each person got his or her copy of the book and how much they paid for it and throwing in comments like, “Oh, this is very rare” or “I should have collected my own books”! I guess like that mischievous demon, Kaimatachi, Eikoh Hosoe took pleasure in the worldly transactions and  commodification of his art for the monetary gain of others. Demons and Lions indeed.

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