Past BABY PICTURES OF FAMOUS DICTATORS interviewee and musical polymath Rico Caruso recently updated the photos section of his official website. In the wake of this momentous occurrence, my inbox has been flooded with emails from people pleading that I try to make sense of what I have deemed “The Caruso Collection.” This is my trying. The series consists of four photographs (three vivid color one black and white), set against the historically rich and breath-nabbing backdrop of the Asbury Park Boardwalk. Rico’s uncredited photographer makes wondrous use of setting and subject, entwining the two in a beautifully stark two-dimensionality whose emotional impact is anything but two-dimensional. Since none of the pieces were titled, I’ve gone ahead and attached speculative titles to reflect the spirit of the pictures and Rico’s personal and musical personae. Enjoy.
1: “Posture Amidst Obscurity”
Distinct dichotomies characterize this piece. Light v. dark. Interior v. Exterior. Rico v. World. Profoundly foregrounded, Rico embodies, like his musical stylings, that which is lucid, pure, that which is clearly defined in this world of the indistinct. At the precipice’s edge he stands, ensconced in shadow, his eyes boldly open. He is the fulcrum where the pocked uncertainty of the interior meets the sunlit uniformity of the outside, the boardwalk, and Rico accepts that post with cool relish.
2: “Inhabit the Black”
As a true artist, Rico skirts the jaggedest fringes of the human psychological plain, those which most wouldn’t dare to even look upon, much less traverse. “Inhabit the Black” represents that. Rico steeps himself in the marginalia of the photo, the black. Outside, the chaos and brightness (note the frantic avian scrawl to the left) of the world aren’t of note to Rico. He concerns himself with something more. The seated posture denotes baseness, but also a stepping away from our normal line of perception. In his lowness, he becomes exalted, can war against the silence that so many can’t bring themselves to fight, can, at last, create.
3: “Duality of the Alchemist”
In music, commercialization has since time immemorial been equated to invalidation. Rico flips the precept. He welcomes the superficiality, and in that welcoming he transcends it, makes it something more. This picture doesn’t say, “I’m a pioneer.” It says, “I’m not a pioneer, because everyone is a pioneer. Yet, I humbly acknowledge that that in turn makes me a pioneer. I am a reluctant musical pioneer.” Notice too the arrangement of Rico’s hands, how they bisect the photo into that which is above (the mind) and below (the body), how they call eyes to what connects the two, the headphones, the music.
4: “A Storm of Gazes”
Certain pictures are worth a thousand words. Certain pictures are worth ten times that, and still others are worth only four, but four words can mean a world, many worlds, and in the case of this picture, they do, and I won’t venture to tarnish by attaching any more words than the necessary four: A Storm of Gazes.