Saturday, December 12, 2009

Roberts v Bialobrzeski - continued

I've been tracking back and forth on my blog comparing Roberts v Bialobrzeski's pictures. Although superficially very similar on close inspection they reveal themselves to be quite different. In my view Peter's pictures are better seen. They have a clarity of vision, a resonance and finesse that I just don't see in Simon's pictures. Peter's view is removed, although perhaps a German thing, it heightens the sense of "strange". With his Heimat series there is a feeling of mystery and enigma, whereas in Simon's set the pictures don't seem to rise above being mere documents. I've always had a problem with the Bialobrzeski snow picture I posted yesterday which at first look has all the attributes of a Hallmark Card. These postings have forced me to look harder and the picture goes way beyond that. Perhaps the problem was with my view.....
Peter is a friend and we saw each other at Paris Photo.... and Simon and I shared a book-signing session at Schaden. I don't always like all of Peter's work (and I know he feels the same about my stuff) but when he gets it right he really gets it right.... his Heimat series works..... there are some pictures there I wish I had made, or wish I could make.

Mark Page of the blog Manchester Photography has this to say about Simon Roberts' WE ENGLISH. I've never met Mark but he has a great sense of humor....

"I've never got what all the fuss is about when it comes to We English by Simon Roberts. Starting with the title, it makes no sense. The work is clearly only about one very slender section of English life. Leisure, and a very slender section of leisure at that. It should be called 'These are the leisure pastimes of the readers of The Daily Mail with one picture of pissed scousers, some Blackpool shots and a picture of some Maccum footie fans thrown in to represent the North and non Mail reading English folk'. Although granted that's not such a catchy title but it is more accurate. No signs of Multiculturalism or Diversity in Roberts' England. Us English are apparently forever condemned to live in the home counties in 1955 with just the odd trip to 'The Lakes'. It received Arts Council money, I hope The National Trust have put their hands in their pockets, it sure looks like one of their ads."

1 comment:

Julian Ward said...

Nice post Harvey and while I agree with much of what you say perhaps I can add to the mix. EG: Trying to understand the English Photographer.

English Photographers, myself included (Manchester is my home town and Mark has the local humour off tap) have been bogged with blackness (in attitude and print quality) since photography was invented. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s just the nature of who we are.

I have been making photographs for 44 years and was influenced by the likes of Bill Brandt (portraying the miserable English life style) who lived a generation or two before me. When studying photography his work was everywhere and became how England looks, post war. I’ve got over him and the English photographers I admired 20 plus years ago included Colin Jones, Raymond Moore, Fay Godwin, Gerry Badger and Tony Ray Jones (TRJ was our Bresson until his early death). Strangely (or not, because they would have had the Brandt disease as well) they were all in the same black ilk.

Not until I acquired The Red River (a classic 1989 book) by Jem Southam did I finally see some refreshing colour work by a Brit. Jem (obviously influenced by Sally Eauclaire’s American colour movement of the time) used form, texture, mass and gravity to portray the effects of three millennia of iron ore mining in Cornwall. The rivers still run red. The book isn’t a protest or documentary, it’s an artistic portrayal and he does it well. In many ways he was a pioneer of what Simon Roberts is doing now.

Simon is beyond the ‘Lakeland Colour Pencil’ view of England but I’m not 100% sure where he fits. His balance and eye is obvious and his narrow view (mentioned by Mark) is much broader than Brandn’t working class images. Does his work enter another relm ‘with clarity of vision, a resonance and finesse’? I’m not sure, and I’m concerned I don’t want to start intellectualising what are clearly good old fashioned photographs.

I enjoy your blog Harvey and your photographs. Also, I enjoy your links and have found some wonderful work to peruse late into the night. Many thanks.

Am I allowed to mention my blog. Perhaps you could give me a link?

Julian Ward