Untwisting the Truth

New City for the Upper Class

“New City for the Upper Class” (2012)

Goo-goo goo-goo goo-goo goo
Goo-goo goo-goo goo-goo
Googly, googly, googly goo:
That’s how we fill a column.

— GK Chesterton

Earlier this week, the San Francisco Chronicle published an article, authored by CW Nevius, that begins with Mercy Housing’s acquisition of some of my early photography, recently installed at the Arlington Hotel. What follows is a muddled retelling of my life story, refashioned by Nevius with cherry-picked facts to fit his doctrinaire point of view. In his eyes, success is synonymous with wealth and prosperity and is therefore quantifiable and attainable by upward striving. Misconstruing my perseverance in recovery with upward striving, he assumes that success is a corollary of self-redemption.

The truth is that I often must choose between necessities to survive, and that any recognition my work has received has in the long run made life no less difficult. Due to ongoing health problems, a lack of print sales and commissions has recently forced me to pawn all of my gear just to pay the bills. I simply cannot keep afloat on Social Security benefits alone. For now, until I recover my cameras, I am no longer a photographer. I cannot say where life goes from here. What I do know is that there are no easy answers. There never are.

If Nevius’ journalism is reviled and ridiculed (as indeed it often is), it is because his preconceptions so often preclude veracity. Accordingly, he compartmentalized and re-contextualized my personal history as a “success” story, using the template of a materialist ideology that interprets life as a race to the top and classifies people as winners or losers. Embracing change as the only certainty in life (even death can be regarded as a kind of change) allows me to view my existence as an ongoing process of unfolding and transformation. Insofar as my journey through life is a reflection of my boiling psyche, the highs and lows have been extreme, but this is not how I measure either failure or success. As a perennial student in the classroom of experience, success for me is a lesson well-learned.

By the way, if you would like to read a really well-written article about me and my work, “Histories Intertwined” by Maria La Ganga of the Los Angeles Times is superb.


Filed under Interviews, Messages

13 responses to “Untwisting the Truth

  1. Susan has a point. What about something like notecards at http://www.cafepress.com/make/custom-notecards via http://www.cafepress.com/uploaddesign with or without http://www.kickstarter.com/start?ref=nav# ? CafePress has a “no up-front costs” option – http://www.cafepress.com/cp/info/sell/index.aspx?area=intro_cost&page=intro_cost . Kickstarter says “no fees if a project is not successfully funded.”

  2. Ter'e Crow Lindsay

    God bless you Mark.
    Many of us feel the same about you.
    Rock and Roll my friend. You are a unique breed and I stand and applaud you. I am OBVIOUSLY not alone.
    Ter’e in Parrish, FL

  3. Dear Mark:

    I saw CW Nevius’s article in the SF Chronicle which is how I found your website. Another photographer might have simply basked in the publicity. I appreciate that you have corrected Mr. Nevius’s account.

    I wonder if you might be able to fund your photographic work with a ‘Kickstarter’ project? Here’s a fellow who raised funds on Kickstarter to replace his camera;

    Susan Hall

  4. Cheryl Rody

    Hello, Mark. I suggest you send the above message asap to the Chronicle in the form of letter to the editor, if nothing else than to make your sentiments known as to the article, and perhaps someone will read it and help out in getting your camera and equipment back. Incidentally, I read today an article in Vanity Fair about the multi-millionaire dot.commies who have been buying up huge portions of the best parts of SFO and turning the city into their playground. I’ve thought of you often in the last few weeks and will send a separate email to you. Take good care, Mark. I think you are a San Francisco treasure!

  5. Hang in there, amigo. Maybe Mr. Nevius can “urge” Chronicle Books to give you a contract. Considering some of the things that get published, there is certainly room for a historical/architectural/social commentary picture book. I refuse to read the Chronicle anymore for fear it might make me stupid.
    “Revitalization” is just another word for “redevelopment,” which is just another word for “gentrification. “The actual physics of lifting oneself by one’s bootstraps usually involve falling on one’s face or arse. Anyone who survives is used by either the corporatists (See, ANYONE can succeed…),
    or by the Poverty Pimps (You need our “help” to succeed) to further their agenda, then quickly forgotten.

  6. Yasi Shirazi

    Dear Mark, I am saddened to see this post of yours. I frequently discuss your masterpiece — Up from the Deep — with my friends and colleagues. In another world, you’d be famous (not for having survived drug addiction) and fabulously rich (not trying to survive on $935 a month….!), possibly on TV, winning one of those self-congratulatory awards that people win. If you had a publicist (one of those people who do things to make sure that others win these self-congratulatory awards) CW’s article would have linked to your website and pointed people to your exceptional prints and towards money in your pocket. If you had this aforementioned publicist, they might have also corrected Nevius that Up from the Deep is not only a personal narrative, but also a grand accounting of social change as seen through the lens of architecture and history.
    I wish there was more I could do to help, but I will do what little I can. So, with your permission, I’ll link to Up From the Deep and encourage everyone I know to read, peruse, absorb and — most importantly — purchase.
    Please contact me separately if there’s anything else I can help with. I wish you the very best.

    • Thank you, Yasi. By all means, link to my post wherever you please. For that matter, go ahead and copy it if you think that would be effective. I’ll write more at length to you in an email sometime very soon. Again, many thanks.

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