Fear. Menace. Death. Criminality. To judge from the content of the daily newspapers, popular films, and best-selling novels, Western culture fosters a magnetic and unappeasable attraction to the dark side of experience. What is the draw?
Saint Augustine wrote about a young man who became "obsessed with an extraordinary craving for gladiatorial shows." The young man was well bred and well educated. He had just moved to Rome from the provinces to study law. One evening he met some friends on their way back from dinner.
The Mexican takeout and sitdown was a cold hole in the wall. Elizabeth ordered a cheese enchilada. She thought it'd go down. She sat down. A rookie cop walked in. He ordered too and sat down next to her. His gun stuck out from his waist. He was wearing his vest.
For many of its 12,000 inhabitants, Marysville, California, seems mired in a century and a half of bad luck. Described in a recent interview by photographer Arne Svenson as "a town on hold, a place waiting for something good to happen," its present fate as the "methamphetymine capital of California" and home to the most welfare recipients per capita in the state seems a disquieting echo of the past.
We are driving calmly on the highway when a flurry of brake lights stutters in front of us. In the distance we see the familiar red and blue flashing, and along the shoulder comes a honking, blaring ambulance. The line of traffic moves like cold oil.
If we lived in perfect bliss, there would not be any need for looking into the darkness, or for art. The photograph Who Naked Is isn't necessarily about good and evil. It's partly about what constitutes sustenance. What food is, metaphorically.
Though it was at my heart's bidding that I chose the universe wherein I delight, I at least have the power of finding therein the many meanings I wish to find: there is a close relationship between flowers and convicts. The fragility and delicacy of the former are of the same nature as the brutal insensitivity of the latter.
Beyond those gates lay the bright, free world, where people lived like everybody else. But from this side that world seemed like an impossible fairy-tale. Here was our own peculiar world, unlike anything else at all; here were our own peculiar laws, our own dress, our own morals and customs, a house of the living dead, a life such as is lived nowhere else, and people set apart....
Mystery and crime novels have drawn readers into their intricate webs ever since Wilkie Collins published The Woman in White in 1860. One reason for their allure has been proposed by Eric Ambler, master of the form, who likens these explorations of frightening, often perverse regions to the fairy tale.
There is a Serbian proverb that goes "There is only one way to be born and a thousand ways to die." Proof is in front of me but truth holds me hostage. Technicolor cartoons electrify the twenty-seven-inch RCA console, squatting like an altar on the rusty brown carpeting—almost shag, but not quite.
BERLINGER AND SINOFSKY: EXTRACTING THE EVIL WITHIN
Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky are documentary filmmakers who have made it their business to stare straight into the abyss of America's longstanding infatuation with violence, crime, and death. Considering this vocation, it is not surprising that soon after we sat down for our interview, the talk turned to an extended meditation on the nature of pure evil.
RED LIGHT, RED TAPE: NEW LAWS FOR SEXUALLY EXPLICIT IMAGERY
If you are a photographer who has ever taken an image of sexual activity or intend to take such an image in the future, run, don't walk, to your attorney. Five years ago, Congress enacted the Child Protection Restoration and Penalties Enhancement Act.
MICHAEL ACKERMAN is a street photographer working in New York. He has done extensive work documenting life in Benares, India, and in New York City. KENNETH ANGER is a filmmaker, photographer and author. He began making movies at an extremely early age (his film Fireworks was produced when he was just fifteen years old).
Unless otherwise noted, all photographs are courtesy of, and copyright by, the artists. p. 1 photograph by Clara Smith, courtesy Arne Svenson, New York; p. 2 photograph by Max Waldman, courtesy the Max Waldman Archive; p. 4 photograph by Jim Goldberg, courtesy PaceWildensteinMacGill Gallery, New York;
Aperture would like to thank a number of people for their generous assistance and contributions, which helped to make "Dark Days" possible. For bringing the work of a number of photographers to our attention we thank Don Standing of SABA, and Michael Lesy, who also provided conceptual support and guidance.