Featured post

Contemporary Narratives - Photography: A Short Guide to History, Theory, and Practice: Online Course Starting April 27th 2022

  Sign up to my new series of talks on Contemporary Narratives - Photography: A Short Guide to History, Theory, and Practice .  Starts on Ap...

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Time, Distance, Love and Seba Bruno

‘I never talk to them… I don’t ask their permission. I don’t pay them. And eventually I got into

That's what Philip Lorca diCorcia said about his Heads project - after he got sued for taking the picture of a guy without his permission.

So is it better to talk to people, to collaborate and communicate with them while making work. If you go to hear Gemma-Rose Turnbull and Pete Brook talk in Bristol on Thursday the answer is almost certainly yes.

But then again, considering half of the greatest pictures ever made (and I do like great pictures) involve limited interaction beyond the point and click, maybe not.

Last week, I went with Paul Reas and a bunch of Documentary Photography students to see some exhibitions at the Diffusion Festival in Cardiff.

The most ambitious and touching was Seba Bruno's Dynamic installation - Bruno works for a free newspaper in Abertillery called The Dynamic. It's run by two lovely but odd guys called Tony and Julian. Bruno's deal is he photographs for the paper in exchange for photographing Tony and Julian.

Julian on the day the offices of the Dynamic were taken away

So in the exhibition you see a room full of pictures of Tony and Julian working on The Dynamic, a projection and then a recreation of the office where the Dynamic is made (see below) - complete with half-filled ashtrays, opened packets of Doritos and a phone that puts you through to a recording of Tony telling you the story of the Dynamic.

Tony and Julian sound like great people the way Seba talks about them. And there in lies the problem. Their story, the story of the newspaper they make, the lives they lead, the people who live in the town of Abertillery make for a great story.

Bruno talked about them with love and affection. He talked about the frustrations of working for the paper, and the delights, the drunken post-production walks home with Tony and Julian through the valleys of Wales, the difficult lives they lived, the glamour of being an Argentinian glamour in a small Welsh town, and he talked about the constant piss-taking that went on between him, Tony and Julian and how it turned a quiet small town into something almost magical.

And then he talked about the photography and telling the story. Before when he photographed, he didn't need to worry about the delicacies of who he was telling the story about. There was no intimacy, he wasn't photographing people he cared about.

But now he was and it was hell. Because he couldn't tell the story he wanted to tell. Or if he could, he didn't know how to do it in the right way. Because being close, being friends was a barrier. Affection was a barrier. It really does matter how the story is told, the tone that is used, and how to preserve the qualities that make it such a great story in the first place.

So the question now is how to overcome that barrier, how to tell the story while preserving the love. And for that time is needed. And distance.

To hear more on the subject, come to ICVL's talk by Pete Brook and Gemma-Rose Turnbull at the Arnolfini, Thursday 16th May! It's sure to be one of the five things that they have already decided to talk about. I hope. 

PS Please forgive me if tomorrow I say something completely opposite. Inconsistency and not knowing what's right is one of my vices.

No comments: