Jack hardy (with Mandolin) and Brian Rose (yellow shirt) on stage at Folk City, the legendary folk club (late ’70s)
Jack Hardy, the songwriter, came over to my studio today to have me scan some old snapshots–some had me in them. I’ve known Jack since 1977 when I arrived in New York. I was an early participate in the songwriters exchange that Jack started and still hosts in his apartment on Houston Street. The photo above was taken while performing Jack’s “Drinking Song.”
Brian Rose and Suzanne Vega (early ’80s) — photo by Theodore Lee
There were so few pictures taken of us in those days, so one can’t really complain about the quality. I was a reluctant photographer when hanging out with my songwriter friends, not wanting to be the designated picture taker at every event. In retrospect, I should have done more. Recently, I was asked for a photograph of me and Suzanne Vega–somehow I didn’t have a single one. Well here’s one.
Berlin, 1989 (4×5 film)
I read this morning in the New York Times that former East German spymaster Markus Wolf died yesterday, 17 years to the day of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Wolf epitomized the romantic image of the Cold War spy, especially as portrayed in John Le Carré’s novels. While the Cold War was commonly seen as an epic battle between good and evil, Wolf occupied the shadowy realm of moral ambiguity. He and his counterparts in the West played a game, albeit a dangerous one, of spy vs. spy. Huge bureaucracies on both sides of the Iron Curtain jockeyed for advantage using shreds of information–the fact and fiction culled from wiretaps, satellite photographs, and undercover agents.
It is important today to remember that despite all the detail of information gathered and analyzed, the CIA and other intelligence agencies failed to foresee the end of the Cold War before it all unraveled in 1989 with the opening of the Wall and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union. The spies got it wrong then, just as they got it wrong recently in the runup to the war in Iraq. In the end, the intricacies of the game tend to obscure clear facts on the ground, and the prism of politics distorts and corrupts.
Lenin bust at the Soviet embassy, Berlin, 1990 (4×5 film)
When I photographed the landscape of the Iron Curtain back in the ’80s I sensed that the Cold War was reaching its denouement, though I had no idea that it would end so quickly. Over the course of a lifetime one has moments of prescience that are often not acted upon and go wasted. This was one time I seized the moment and stayed with it as history unfolded.
My photographs of the Iron Curtain can be found here. (website)
A song I wrote about spies at the end of the Cold War can be listened to here. (mp3)
And another about the fall of the Soviet Union is here. (mp3)