Brightness. A crowd of people. Canons. Nikons. Lowepros. Big Love.
The room goes dark. To those of us familiar with the violently authentic illustrations of Stanley Greene’s world comes a sudden realization that we are about to witness an even darker moment. The air is quiet.
And then Siri speaks.
The stadium-size screen hovering over the Paramount’s crowd hosts a playfully orchestrated banter between Vince Musi and the iPhone. “I’m quite the photojournalist,” declares Siri. “I really should be in Magnum.” Laughter. Applause. The light-hearted moment softens a biting anticipation that permeates the room.
Cue video.Behind a MacBook Pro that is flanked by 3 stacked cartons of Lucky Strikes, Jean-François Leroy disserts on the dying state of photojournalism with great precision and a touch of humor. “I get about 4000 proposals a year. 3000 of them are pure shit.”
Vince Musi offers a sobering introduction to the man of the hour. “His photographs are like film stills from hell.” The crowd noise sinks into an audible low.
Black shirt. Black pants. Black boots. Black leather jacket. Stanley Greene. The former Black Panther’s attire embraces a dark career that happened almost by accident.
He was supposed to shoot fashion.
A chance meeting with Eugene Smith—fed by cigarettes soaked in paregoric acid—urged Greene to embrace his talent. The falling of the Berlin Wall—witnessed in a Parisian bar—drove Greene to Germany’s Checkpoint Charlie. These things happen in stupor.
Machine guns. Stasi. Demonstrators. “This is cool,” Stanley thought.
He is born.
Images of Chechnya flash before our eyes. Not cool, but definitely cold. Sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in the sold-out Paramount Theater provides absolutely no warmth from the display. Stanley Greene, on the other hand, managed to take cover in a ditch. 2003. War planes overhead. He remembers a feeling of solidarity. “They tried to kill me. First it was Yeltsin. Then it was Putin.”
Jean-François attempts to lighten the mood by saying, “Why don’t the Russian’s like you?” It’s a worthy attempt at levity—but the crowd finds it difficult to laugh at the carousel of images playing in the background. Stanley realizes this, and takes extreme care to pause at the most sensitive subjects.
Hurricane Katrina. Electronic waste. Child labor. Slavery.
“I don’t see myself shooting flowers,” he says.
63 years allows you to be stringent. Prime lenses only. A love affair with analog. A sour taste over digital. (Stories of an SD card that literally fell through the cracks.) A big NO to the camera phone. A seeming inflexibility might actually be the key to Stanley’s success.
House lights give way to Q&A.
A long moment of silence before the first one arrives.
Understandable. After so much darkness, it can take a while for the eyes to adjust.
(by Joe Santa, Corbis)