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Thursday, 6 November 2008

Jacob Aue Sobol:Tokyo

pictures: Jacob Aue Sobol top and Shomei Tomatsu

Jacob Aue Sobol talks about his new book I, Tokyo, in the latest edition of the BJP. He mentions the difficulty of following on from Sabine, his book documenting his love for Sabine, his Inuit girlfriend.

"When I did start taking photographs again, I felt like every photograph had to be connected to my feelings. All of the pictures I took afterwards didn't have this and it drove me to thinking that I shouldn't be a photographer anymore."

Thankfully he got over that and produced the work that made I, Tokyo. Comparisons have been made to Daido Moriyama's work, but Sobol is not concerned. "Some people will say that I have repeated myself. Some will say my work looks too much like someone else's. It's always like that. The important thing for me is to feel that I am present in the work, that it reflects how I felt when I lived in Tokyo, and that the people I had relationships are there in the book."

Sobol's Tokyo pictures are striking, but they are very reminiscent of Daido Moriyama's or Shomei Tomatsu's work. Does that matter? Sobol thinks not, and he's probably right. He's following his path and the images are striking and hit the spot - whether they say anything new about Tokyo, something Moriyama hasn't said, is another matter. But then should Sobol, or anyone else for that matter, be expected to be groundbreaking and shockingly new all the time. Should they have their style and stick to it - or should people be more random and free in their image making?

And the cameras he uses? Ricoh GRS1, Contax T3, Contax G2 for I, Tokyo and just the Ricoh for Sabine. We all love ricohs till they stop working.


Anonymous said...

Your post reminded me of one of my favourite Japanese movies: The woman in the dunes. It's a must see. The black and white photography is similar to the top picture. Look it up and keep up good work. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woman_in_the_Dunes

colin pantall said...

Thanks anonymous - I'll check it out.

Doug Rickard said...

You have to do something that contains your mark, even if it is built "around", influenced by or an extension of someone else's work. Obviously, you don't have to be truly original to be good... but to be truly special and to make a mark with your work (on others and ultimately on yourself), you have to carve out your own space.

There are plenty out there and plenty to come that carve out niches built on someone else's "vibe" or aesthetic and do good fairly good work... yet they will never leave a lasting mark.

That lasting mark requires your own voice and your own voice needs to speak clearly... and be heard.

(Note: This comment is meant to shed light on the topic - not an opinion on whether or not Jacob does or does not have his own voice)

colin pantall said...

Absolutely Doug, but that mark can come from many different places and it can be something as simple as a particular world view or sensibility. I think Sobol had it with Sabine (which is why so many people copy it) but that he's copying himself with Tokyo. Still looks good as far as it goes.

Doug Rickard said...

Colin, yes, I agree for the most part.

On the aspect of "as simple as a particular world view or sensibility"...

If you follow in the path of an aesthetic that is particularly identifiable to another artist, it is difficult to have your "world view" or "sensibility" shine through. That world view or sensibility must then somehow "shout" to be heard, the aesthetic and stamp of the other artist working to cover up and mute your voice.

I think that beyond "world view" and simple sensibility, your aesthetic itself must also contain something special, even an atmosphere or subtext that is somehow your own - if you are to make a mark, over time, as an individual.

Doug Rickard said...

I suppose it is okay to be specific on Jacob here...

Yes, "Sabine" is fk'in fantastic... and "I, Tokyo" in its severe contrast treatment and "vibe" is Moriyama... so much so as to be a tad distracting for me.

colin pantall said...

Absolutely Doug.

Mitch Alland said...

Yes, Sobol comes to Tokyo and starts photographing Shinjuku and — guess what? — it looks just like Moriyama's Shinjuku. You think that "doesn't matter"?


colin pantall said...

Hi Mitch - Moriyama shoots Shinjuku again and it looks just like Moriyama. In a way, I think that matters more than Sobol shooting Shinjuku and looking like Moriyama (who looks like Tomatsu and Klein who look like...).

So no,it doesn't matter. Not at all, not today, not this morning.

What do you think, Mitch? Does it matter? How so?

Anonymous said...

The shaved head?
The dead rat?

Many of the Provoke photographers may have used high contrast imagery, but for Sobol to use the exact same subject matter, in exactly the same way, strikes me at least as mattering.