By Alan Klein
A unique gift of Irwin Klein’s work was that through his lens everything transformed itself into a Jungian archetype: from a grouping of people, to a portrait, a landscape, a pile of junk, or a reflection in a window.
In one of Irwin’s last letters to me, his brother, he mentioned how he enjoyed a short story, “Only the Dead Know Brooklyn” by Thomas Wolfe. Irwin also said he was working on a new volume of slides using that same title. Wolfe lived in Brooklyn during the 30′s and was immersed in the dark nocturnal subconscious level of “Bensonhoist” life. Irwin took that theme and recast it for the disillusionment of 70′s. In this presentation of Irwin’s slides I have taken the liberty of giving my rendition of that preposed volume Irwin never got to compile.
Brooklyn represents the persistent riddle of life as the relationship between order and chaos. Those who grasp death’s insight hold the answer to that riddle…”Only the Dead Know Brooklyn”. This zen like koan unfolds as an exploration of order and chaos and spiritual transmigration through the photographic eye as a spiritual breakthrough.
The five acts represent the stages of the journey:
1- look homeward children (returning to birthplace)
Here childhood beauty is overcast by color tones like shadows on an early innocence.
2- dream shadows (probing the shadows)
As the dreams that are naive and youthful are challenged by the weight of duality so
that the subconscious threads mix with the Brooklyn sphere of growing darkness.
3- loneliness targets sorrowful souls (the maze of suffering)
The dream is dying and the brooklyn world of suffering becomes a meditation on death in which the essence of the soul is taken and passed on to a body awaiting reincarnation.
4- the reign of the phantom shadow (as greed implodes)
When the suffering increases beyond reconciliation then the heart darkens in a shadow
5- unimpeded luminosity (mistaken identity)
A realization is an acknowledgment of a transformation like the brownish morning light on a round cushion in a room where the last reading of the heart sutra takes place as the next morning light illumines a tight rope walker crossing the bridge.
This is a photographic journey of a rare moment of elevated consciousness. Knowing Brooklyn is knowing what death is…a strange metaphor for such an insight of an unveiled reality.