Monday, September 8, 2014

A Star-Telegram Review Of An Amon Carter Museum Exhibit Leads To Much Ado About Photos Of The Trinity River

This morning when I woke up my phone there was a text message from Elsie Hotpepper which in part said "OMG. You have to go read Brian Luenser on Facebook. He's the guy who takes awesome shots of Fort Worth. Go to FB to see why he is not happy."


What a big brouhaha.

So, Fort Worth's Amon Carter Museum hired a Chicago photographer to take pictures of the Trinity River for an exhibit which opened Labor Day Weekend. Commissioning this piece of work has something to do with complimenting an exhibit opening in October called “Navigating the West: George Caleb Bingham and the River.”

On Facebook Brian Luenser verbalized his righteous irritation due to the fact that he has put a lot of effort into taking extremely flattering photos of the downtown Fort Worth zone and the Trinity River. Hundreds, maybe thousands, in various social media venues, are being very supportive of the Brian Luenser point of view.

People are also very upset with Amon Carter's newspaper, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and its review of the “Meet Me at the Trinity: Photographs by Terry Evans” exhibit.

That is a screen cap of part of the Star-Telegram article above. The article is written by Gaile Robinson. The article does not seem to follow the Star-Telegram's patented propaganda puffery style.

For example, a few blurbs from the Star-Telegram....

The Amon Carter Museum of American Art commissioned a portfolio of images about the Trinity River from photographer Terry Evans. Before the Chicago-based photographer made the first of her five trips to Fort Worth, the Carter’s senior curator of photography John Rohrbach warned her, “forget everything you know about rivers.”

It might have been better if Rohrbach were more blunt and told her the Trinity River put the “ugh” in ugly. It is a man-made watercourse whose path was determined by backhoes. It is a channel for polluted waters that runs through a city that turned its back on it for more than 150 years.

Maybe with some hard truths she would have had an inkling of how hideous most of the Trinity River is.

It only took one visit for Evans to appreciate the Trinity’s lack of allure. She was shocked, Rohrbach says, and admitted she didn’t know what to photograph.

The Trinity, with its tree-free banks, is a drawing card, even if it resembles a ditch more than a river in places.

There are no photographs of gorgeous big skies reflected in the water or downtown buildings shimmering through the morning mist as it rises over the water. There is nothing for a real-estate agent or city booster to hang a sale on here.

There is little to like about Evans’ views of the Trinity; she obviously found the river as pitiful as the rest of us did when we moved here from lusher lands. It is bleak, and it is brown. Yes, there are numbers of people who are drawn to the levees, who bring children, coolers, lawn chairs, fishing poles and inner tubes. But given a choice, no doubt, they would prefer a cleaner, more scenic destination.

There is little singularity to Evans’ choice of subjects, so that will not aid this collection in the future. There is just a rather bleak documentation of people who are making the best of the river with which they are dealt.

Oh my.

In reaction, on Facebook, Brian Luenser posted many of his flattering Trinity River photos, which have generated a lot of flattering comments, including the following choice comment from everyone's favorite project engineer, J.D. Granger....

JD Granger I firmly believe there are two people at fault right now. I point this out to encourage our beautiful river community to direct your comments at both of them to help educate them about our Trinity River in Fort Worth. We are victims of an outta town arrogant and ignorant photographer and a reporter who failed to educate herself about our community before she inked this junk. I am a subscriber and love the the Star T - this piece does not reflect who they are. I know for a fact they do their homework because they absolutely grill the heck out of me before any story !

Then on someone else's Facebook page someone else offered an alternative point of view...

Tom Davies It's a big ditch and it is ugly. So our solution is to invent an excuse for a politician's son and his friend's kids to have jobs and make it even uglier with bridges that don't fit in architecturally and think we can create Vancouver on the prairie and solve a non existent flooding problem as the excuse. #badidea

Now, there has been a time or two I have been ever so slightly critical about something in Fort Worth. I particularly do not like propaganda puffery mis-representing reality, such as the recent propaganda puffery falsely claiming Fort Worth's is the Top Downtown in America.

A lot of people are in high umbrage mode thinking that a local photographer, with a love of the river, like Brian Luenser, should have been hired for this Amon Carter Museum exhibit.

Well, it seems to me what they were going for, maybe, is looking at the river the way someone looks at it when they've not seen the Trinity River before.

I know when I first saw the Trinity River in the downtown Fort Worth area I thought it to be unlike any river I'd ever seen before. I did not think it was any sort of eyesore, but it also did not look like a river. Glorified ditch, as it passes past downtown, seemed a more accurate description.

And Brian Luenser does an excellent job of making that glorified ditch look scenic and attractive.

In Fort Worth there are areas where the Trinity River is not a glorified ditch, where it actually is scenic in its natural, no levees state. I take a picture at one of those locations usually at least once a week, that being where the Trinity River passes by Gateway Park. Another area where the river is not a glorified ditch is where it passes Quanah Parker Park. Another location, where the Trinity River is quite scenic, and natural, one used to be able to easily access from Mallard Cove Park, til Fort Worth city park workers blocked access with tall piles of brush for some unfathomable reason.

Anyway, methinks people need to calm down about this Amon Carter Museum exhibit and Gaile Robinson's Star-Telegram review.

It's a good thing people see things different. It's a good thing looking at your world through someone else's eyes. Even if those eyes are from Chicago and take really crummy looking photos....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

J.D. Granger says that his beautiful river community needs to educate Gaile Robinson and that she is at fault. His remarks contradict what The Trinity River Vision Authority was saying two year ago.

IN 2012, the TRV Authority chose Gaile Robinson to judge a TRVA event called "Where Art Meets the River". Two short years ago she was qualified to judge such an event, but now she needs educating according to Granger.