Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Photo of dead East Village artist used for new trends piece on smoking in bars

You probably know about that epic "Hey-people-are-illegally-smoking-in-some-bars" trends piece the Times ran on Sunday...(I didn't read it either.)

As Gawker's Foster Kamer wrote on the "problem with 'smoking in New York' trend pieces," NYTPicker noted that, in an "eerie and unfortunate mistake," the Times' article was accompanied by a photo of Jeremy Blake, the East Village artist who committed suicide in the summer of 2007.

Here's part of the NYTPicker post:

NYT contributor Douglas Quenqua reports on a supposed trend of nightclub patrons flouting the law and lighting up in local trendy nightclubs -- a "new brazenness," Quenqua calls it.

New? Maybe, but the NYT's use of a nearly three-year-old image of famous painter Jeremy Blake smoking a cigarette at the Beatrice Inn doesn't illustrate the point. As many NYT readers know -- and the paper itself reported in a 647-word obituary -- Blake committed suicide in the summer of 2007, at the age of 35.

Blake, whose paintings appeared in the Paul Thomas Anderson film "Punch Drunk Love," is believed to have killed himself by walking into the Atlantic Ocean on July 17, 2007, despondent over the suicide death one week earlier of his girlfriend, the video game creator Theresa Duncan.

The use of the Blake photo raises a couple of interesting questions. Why would the NYT run a photo of a well-known artist -- knowing that many readers would recognize him -- without identifying him in the caption? And why would the NYT run a nearly three-year-old photograph to illustrate a story that purports to document a recent phenomenon?

At the time of their deaths, Duncan and Blake lived in an apartment on East 11th Street adjacent to St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery.

For further reading on Duncan and Blake:
The Golden Suicides (Vanity Fair)

Conspiracy of Two (New York)


prodigal son said...

Have these trend pieces ever identified an actual trend?

I suspect that newspapers have a whole library of them, written years in advance, they they will pull out whenever they need filler.

EV Grieve said...

I think you're right, Prodigal Son. Plus, most of the trends pieces seemed to be recycled every few years... And the trends piece in the Post on Sunday about all the EV thrift stores closing was a doozy. One thrift store closed. One moved to Hoboken. And one store had poor business. The results: EV thrift stores are becoming extinct. No mention of the dozens of other vintage shops still in the neighborhood....