Luc Sante’s s new collection of essays, Maybe the People Would Be the Times, will be published in September.
 (April 2020)

Follow Luc Sante on Twitter: @luxante.


Dylan’s Time

Bob Dylan has accomplished something that few novelists or poets or for that matter songwriters have managed to do in our era: he changed the time he inhabited. Through words, with music as the fluid of their transmission, he affected the perception, outlook, opinions, ambitions, and assumptions of hundreds of millions of people all over the world.

My Lost City

The idea of writing a book about New York City first entered my head around 1980, when I was a writer more wishfully than in actual fact, spending my nights in clubs and bars and my days rather casually employed in the mailroom of this magazine. It was there that Rem Koolhaas’s epochal Delirious New York fell into my hands. “New York is a city that will be replaced by another city” is the phrase that sticks in my mind. Koolhaas’s book, published in 1978 as a paean to the unfinished project of New York the Wonder City, seemed like an archaeological reverie, an evocation of the hubris and ambition of a dead city.


Early Developments

Two cyanotypes by Anna Atkins: at left, Halyseris polypodioides, 10 1/4 x 8 inches, from her book Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions, 1843–1853; at right, Guinea Fowl, 10 x 7 1/2 inches, from an album presented by Anne Dixon to Henry Dixon in 1861

Blue Prints: The Pioneering Photographs of Anna Atkins

an exhibition at the New York Public Library, New York City, October 19, 2018–February 17, 2019

Sun Gardens: Cyanotypes by Anna Atkins

by Larry J. Schaaf, edited by Joshua Chung
Photography was invented in slow motion, over multiple decades, by a number of people working mostly independently and in many different forms. Thomas Wedgwood captured camera obscura images on chemically treated surfaces in 1802, although they darkened entirely when exposed to light. Nicéphore Niépce accomplished something similar in 1816, and …

Mann’s River

Sally Mann: Larry Shaving, 1991

Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings

an exhibition at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., March 4–May 28, 2018; the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts, June 30–September 23, 2018; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, November 16, 2018–February 10, 2019; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, March 3–May 27, 2019; the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris, June 17–September 22, 2019; and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, October 19, 2019–January 12, 2020
The work of a photographer cannot help but be autobiographical. Every image produced has been seen by the photographer’s eye and transmitted, by way of the photographer’s hand, to the film, plate, or digital apparatus that is the prosthesis of memory. But some work is more personal than other work.


My Quarantine: The Calm of Collaging

Detail from collage, 2020

I’ve been making collages in consecutive series determined by physical constraint: a ledger, a stenographer’s notebook, mounted industrial photographs, a deck of lotto cards. I have a vast trove of imagery to draw upon: the disbound and damaged books I collected, the New York Post headlines I hoarded, half-shredded movie posters from the Nineties, the wildly random ephemera gleaned from the book-exchange table at my local supermarket. Collage is a scavenger’s art: it forms the dead matter of the past into combinations that could only occur in the present; it builds a future from ruins.

Virtuoso of the Tiny

Consider the spot illustration, the unsung toiler of the magazine page. It is small; it does not call attention to itself; it is missed by many insistent readers as they chase the progress of a story across columns and ads. It is kin to the textual space filler at the bottom of a page, but its language is visual. Some of Richard McGuire’s sequences are taxonomies: bird cages, hats, ice, or the collection of wire shapes that decorates the front matter of this book. They manage to be at once witty and somehow scientific, and you might wish there were a hundred examples rather than just seven.

The Last Time I Saw Basquiat

Jean Michel Basquiat in his Great Jones Street studio, New York, 1987

The last time I saw Jean-Michel Basquiat I was going home from work. As we walked toward each other in the subway, he stopped briefly at the first landing, whipped out a marker and rapidly wrote something on the wall, then went up to the second landing, where two cops emerged from a recess and collared him. I kept going.