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Sunday, 24 April 2016


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I am sorry to hear that you didn't enjoy Petersen's book so much. He is a big name here in Sweden (and one often bumps into him if visiting openings in Stockholm). Part of the Christer Strömholm tradition, perhaps, which is influential here. Personally I think that Petersen is very good.

Last year I spent some time in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, and I can recognize some of the rough and gritty esthetics in their photography. Look at the Kharkiv school of photography for example, Boris Mikhailov, Roman Pyatkovka, or Misha Pedan (who actually lives and teaches in Stockholm now.)

I understand that you are not trying to say that gritty photography is less valid when one can afford a SUV, it does just not interest you personally so much, right?

Anyway, thanks for an excellent blog. By, the way, who is your favorite gritty European photographer, Mike, if I may ask?

[Koudelka, for sure. And I'm not saying I didn't like Petersen; I'm saying the time wasn't right for me to respond to him. I'm sure I'll be more receptive to the richness in his work at some point in the future--and the book will be awaiting me. --Mike]

It seems that you are perusing the wrong sort of turntable..........


That is an amazing price for any turntable worth having, let alone one made with the care these seem to be.

One of my favorite musicians, Greg Brown, made fun of Tom Waits a bit in a song called "Waiting." Found it on YouTube...


As a neigbour, or at least living in the same county as Tom Burke, I think you meant to say he is from 'Old Blighty' rather than 'Old Blimey'. Although as things stand here at the moment your description may be much more accurate!

Of course noir is a choice, just as going to war is (today) a choice for war photographers, or photographing the young Ukrainians working at Chernobyl http://labs.letemps.ch/interactive/2016/tchernobyl/
Photographing it, singing about it, just another form of documenting, no? So the people living in the 3br tract homes can have a vivifying look into life closer than the edge, or summon up some more visceral emotions via Waits's voice.
After all, they are the ones who can afford to buy the books and the music... but they don't really want to go live down there.

"Have you ever bought a photobook you're just not in the mood for?" Yes, several over the years. Most recently one tipped from TOP actually. I usually set them aside for another look another day.

I've not seen the Anderson Petersen book but I have seen some of his work. He's rather like a Swedish Bruce Gilden. I don't really think he has anything to say with his camera but he's straining to say it as caustically and abrasively as possible. The work just doesn't represent anything to me.

Hi Mike,

Checking the U-Turn turntable and found the it should not be compatible to the other side of the pond, i.e. 50Hz (instead of 'mercies 60Hz) since it says "low voltage AC synchronous".


"At some point, pork-pie hats, soul patches, and gravelly-voiced songs about low-lifes becomes a choice, doesn't it?"

I hope you realize how universally-applicable and useful that statement is. It allows me to artfully dodge a host of contrivances. Thank you.

"Old Blimey" is just wonderful and I'm disappointed my fellow islanders didn't get it. Maybe they are just used to Merkins getting it wrong, which you seldom do.

I'm too often in the mood to look through his books.
One of my favorite photographer interviews ever is this one that is posted on the Lens Culture site. Petersen describes how he works, and there's a great story about when he went to photograph a conjugal visit in a prison.


Kenneth- One could argue the man is one of the more humanistic photographers of the last half century- and still going strong with images that directly address and speak to humanity about... humanity. To this day, he continues to mine the nooks and crannies of that human condition from which we continue to turn away- often to our detriment. He documented the gay and transgender scene long before it was "fashionable," and continues to glean more out of life with his diminutive T3 than most photographers with an armada of the latest photographic equipment.

Gilden's technique and images are hit and run, Petersen's is about involvement and engagement with the subject matter- quite the opposite. True they both end up with very strong and dramatic images, but to very different ends and from very divergent beginnings.

Speaking of things being made by hand in America, there's an interesting off-beat film out (I rented it on iTunes) titled The Confirmation that explores that topic, among others. It's one of those films that people keep saying they should make more of, instead of the blow-up-the-planet blockbusters the studios keep churning out. Well, they made this one, so I think people should see it.

"I've not seen the Anderson Petersen book but I have seen some of his work. He's rather like a Swedish Bruce Gilden. I don't really think he has anything to say with his camera but he's straining to say it as caustically and abrasively as possible." While I personally have outgrown my fondness for Petersen (Anders, not Anderson), just as I have outgrown my fondness for Moriyama, Klein and van der Elsken (which are the relevant comparisons), I do take issue with Kenneth Tanaka's superficial (I am being kind here) characterisation of Petersen. If you take a real look at his work since the beginning of the 70's there is nothing there to compare with Gilden's aggressiveness other than perhaps the odd portrait here and there taken in recent years. In fact, the one thing that marks Petersen's photos since the beginning is intimacy. What seems to have happened though is that he has moved away from long term projects towards more of stand alone pictures, probably due to old age and less energy for the commitment that projects require, and pushed the contrast up in the process. What Petersen has to say with his camera only he can really answer, but I see only a wish to depict life from as close an observing vantage point as possible.

Re the British: On the other side you have the Viscount Moncton, who seems to be some kind of British Donald Trump. Certainly they have similar views on global warming.

