15 Feb 2020

left eye dominant

The Trial of Tatsuo Suzuki sounds like a 19th century novel. The artist guilty of following an unacceptable moral code to create his work. Sounds familiar? 
I first saw Suxuki's work about a year ago as part of Samuel Lintaro Hopf's On The Street series
I find films of street photographers' working fascinating. Nick Turpin's In-Sight is a fine example. This one however had more of a punk aesthetic to it. Suzuki's modus operandi is closer to a 3 minute 3 chord than an improvisational jazz piece.
I must confess to empathising with his technique. No surprise there. However the controversy over his use in a Fuji ad campaign has been interesting for me as it's brought this particular style into public debate. He's seen as aggressive and rude.Others say it's very much on the tradition of street photography and it's seeing the making of the pictures that reveals actually what it takes to produce that work.
I take this to a point but the advent of digital must play a part too and can easily be characterised as spray and pray which can upset the purist. At one point in the On The Street film there's a discussion of SD cards and that 16GB is not enough as you can only take 500 pictures. That's 6 month's of images in my world.
New York street photograph
I agree it's a masculine way of taking photographs. There's a sense of entitlement that it's OK to behave in this way. There are plenty of great examples of arguably more imaginative work by women.
Which, once again, leads me to think street is actually more about the photographer then the photographed. This is an argument that of course could be applied across all forms of photography but I think street comes closest because what can one ever really know about the people in the pictures? 
When Cartier-Bresson goes to China, he shows that there are people in China, and that they are Chinese. Susan Sontag
So back to Tatsuko who undercuts the theory with a very practical reason for his from the hip style. Looking through a a viewfinder doesn't work for him. He's left eye dominant. Furthermore he himself twists a cultural stereotype in his favour, "I'm just a stupid tourist". Hmm. Good line that. 


31 Jan 2020

eyes on the street

The announcement by London's police force that it will use live facial recognition reminded my of a book I published a few years ago called Street View People View
link to People View Street View book
The arguments against it are essentially the same (although the quality of the technology is still moot) but what's changed is the sense of threat to personal safety on the streets of London. It's well documented that London is, outside China, the most cctv'd (if that's a word) city in the world which I think has normalised (not a nice word) surveillance here. I'm certainly conscious of its absence when I visit other cities around Europe.
I'm also conscious that street photography is itself a form of surveillance. I've excused myself with the well worn argument that anyone - voluntarily - in a public space is open to being photographed. I must admit even writing this now makes me stop and think. I find myself thinking of clauses like some dodgy small print. 
My pictures take months to produce so I don't share them randomly with my thousands (sorry, tens) of followers 
They are on film so there is no exif data of specific time and place 
People are in my pictures but the subject is the city 
It's not about you...it's about me 
etc etc 
Figure on Oxford Street
I acknowledge my work is becoming more anachronistic the longer I pursue it. The universal truths of earlier practitioners appear naive or repressive now. Street is still a valid form but it needs to reflect the present to work best, as it's always done. The New Europe project is my attempt to address that. It's given me greater motivation and purpose. It's also given me something else.  
Empathy.