I was commissioned to write this a few years ago for the Central European House of Photography in Bratislava (and thank you to all the photo...
Tuesday, 18 May 2010
Worried about the Boy
The stagnation seems to be coming early here in the West Country this year so it was good to be perked up by the BBC's drama about Boy George, Worried about the Boy.
This was energised television with Boy George, Kirk Brandon, Jon Moss, Steve Strange and Malcolm McClaren gloriously reinvented for the small screen. Boy George was a creative consultant for the programme which made sense when you saw who played him - gorgeous, pouting Douglas Booth, strong-chinned, hard-bellied with tender brown eyes that glowed with human nobility and rose above the empty posturing of Steve Strange, Spandau Ballet and the rest of the Blitz kids.
My favourite line (which has some topical resonance) from the drama was the one where George is contemplating a prison sentence after being arrested for heroin possession (I think):
Boy George: Norman Tebbit wants to put me in a prison and throw away the key.
Jon Moss: Well you shouldn't have fucking voted for him then, should you.
The following BBC programme, Girls and Boys: Sex and British Pop Music, looked at the sexuality of British singers and the use of ambiguity to 'soften' the edges of homosexuality for the parents of the teenage audience the bands were catering to. Seeing Morrissey being kissed on the cheek and neck by a succession of 'gas fitters' from the north of England was a phenomenon to behold.
My favourite soundbite from this documentary was by Jimmy Somerville of Bronski Beat. He had seen the ambiguity of a succession of pop stars (Boy George and Freddy Mercury ambiguous - come on) and knew it wasn't for him. "Fuck ambiguity," he said and so Bronski Beat became one of the first successful openly gay bands.
All this talk of ambiguity reminds me of photography and a post by Harry Hardie on the Host Gallery Blog
which says something very similar to Jimmy Somerville.
"Sometimes I just want to know what I am looking at, surely that’s not too much to ask?"
"...sometimes I wish photographers would just say what they mean."
Harry's gripe is with photographer's statements and the idea of between-ness, how it is overused and how it renders meaningless the pictures which it statements. There is an overuse of between-ness in photography, in reference to liminal spaces, transitionary ages or the blurring of the structured and the real.
Multiple meanings and interpretations is part of what makes great work. There is no one way of looking at things, there are layers and complexities and depths to images that reach into areas of our conscious and subconscious life. But there is also a clarity in this kind of complexity that comes from a sense of direction and purpose generated by the photographer and his/her vision.
The between-ness Harry writes about corresponds to a lack of commitment, an ambiguity where you don't have multiple meanings and interpretations (it could be this and this and that) but end up with a negative meaning where something ends up being neither this nor that.
This is what Harry had to say on the blog:
So this got me thinking about how many titles of photo books have the word “between” in them, a quick advanced search on Amazon brings up 3,762! Some of which are:
Between Art and Revolution: Tina Modotti
In Between: Guy Bourdin
China Between by Polly Braden
Between the Eyes
Some Points in Between... Up Till Now: Robert Polidori
Between Sky and Earth
Between Dogs and Wolves: Growing Up with South Africa by Jodi Bieber
IRAQ: The Space Between by Christoph Bangert
Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China
Between the Dark and Light by Jay Blakesberg
Between the Two by Todd Hido
Between Sea and Sky by R.S. Thomas and Peter Hope Jones
Between Dreams and Reality: Tracey Moffatt
The Space Between: Michal Rovner
Between Past and Future: New German Photography
Between Worlds: Contemporary Mexican Photography
Water: Worlds Between Heaven and Earth by Art Wolfe
Tibet: The Roof of the World Between Past and Present by Maria Antonia Sironi Diemberger
Between Visible by Tomoko Yoneda
The Space Between: Gordon Matta-Clark
Between Dog and Wolf by Nick Haymes
Between Dark and Dark by Thomas Joshua Cooper
Between Dog and Wolf: Chrystel Lebas