Song of Praise
Allow me, if you will, to sing artistic praises for my brother Paul Vincent who, on July 17, 2021, four days prior to his 60th birthday, lifted off from this dimensional space into Realms of Spirit. You may recall Paul from the three duo recordings he and I made over the last dozen years (Year of the Ox, Jazz Khardma, Double Vision), improvisations on which he contributed a florally dense piano, overlaying the instrument’s strings with small percussion instruments and other objects to expand its timbral and tonal range.
Paul’s main artistic penchant, however, was for his photography, of which he was a master. His work at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston – where he was known for his extensive photographic knowledge and attention to compositional detail – found him at times inside the operating room for groundbreaking surgeries. On his own adventurous career path, documentary photography was what most inspired him. Early on, while driving to classes at the University of Houston, he would pass through that city’s predominantly African-American Third Ward. There he made lifetime friends and extensive community contacts and began documenting the area’s people and vibrant cultural life: its music, funerals, revivals, its energy and flow.
When my brother John and I would be visiting from California, Paul would always take us to meet the people he had come to know and who were collaborating with him and helping to set a tone to his work. I recall him taking me one evening to a small, hidden-away jazz club where area resident and legendary tenor saxophonist Arnett Cobb was holding forth. Steeped in the deep history of his horn, Cobb was in top form, blowing with bluster and humor, subtlety and panache.
As a photographer, Paul’s work was unassuming and non-judgmental, able to capture life’s innate sense of humor, and often charged with spiritual energy. Following his Third Ward Series, he documented reported Marian Apparition sites in Houston, Texas, Medjugorje, Bosnia, and Conyers, Georgia.
In his Elvis Week Series, he threw himself headlong over several years into the annual gatherings of Elvis impersonators in Memphis, Tennessee. In a body of work all its own, he documented a lifetime of moments intimate and grand in the coming of age of his daughter Aria Rose. In addition to thematic series, he was continually photographing a diverse range of people, situations, and events. He referred to these images as Wide Open Spaces.
He experimented with different cameras, from the most advanced digital to the simplest children’s plastic camera. The images he captured were extraordinary, no matter the medium.
In the last several years, he undertook what he called “street photography” where life’s episodes presented themselves at random to his photographic eye, and the stories they told were more subjective and of the moment. They were at times more like “pure” photographic images in that their compositional form could be as much of interest as the subjects/objects photographed.
Much of Paul’s best work can be seen in the black and white compilation of his photos that he put together in 2020. His book 35 is a 35-year retrospective of all of his work that may be viewed and ordered (via mixbook) on his website (http://paulvincentkuntz.com/). Of the very last period of his work, there is only one photo in his book. Yet in its own way, this is some of the purest photographic work he ever did. Necessitated in part by the shelter-in-place situation of the pandemic, he began to take on an area of photography he had always avoided. That would be “landscape” photography, though Paul’s version of that was something unique, a close-up vision of nature that was at times like looking into infinity. These images, at their best and at their core, are like “spirit portals”, reality refracted and abstracted into its own essence. Their “meaning” is in the mind of the beholder. There are 35 of these images on Paul’s website. I particularly like Backyard 3 (opening image above), Backyard 4 and 5, and Willow Water Hole 8 (below).
There are also a handful of extraordinary pinhole camera images, of which I might call Arboretum 3 (below) to your attention.
Great work Paul! Perhaps these last images of yours were your own way of preparing yourself for your own Great Spirit Journey to come.
Good Luck on your Journey!
Henry Kuntz, August 2021
All images (except Paul at piano) Copyright Paul Vincent Kuntz.
All Rights Reserved.
Paul Vincent Kuntz was an award-winning Houston-based documentary photographer whose work has been exhibited in fine art galleries internationally. In a career spanning more than thirty years, he always respectfully and creatively captured the passion of the human spirit. His photographs are in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts (Houston), Museet for Fotokunst (Odense, Denmark), and in various private collections including that of the late Helmut Gernsheim (Lugano, Switzerland). In 2012 his work was featured in the photographic exhibition “The Birth of Photography – Highlights of the Gernsheim Collection” at the Reiss-Englehorn Museum in Mannheim, Germany. This was a career-high moment in that the exhibition also included the world’s first recorded photographic image by Joseph Nicephore Niepce from 1826.