By William Carter

Photographer, Author, Jazz Musician

Versions of Ourselves

with one comment

I am as addicted to digits as the next person. But my caring comes from elsewhere.

Culture wars, like other wars, take their toll.  Unexpected outcomes flow into our sinews and, welcome or not, affect our feelings and expressions.

I grew up in a town dedicated to change — in an era summed up in the famous motto of a leading corporation, “Progress is our most important product.”  Postwar LA, powered by newborn defense industries, famous for its movies, a thinly peopled, dry basin lacking deep cultural roots, facing the vast Pacific, was perfectly placed for the unfettered growth and change that was soon underway.

My own personal model was the opposite.  I sought permanent values, humaneness, the depths not the surfaces.  Spiritual affirmation — particularly in the arts. So, physically and mentally, I went the other way from LA.  The older tradition of great West Coast photographers had inspired me, but by the 1960s I needed to move on from there to places like New York, London, the Middle East and India – where close-up tenderness and long-term values still seemed alive and honored.

In California there were plenty of photographers of the old school to inspire me. But their dynamic was gradually being eclipsed. Although not particularly “outgoing,” I did go out. I developed the unfashionable notion that the role of the artist was not to stand off and snipe at the ugly aspects of world, but to offer a positive alternative: in that most unfashionable of words — beauty.  In an era beset by counter-cultural attack modes, I remain a counter-revolutionary.

The two photographs below, by Struth and Cunningham, are well-known offerings of contrasting states of soul.  Which would you rather hold close?


Thomas Struth, “String Handling," SolarWorld, Frieberg 2011 Thomas Struth, “String Handling,” SolarWorld, Frieberg 2011


Imogen Cunningham, “The Unmade Bed,” 1957 Imogen Cunningham, “The Unmade Bed,” 1957

Copyright statement: William Carter papers, © Stanford University Libraries. Click here for a detailed usage guide.


Written by bywilliamcarter

August 3, 2015 at 12:00 pm

One Response

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  1. The Unmade Bed. Hands down. Thank you for this thoughtful post, Bill.



    August 3, 2015 at 9:30 pm

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