Street Work — Sète France • 6.22.13
I live in a village most of the year.
In summer, I live in a city.
I don’t leave.
The summer population of Sète
increases by as much as 500%.
While most of they year i see my neighbors
on the street, in summer, I meet strangers.
It still amazes me what
a camera and a smile can do.
Street Work — Sète’s Gallery • 6.3.13
A great audience for street art.
One of the benefits of digital photography
is the automated ability to date & time each image
which adds, not only context & continuity, but
increases an images potential value as history.
We are the historians of our own lives.
If you’ve read what I wrote about working with Ed Kemper, you know that I was reluctant at first even to meet him, because of the horror of his crimes and their vicious impact on a community I was part of. What I came to appreciate about working with Kemp and dealing with our time together afterwards, was the fact that he did not seem to gloat over his actions or take some fake pride in what he had done; rather he had, of necessity I’d guess, developed a respect for the inner turmoil that drove him to commit those anti-human acts. What Garcia Lorca wrote about as “el duende” — the inner demon, but also the well-spring of creative expression.
If you remember a conversation I wrote about earlier, the first question I asked Edmund Kemper was: “How does it make you feel when people come from all over the world to interview you?” To which Kemp answered: “How would you feel if people came from around the world to talk to you and all the EVER wanted to talk about was the 13 worst things you EVER did?” I realized that even though my hit-singles were not in the same league with cutting my mother’s head off and shoving her voice box down a garbage disposal, on a human level, what he asked me to tod think about made me feel bad. This is a man who had, unquestionably and undeniably done terrible things; now he was facing the rest of — what could be and has turned out to be — a long life in prison to contemplate the evil forces that drove him to those grotesque acts.
It is sad that Ed Kemper will never be released from prison, but it is not unjust. The down-side risk of Kemp’s liberty would be too great — in the same breath, Kemp’s life of service to his prison community and his remarkable art work reaffirmed my faith in the absurd futility of the death penalty. My deepest objection to the death penalty is that imperfect criminal justice systems execute the innocent along with the guilty — this case does not fit that rubric. Execution would have done nothing to change the unpardonable acts of Kemp’s past, while it would have precluded every decent, useful and beautiful that he has done in prison. Kemper’s execution would not have been an injustice — it would have been a mistake.
Because of powerful forces beyond his control Edmund Kemper is too high-risk to be on the street, but in 41 years of incarceration, he has been a model prison-citizen, an effective functionary and a very interesting artist, whose ceramic designs have amazed me and astonished my friends for almost 35 years. The cup Kemp mailed to me, almost 35 years ago, continues to delight me every day.
NOTE: Above is my photograph of an amazingly intricately-glazed, slip-cast cup was made on the dock near my home in the South of France. Below it is a photograph I made of Ed Kemper making that cup.
The Charming Side of Ed Kemper
Since so many people are interested in Kemp,
here’s our portrait showing the charming side of Ed Kemper.
As I’ve written in other places, I never had the experience
of any other side, yet, the history of those gruesome facts
is undeniably there — never far from the surface of memory.
Kemp’s crimes are too starkly abominable to go away… ever.
That was the fascinating element of engaging with Ed Kemper, his intelligence and his open and honest nature, is a constant exploration of what it is for a polite, bright and seemingly civilized man to contain not only that explicitly bad past, but the rage that created it.
The only story I know compare Ed’s honesty with is that of Theodore Streleski, the Stanford grad student in mathematics who murdered his advisor with a hammer. It was his one crime but when he was released from prison in 1985, he said, “I have no intention of killing again. On the other hand, I cannot predict the future.” When I read that, I thought of Ed.