Sleep in a Nest
  of Flames
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Photography as Witness of His Times

Charles Henri Ford photographing

In addition to his various other careers, Ford has produced a body of photographic work that reflect changing attitudes toward photography during his lifetime. His work as a photographer reveals at times a taste for the vernacular and at other times a surrealist way of seeing the world, however, it always reflects the time in which it was made and offers a personal interpretation of those times. Whenever possible, in Sleep in a Nest of Flames, we have used Ford's photographs. Genre photographs reveal the spirit of 1930's and 1940's New York, while his surrealist work reflects a life spent pushing the edge. A section of Ford's photographs is included as he shows an album of them to Ned Rorem. Sung behind this is Paul Bowles song from the 1940's, "Night Without Sleep" which sets the text of the Ford poem against Bowles' lyrical music.

Photographic portraits by Ford are used extensively in our film. A glittering array of artists and writers have been his friends and many of them sat for him; W.H. Auden, Salvador Dali, Carl Van Vechten, Max Ernst, Leonor Fini and a host of others would be captured by Ford's penetrating lens. We also include a section in which Ford has a portrait session with the architect Philip Johnson. It reveals not only the process of making a photographic portrait, but it also allows us to hear the lively banter between these two senior artists. In a seated interview section, Johnson explains the roots of postmodernism and deconstruction, in both of which he played a seminal role. This session gives us a window onto yet another world of modernism and reminds us how important lively humor can be to a successful old age. Likewise we include a short section of a Ford photo session with Ned Rorem. We intercut with this a seated interview in which Rorem muses on photography in general and Ford's portraits of him in particular.

Ruth Ford by Charles Henri Ford

Parker Tyler by Charles Henri Ford

14th Street by Charles Henri Ford


Untitled by Charles Henri Ford


above photographs courtesy of Charles Henri Ford and the Ransom Center, University of Texas


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