Milwaukee's Blank Generation 2010 Calendar

A departure from the soothing Ansel Adams scenic landscape wall calendar, WMSE radio published a calendar of black-and-white portraits by Stanley Ryan Jones. Stan and WMSE invited us to write the liner notes for the back page of the calendar. Instead of changing seasons, we see the changing moods in a nocturnal twilight zone devoid of seasons. Instead of reminding us of camping trips to Yosemite, we remember late nights at the Starship to check out the Cramps or our own vintage prom dress collection always worn with a black leather jacket. We met Stan in Milwaukee 22 years ago. He wore a long black coat and had a black walking stick, a cast on his leg and was living in the Norman Apartments on Wisconsin Avenue. He'd been a smokejumper on the west coast and had fractured his ankle. He returned to Wisconsin to set up a studio and make art. His collages and "drip" paintings (caulk, glitter and enamel paint were among his materials) cluttered the surfaces of his space. He stenciled a decorative border of red and black cockroaches at the top of the walls. He invited us over for homemade burritos and to talk art. His Milwaukee punk/new wave portraits, circa 1979-1981, interested us most. Black-and-white, brash yet intimate 35 mm snapshots, they revealed the directness of his process. He approached the subject, backed them against a pretty patterned wall and pushed the button of his Nikon F2. The blinding light of his strobe illuminated the usually dark, dank night club spaces. His subjects ranged from Iggy Pop and Lux Interior to anonymous scene makers. On January 12, 1991 when the Norman Apartments went up in flames, four people lost there lives and many artists lost their life work including Stan. With his smokejumper background, he crept into the ruins days later to see what if anything was left of his work. He rescued a stack of RC prints fused into a cube and charred around the edges. He peeled the prints apart, built them a black coffin and 16+ years later 83 of the more resonant became part of the Milwaukee Art Museum's permanent collection. Erin Wolf of Fan-Belt.com interviewed Stan about the past and present and you can read it here.


What We Do Here

We've been driving around Wisconsin photographing what people do here and the landscape they do it in and finished a book of the pictures called What We Do Here. Some of our favorites were Mel (a soda pop bottler in Seymour whose small business supplies the surrounding area with white sugar sweetened pop in vintage 7 oz. glass bottles), Richie (who owns the Culture Cafe in Manitowoc and whose excellent rants critique local happenings that reflect global issues), and Becky from Popp's Resort (who returned to the family business in Crivitz after a career as a Waterski pro). We were interested in self-employed people making their own reality in an obscure place at a time when there's a growing hysteria over job security, health insurance and crumbling institutions. We revisited people we've photographed on their home turf a few times over the past 10 or more years (e.g. Rev. Norb, Dylan, Amber, Tina, Debbra, Jeri) but this time we photographed them where they work be it a chain pizza restaurant or yacht building company. Our author friend Michael Perry posed with his pigs and gave us an essay for the book. It's called "Feed Mill" and it's about his childhood memories of driving to the feed mill with his father. We keep making these pictures as we drive around Wisconsin in our 1962 Rambler Town and Country station wagon.