REVIEW: Not Yet by Ari Marcopoulos
By Erica McGrath
“The limitation with photography occurs when it is thought of as representing some sort of truth. That’s where it becomes limiting. There’s no real truth to photography” -Ari Marcopoulos
With over four decades worth of photographic work in Ari Marcopoulos’ definitive monograph, Not Yet, the question asked should not be what subjects are included in the book, but rather what were left out? Marcopoulos has been widely known and renowned as a street photographer but his title extends far beyond that one label. Not Yet is an expansive collection of his work, over 300 pages full of both iconic and never before published photographs, with the book being organized in an intimate way. Marcopoulos enlists some of his closest friends and family to curate chapters of his book, “I wanted a point of view on my work to come from someone other than myself…I invited friends and peers of mine to select images, curating individuals chapters as if they were making a zine of my work like the ones I’ve been doing for decades”.
His son’s Cairo and Ethan selected images from their cross country road trip from Colorado to New York, Conny Purtill, the designer of the book, selected images about skateboarding and snowboarding- an intimate part of Marcopoulos’ life, artist Barry McGee focused on darker and more abstract images of Marcopoulos’ work, specifically honing in on graffiti because of its significance in McGee’s own work. These are just a few of the notable people and their sections of the book; Marcopoulos is uninterested of his own opinions on his photographs and instead interested in the idea of seeing his work recreated by another person through their selections, “the process felt like sending them into a certain area with my camera”.
While Marcopoulos prefers to step away from his work in Not Yet, an interview between him and Catherine Taft reveals some interesting insight on how he views his process and himself as a photographer. Describing his work to Taft he states that, “most of my photographs are flat and boring”, because to Marcopoulos photography shouldn’t necessarily be literally about the subject being photographed, it should extended beyond that: “So when I say I’m denying a subject it’s not that I don’t think that I don’t have subjects-because I do- but rather I want to dissolve the subject and explore the idea that when you see a photograph it’s pointing toward something else, which is a big concept and hard to pull off. I love the idea that photography can document something that you see, but I also think that by repeating the gesture, you can deal with the resonance of how something exists in space”.
The repetitive nature of his work speaks directly to this concept, whether it’s multiple pictures of trees, cars, buildings, or graffiti the seemingly banal essence elevates the works deeper meanings. An element that is crucial to much of his work is his use of a time stamp. The time stamp starts to generate more meaning than that of the subject being photographed and it forces us to question, what does time look like? “Because there is the date, I can take a picture of nothing, but at least we know when I took it”, Marcopoulos employees us to try and find the bigger picture of things he photographs. In Not Yet he essentially bravely asks us to look beyond and outside of his photographs.