Notes on reviews
Miranda Gavin on Anders Petersen ‘French Kiss’
Miranda Gavin on Jacob Aue Sobol ‘I, Tokyo’
Gerry Badger on Daido Moriyama ‘Vintage Prints’ exhibition
Before I began this piece this I debated whether to just write on the basis of the reviews listed in the course guide or to see what it was that was actually being reviewed. In the end I realised it was not enough – good though each piece is – to rely on Gavin’s and Badger’s writings to really sense the effect of the works being reviewed. Not all the works seem to be available online in full but there is enough to understand the writers’ reactions.
All three works under discussion share common stylistic visual elements; Strict B&W, harsh tones, strong contrast, and deliberate roughness of presentation. However if this were all then the results would likely be no more than the photographic equivalent of death metal in music; images designed to shock but with no real depth at all.
In each case the content is very much part of the whole; the visual style is there to emphasise the suggestive power of the image juxtaposition. Seemingly unrelated scenes provide an overall dream-like quality to the work. Black and white photographs add to this dream effect; although dreaming in colour would seem to be quite common, personally I don’t remember colours in dreams; places and people but not colour (or lack of it). The use of harsh tones leads to a greater emphasis on the subject of each photograph, whereas colour would likely ground each image much more in reality. In his review Gerry Badger describes Moriyama’s approach as utilising “the photographic equivalent of surrealist automatic writing by a camera with almost a mind of its own”(Badger,s.d.:34). This seems a useful phrase to apply to all three, as does Gavin’s comment about Petersen’s photographs being ” heavily encrypted in their own visual language”(Gavin,s.d.a:75).
While some of the works being discussed come with a degree of supporting writing to provide context, the works themselves have such an enigmatic quality that it puts a greater onus on the viewer for an interpretation. The overall work becomes much more suggestive of a mood, or emotions, inarticulate but expressive anyway.
Without complete access to the works being discussed it is rather difficult to identify explicit differentiators between them but right now this doesn’t seem worthwhile. In any case it would likely do a disservice to all three. The common features of all three also apply to Masahisa Fukase, whose ‘Ravens’ photobook I came across earlier this year (https://simon513313documentary.net/2020/04/21/masahisa-fukase-ravens/). This has much in common visually with the other three but to compare each with the other isn’t a useful exercise.
As an aside, Gavin mentions an equivalence between Petersen’s ‘French Kiss’ and the music of Tom Waits. In fact Tom Waits had already used an Anders Petersen photograph (from ‘Café Lehmitz’) as the cover of his album ‘Rain Dogs’ many years earlier. It would seem the two may have been influencing each other for quite a while.
Badger, G. (s.d.) ‘Bye Bye Photography’ In: AG Magazine pp.33–34.
Gavin, M. (s.d.) ‘Anders Petersen – French Kiss’ In: Hotshoe Magazine pp.74–75.
Gavin, M. (s.d.) ‘Jacob Aue Sobol: I, Tokyo’ In: Hotshoe Magazine pp.1–2.