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一口大頭針 – Paul Graham 《Beyond Caring》

一口大頭針 – Paul Graham 《Beyond Caring》

想必這個時候大家應該在享受著政府帶來消費券的小恩小惠,市面被營造成欣欣向榮的假像,但心水清的都會質疑受惠的真是我們這些普羅大眾嗎?今年年初時香港失業率破記錄超越七個百份點,驟然間好像已變成前了前塵往事。猶記得當時政府公佈數字時我是無名火起,或許是由於自己的「藍領基因」作崇,但更多的是政府官員那份僥倖投機的心態,往往以「已經見頂」、「將會回落」等語言偽術去掩蓋缺乏對失業人士舒困應變措施的缺失,更竟然說得出著他們去嘗試借貸渡日的說話,這樣的政府怎樣會有末來?

這個時候我需要找一些文藝作品去平息一下我的怒氣,例如找一下英國元老左翼電影導演堅·盧治的《我,不低頭》(I, Daniel Blake)看看,這部控訴褔利機構僵化官僚的電影裡,訴說的是一名因心臟疾病而不能工作的老木匠 Dan,在申請失業援助時所受到種種無理阻撓,被淪為制度人球的故事。片中 Dan 忍無可忍在失業援助辦事處門外撤野抗議,看得人咬牙切齒。

又或者會翻一翻英國紀實攝影師 Paul Graham 拍攝的攝影集《Beyond Caring》,這本1986年由 Graham 自主出版的攝影集,近日再被重版,我在學年代也聽聞過這本書的一些爭議,主要是因為這本書推出曾經受到一些傳統紀實攝影界人仕所批評,其一是用彩色去拍攝人文紀實題材,在八十年代初對很多人而言仍是「原罪」,覺得令題材變得庸俗,另外是這本書裡沒有典型紀實那份悲天憫人的味道,拍攝的都是一張張在英國政府褔利機構辦事處裡,一模一樣的冷冰冰的色調和裝修襯托下,援助申請者在輪候的圖片,如你曾經歷過殖民地年代的香港,大概不難明白,當年政府機構辦事處的氛圍都幾庶近。

Graham 在那個由「鐵娘子」戴卓爾夫人執政的年代,也曾是失業大軍一員。在所謂「戴卓爾主義」(Thatcherism)施政理念下,大量國企被私有法,工會力量被削弱或瓦解,工人失業之餘失去議價能力,只能任人魚肉。當年也因削減福利開支要重整資源,多褔利部門年沒有增加人手更削減辦事處的數目,輪候申請人數欲有增無減,失業援助申請者往往需要等上一整天才獲得職員面談的機會,成為那個年代英國基層的典型寫照。對攝影師而言,這些相對悶蛋景況他們大都提不起興趣拍攝,但 Graham 覺得有需要記錄下來,遂走訪英國各地的衛生和社會保障部的辦事處(Department of Health and Social Security ),低調地在裡面拍攝援助申請者輪候的苦況。值得一提 Graham 為此書新寫的後記裡,提到一份難得的自省,這些照片沒有獲得當事人同意情況下拍攝,是迫於無奈的做法,在擠擁的辦事處裡要獲得所有人首肯拍攝是不切實際的,攝影師要在為善和為害中間取得平衡去選擇拍攝與否,如選擇拍攝就得緊守道德操守,如他會更著緊著緊怎樣去流通這些照片,或不容許帶誤導性的標題,Graham 覺得雖是行小善,但如他所言「It’s the raindrops that make the ocean」。

這些看來平淡乏味的畫面,與典型展現貧窮基層的角度截然不同。要明白貧窮可怕之處不單是物質生活的窘乏,更甚是個人尊嚴因此被一點一滴的奪去,第昔加(Vittorio De Sica)的經典電影《單車竊賊》(Bicycle Thieves)表達得最好,父親因自己用來維生的單車被偷,絕望之餘想鋌而走險去偷別人的單車來頂替,卻被人抓個正著,觀眾不單是為他的困境而落淚,更多是為了他被眾人逮著時,在兒子面前作為父親的尊嚴一時間消失殆盡。《我,不低頭》裡最叫人揪心的一幕,是女主角 Katie 在食物銀行裡難忍飢腸轆轆,本能地把一罐茄汁豆打開大口大口地吃,被人發現時展示的那份羞愧叫人印象深刻;《Beyond Caring》裡每個久候失業援助的民眾,都是一副副失魂落魄,眼神空洞的樣子,這些被制度掏空了的人,有老年有年青也有帶著嬰兒的母親,當福利制度被看為施予恩賜的手段時,這些人對官員來說是沒有名字,他們可能只是一個一個的數字而已。

