the house is enormous, and while it's not furnished in an ostentatious manner, its size alone is ostentatious. it has formal gardens in back, with a fountain, and a lovely slate patio, all rain-soaked last night, and rooms and rooms and rooms. i loved the porch. (below)
the famous host was barefoot and mostly aloof (you can see him in the photo above, in black tshirt; the guy in the hawaiian shirt is a photographer and the party was to celebrate a book they had done together), but i introduced myself right before leaving and he shook my hand and asked me about the newspaper and said, "and do you write book reviews, too?" which seemed like such a peculiar question that i said, more pertly than i intended, "yes, but you'd have to read the newspaper to see them."
and he said he likes picking up newspapers whenever he's traveling, and sometimes he even reads them (by which i understand him to say that he likes newspapers more in theory than reality), and then he went on a bit about the new york times being in trouble, and then all of a sudden, after about five or ten miutes, he just abrupty turned around and walked away and i guess my audience was over.
he was autographing paper plates for some of the guests. at least, i think that's what he was doing. i knew precisely three people there, and if they hadn't been there i would not have stayed beyond the speeches.
Tom Arndt's world is populated by grungy carnies, farmers and teenagers in tight blue jeans. He's all about the inner city -- car dealerships on Lake Street, boomboxes on Portland Avenue and folks who are riding the bus. He also likes small towns, festivals and homey diners. His world has no suburbs.
This wonderful collection of his Minnesota photographs, published to coincide with an exhibit opening this weekend at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, spans nearly 40 years. There's a lot to look at in these large black-and-white photos -- downtown cafeterias and threshing bees, all-star wrestlers and old Twin Cities landmarks, and faces.Wonderful faces, sometimes staring you right in the eye.
Even more interesting to me are his notes at the end, where he tells the story behind each image. It's fascinating to see him confess his early shyness at photographing people, or explain how he does street photography ("It is important that your camera is always focused and the exposure set"), or hear what the folks he was documenting told him about their lives.
The book's foreword, by Garrison Keillor, is written with great affection for the state. And you can tell that Arndt has great affection for the people he sees through his viewfinder. That makes you like them too.