Thursday, September 15, 2011

Everyone Needs a Guru..

When all else fails me I invariably turn to Ralph Hattersley. In the sixties he wrote a great piece that was a parody of Eric Berne’s transactional analysis classic The Games That People Play. Of course it was written about photographers so Ralph called it, The Games That Photographers Play. I only mention that because tonight I had an urge to read The Games article again. As was many of the articles that Hattersley wrote for Popular Photography in the sixties, it was reproduced in Hattersley’s book Discover Yourself Through Photography.

For the remainder of the year I am writing a book review for the NWHPC monthly newsletter and Hattersleyisms keeps creeping into the reviews so that they are about as much photographic opinion as review. Tonight I was polishing the review for the December newsletter—I have all of them written. In it I wrote a short blurb about Aunt Gussie always cutting off the heads of her grandkids when she photographed them that came across as very Hattersley—I immediately had this urge to read The Games.

I didn’t get that far. Hattersley also did a piece he titled Photography May Be a Practice of Religion for You. I'm sure I have mentioned that before on one or both of the blogs. He had been commissioned by Esquire magazine to do a series of ultra controversial photographs on Christianity for their December issue. When he turned in the photographs the editor commented that they were the best photographs that Hattersley had ever done for them and I very much agree. Well, I don’t know everything that he did for Esquire but I agree these are exceptional photographs.

This was during the time that Ralph was studying with Eli Siegel the founder of Aesthetic Realism. One of the things that Siegel had told Hattersley was that Hattersley was not doing a good job of seeing his wife, he was not relating enough to her through things. Therefore he was diminishing her. As Siegel put it, human beings have large dimension and the way to relate to that largeness is to see it in many, many things. Hattersley decided to approach the Esquire assignment from that same angle. He took a very simple theme, Christ in All Things. Christ being of a larger dimension than even a wife should be able to be seen in all things, not just the church, the religious festival, Christmas and seeing himself being crucified on the cross--which is where the vast majority of Christians seem to prefer keeping him.

The photographs are phenomenal. They are not photographs that you are likely to see anywhere else. He wanted to relate Christ to everyday life and he did in a very beautiful and thought provoking, even inspirational way.

Unfortunately my favorite photograph from the article for some reason is not included in the book. It was very different from the rest of the photographs, more mystic and possibly could be considered blasphemous. It wasn’t but some would see it that way which is probably why it isn’t in the book. That’s okay because I still have the original article. Hey it was only forty, forty-five years ago. After he published the article in Popular Photography, Hattersley gave that same assignment to his class and they also created some great photographs. I am always amazed when I read Photography May Be.

Interestingly at the time I first read it I was in a transitional phase where I was beginning to see religion very differently. I always feel much better after I have read it. I feel pretty certain that I have few friends that would care much for the article.

Esquire never ran the photographs.


  1. Your blog is interesting, has left a great impression.
    Best wishes

  2. Jonas, thank you. I am pleased you found it of interest. It was supposed to be about photography but it ended up mostly an old man's ramblings.

  3. I wonder where Hattersley is today? Just sayin'...

    Most Christians like to keep Christ on the cross? The only hope for any of us (Hattersley included) is the fact that He only stayed there for 6 hours! Yeah!!!

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