《Beyond Caring》確實沒有叫人愉悅的畫面或視覺衝擊,追求此道者大概可以略過,《我,不低頭》也肯定算不上是堅·盧治最好的作品,但不減這些作品的重要性,偉大的文藝作品為什麼可以歷久常新,其中一個因素是我們一直可以籍她們來審時度勢,觀乎近年不少本地描述基層或邊緣社群的文藝作品(尤其是電影),以泛人道主義看待這些社會現象,不自覺地墜入販賣悲情,消費憐憫的胡同,卻缺乏對制度上根源問題的探索和批判。近日大量長者因不會用網上申請消費券,要人手填寫那份設計得異常複雜的申請表,最後弄出種種亂象,跟 Dan 不懂用電腦進行申請時求助無門一樣,是純粹被制度所玩弄,在這些在烈日下舟車勞頓跑到辦事處,大排長龍的長者隊伍裡,我們不難在這本書或這套電影看到他們類似的身影。

看待這類作品,就像找來一口大頭針去刺一下你的大腿,那陣刺痛提醒你還是有感覺,不是麻目不仁;她是用來較準你的 moral compass,來應對我們這個倫常顛倒的政府,大概這樣才可以活得像個人。

DS

https://store.thesaltyard.hk/products/beyond-caring

 

(這篇應該是書評,但如果對《我,不低頭》一劇或英國現今褔利機構狀況有興趣的話,誠意推薦參閱查映嵐的文章。)

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Paul Graham - The Whiteness of the Whale

Paul Graham - The Whiteness of the Whale

It may not be very appropriating to call myself a fan of Paul Graham’s work since every time I see it questions arise. What does it mean? Why is it represented this way? Graham’s works are not always love at first sight but are definitely thought provoking. They keep drawing me back again and again. Especially as a documentary photographer, I always try to break the mold of narrative cliché in my work; Graham’s work can provide some hints on how I should move forward. Sometimes we may try hard to construct eloquence in the arena of straight photography. But for me Graham deconstructs it and goes back to focus on how each photographs can do its own job.

This photobook consists of Graham’s three seminal works about contemporary America: American Night, A Shimmer of Possibility and The Present. Graham’s works are somewhat traditional as he targeted pretty much the same subject matter, like race or poverty, that Walker Evans and Lewis Hine did in the past. His working methodology is much like his predecessors Joel Sternfeld or Robert Frank. But what makes Graham special is his restraint in aesthetic or emotional elements in the images. Sometimes we may find Graham’s works distant, even detached, since he never invites emotional engagement from the audience. But this feeling of detachment or alienation may be a representation of the embodiment of America, also providing the audience a unique psychological space to read his photographs.

Graham shows his ambitious efforts in this trilogy but the approaches are not complicated, he simply carefully reconstructs the narratives after breaking them down. In American Night, he uses polarity. Overexposed, washed out images of black people in their neighborhoods are contrasted with bright, saturated colors in photographs of nicely built houses and cars. In A Shimmer of Possibility, he uses images of random moments of life, juxtaposed in a way like Japanese Haiku. The Present, which is about the streets of New York, is presented with paired images of the same scene separated by a very short moment. The tradition of street photography or decisive moment is no longer echoed here. These reconstructive approaches are fresh for the audience since they are rarely utilized in a strong, even traditional, documentary context like this. While Graham blurs the boundary of documentary and fine art photography, he also tries to re-examine the whole documentary tradition.

Graham’s works are always inspired by fictions. The title of the book, The Whiteness of the Whale, is from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. A Shimmer of Possibility was inspired by Anton Chekhov’s short stories and I think this can sum up the style of the whole trilogy. Just like Chekhov’s fictions, the presence of a stream of consciousness is very strong in Graham’s works. He makes use of fragments of everyday life — not the pursuit of twists and turns of the plot or any dramatic situations, but the clever details that illustrate the possible subtext of life. And in the end the book is filled with subtlety and ambiguity to be savored, which will keep drawing me back again and again.

DS

(Originally written for photoeye.com)

https://store.thesaltyard.hk/products/the-whiteness-of-the-whale

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