Thanks for the heads up about U-Turn - that's pretty much an impulse buy, even decked out! (No pun intended). As another commenter remarked, reminds me of my old AR ES-1 (heavily Merrill modded) which I sold years ago and have been turntable-less since. Still have my old vinyl, plus a record cleaning machine. May just have to give the U-Turn a try...

Your description of Tom Waits makes me think of the pre-Kathleen Brennan era in his music and self-presentation. Since she became his life partner and collaborator, his shtick has gotten a lot weirder and more varied.

That was decades ago.

Both Petersen´s photos and Wait´s music is not for everyday viewing and listening. You have to be in the right mood. When you are, it´s magic.

Several years ago I bought 'Café Lemnitz', expecting on reputation to receive one of the most significant photobooks of recent decades. I thought the imagery dated, a mix of Brassai in Paris, Frank, Winogrand, and the coarse B&W usage itself similarly passé - all of this under the guise of 'documentary photography' of (presumed) social concern.

You did mean "Old Blighty" didn't you, not Blimey? And even if you didn't, you'd find this fascinating:

Blighty is an English slang term for Britain, deriving from the Hindustani word vilāyatī (विलायती) (pronounced bilāti in many Indian dialects and languages) meaning "foreign", and is itself derived from the Arabic/Urdu word wilayat, meaning a kingdom or ministry.

"Old Blighty" was a sentimental reference to the motherland coined by troops in the trenches of WWI

I'll leave you to look up Cor Blimey. I could go on......

Years ago I frequented a Leica forum. One day a portfolio of photos by a young female photographer ( whose name escapes me) who dared to obviously use Photoshop w images shot w Leica glass, caused a near negative seismic response. Nevermind they were obviously among the most original work I'd ever seen there. I stopped going to that site almost instantly.
Just didn't want to spend time amongst such narrow-minedness.
We all have strong emotions about our preferences. Which is good. But to close off ourselves from possible artists we might not feel "comfortable" with is understandable but the next step is usually to speak ill of such talent.
Tom Waits is an easy target but it'd be your loss. While he doesn't offer a tourist board approved 50's retro view of Paris ala Turnley, he continues to produce his own original work that is challenging, funny and musical. Listen to him. There was a great interview w him on Terry Gross's Fresh Air a few years ago. Funny and thoughtful.
I would hope that he'd be championed here as an American treasure working against the grain of popular dreck.
I'll get off my soapbox now.
( I loved the Greg Brown song though!)

from the amazon product page:

U-Turn: Orbit Plus Turntable w/ Built In Preamp (OM5e) - White
by U-Turn
Be the first to review this item
Price: $379.95
Only 5 left in stock.
This item does not ship to Heidelberg, Germany.

well ... fortunately, i don't really need one :-)



"Unless I'm wrong, I believe Tom Waits lives in California bliss in the upper middle class enclave of Petaluma...not exactly dirty New Jersey...."

Whaaa? California is the true home of noir. Just ask Philip Marlowe.

And don't Us-ians swan around? I try not to but my wife thinks I do rather a lot.

@Mattie Osterberg & Mike's reply: I think authenticity is needed in the arts, or you make mistakes and feed in to this awful media/celebrity culture that's mostly b.s. George Carlin, for example, was sometimes funny, but he was also rich and though he spoke in defense of what he saw as poor-people issues, he seemed to know nothing about them, probably because he was riding around in limos from the time he was in his 20s. For example, he did a routine about how it would be cool to use golf courses to build house for the homeless, a potentially funny idea. But then he had to lecture: the homeless don't need homes, they need houses...and in that he was exactly wrong. What the homeless really need is a home. There are plenty of houses, and even people to offer them -- but what the homeless really need is somebody to care about them, and for them. In other words, a home. Carlin got it exactly backwards, because he was a rich guy pretending. The problem was, he, like a lot of celebrities, had a megaphone; and that megaphone would have been far more useful if he'd know what he was talking about. That applies to musicians as well as photographers but (IMHO) especially photographers.

I apologize for misspelling ANDERS Petersen's name in my earlier comment. Auto-correct can be mean.

Having since looked at much more of his work over the years, and reading I rivers with him I have to stand by my own impression of his work. While I will allow that, as Mattias noted in rebuttal, Petersen is not exactly in the same hit-and-run business as Bruce Gilden he certainly seems to be just as much in the freak-show style. I see no sense of humanism in his work. I see someone finding various genres of human subjects he can subject to his visual "treatment" over decades. Every one of his images seems processed to look like a snapshot from a hallucination.

If that style engages your imagination. -- and it must have a good audience judging by the attention he's garnered -- more power to ya. But I find it a little tedious and, often, cruel.

Denis Thorpe was an inspiration to me when I was younger. I always looked for his photographs in The Guardian newspaper where he was a staff photographer. If you search for him on Google images you'll find his iconic photo taken during the infamous miners strike of the 1980s: a miner wearing a toy policeman's helmet facing off to a line of real policemen.

[Wait, I thought that was Don McPhee's? --Mike

http://www.artinliverpool.com/don-mcphee-photographs-at-cornerstone-gallery/ ]

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