1898 - 1998
By Francois Deschamps
New Paltz, New York: Papyrus Productions, 2008. Edition of 100.
9.75 x 7.5"; 84 pages. Casebound.
A pictorial biography, perhaps a deconstruction, of a local personality, a character whom people knew mainly from his own stories. Here it's a mix between "You are what you can make other people believe" and "You are what you leave behind in your house." This book pays dignified attention to the mystery of one human being.
Francois Deschamps, Forward [sic]: "Albert 'Yellow Kid' Gerontion lived in Catskill, New York, from 1962 until his death at the age of 100 in 1998. He was a quaint, local character who claimed to have been a great flimflam artist starting in the 1920's. Few had ever been in his house until, following a neighbor's tip, police found him dead on a sofa in front of a television blaring an afternoon soap opera. The unusual contents of the house sparked interest in this man who was mysterious and unknown until the end."
Gerontion, text: "A pile of newspaper clippings found in the chaos of books and papers on an upstairs bed caused many to question Gerontion's stories. It appeared that he was obsessed with the story of Joseph 'Yellow Kid' Weil. He may have used the news articles to create the story of an exciting past and to transform himself into a glamorous personality. If so, what was his true past? The artifacts in his house suggest that at least some of his claims were real. In any case, it makes an interesting chapter in the history of this small river town which time has forgotten."
Francois Deschamps, JAB 27: "For this book, I took a group of photographs I had made and centered them around a real historical character Joseph 'Yellow Kid' Weil who I renamed Albert Gerontion. At the end we find out that Gerontion was using the stories about the historical 'Yellow Kid' to make himself interesting. The book uses layers of fraud to look at the slippery nature of history and narration."