Tuesday, December 17, 2019


It’s fairly well known that photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson all but abandoned photography some twenty years before his death – at aged 95, mind; so you could say he retired at a normal age, then did some drawing classes – which is what, say, my dad has done but without the poncy bit saying he insists on drawing as his true calling, which is what Cartier-Bresson said, though apparently it was his first love. But like Bob Dylan’s recent artwork, Cartier-Bresson’s are pretty mediocre. Worse, as also with Dylan’s, they take away all the mystery and beauty so evident in their ‘day jobs’ (photography/music).

Quite a few musicians and actors also paint (and many more are also photographers, such as Lou Reed, David Byrne, Julian Lennon, Andy Summers, Bryan Adams and Jeff Bridges – though everyone's a photographer now, of course, and a web designer, and a writer, and a film-maker, etc). Most are mediocre, but obviously their works sell for thousands of pounds, like Ronnie Wood's. Actor Anthony Quinn's paintings are actually pretty good.

Less well-known and perhaps more interesting is photographers and film-makers who make music. After all, both professions are about filling space. Photographers William Eggleston and Wolfgang Tillmans and filmmakers David Lynch and Alejandro Jodorowsky (in my mind, two of our most prominent living polymaths, encompassing between them film, painting, music, writing, acting, transcendental meditation, psychogenealogy and just about everything in between).

After having his photos adorn numerous album covers (from Big Star and Joanna Newsom to Primal Scream and Silver Jews), it took until he was 78 for William Eggleston to make his own album (though he could apparently play the piano aged 4), Muzik, released in 2017. His synthesizer soundscapes are cathedral-like with deep organs, improvised tinkering pianos and the odd fire alarm – I rather like it. The cover photo, above, is by Alec Soth, who seems to be everywhere nowadays.

A few years ago Wolfgang Tillmans was riding the crest of Frank Ocean's, erm, wave when Tillmans' song Device Control was used on Ocean's 'visual' album, Endless, and his frank photo of Frank used for the cover of his Blond(e) album (just about everyone's favourite album of the decade). Tillmans had always photographed music – gigs and bands, and occasionally Djayed – and tinkered with making music before he even owned a camera, but it's only recently he's released various EPs. His music is described as a mixture of synth, trance and house, with Tillmans also providing vocals.

David Lynch could have been talking about Eggleston's photography when he refers to his friend's album, Muzik, as 'music of wild joy with freedom and bright, vivid colours'. Lynch has often dabbled in music, from the Eraserhead soundtrack with Alan Splet, influencing a generation of industrial music; to writing the lyrics to Julee Cruise's dreamy first album, Floating into the Night; and finally releasing his collaboration with Angelo Badalamenti, Thought Gang, in 2018, originally recorded in the early 1990s. He has also released three albums under his own name; they're kinda like Lynch and his films – weird, compelling, a bit retro. His cover of Bob Dylan's The Ballad of Hollis Brown is, well, it's why Mel Brooks called Lynch 'Jimmy Stewart from Mars'.

It's hard to know where to start with Alejandro Jodorowsky. On the Finders Keepers website, who reissued some of the soundtracks to his films on vinyl, they describe them as a mix of 'free jazz, Mexican acid folk, symphonic psych rock, Swedish prog, spiritual jazz, lush Morriconesque scores, analogue electronics and West African percussion'. So there you go. No need for anyone to give up their day or night job.

Previously on Barnflakes
Notes on being me
Top ten photographers
Death of the Polymath
Absolutely famous
Don't give up the day job
Sherman and Sherman

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