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Beyond the Cover 封面以外

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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「疏離」和「離地」:Bertolt Brecht《War Primer》/Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin 《War Primer 2》⁣

「疏離」和「離地」:Bertolt Brecht《War Primer》/Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin 《War Primer 2》⁣
「九一一」,原來已差不多廿周年了,每年為恐襲死難者的悼念活動如舊舉行,但當今美國新冠疫情下死亡人數已大大超越了恐襲的死亡人數時,難免有點失焦,或許會有更多人籍機反思那場差點把美國人拖下泥沼的阿庫汗反恐戰爭,這場戰爭美國打了18年,險些不能自拔,差點要重蹈越戰的慘痛回憶。⁣

著名德國左翼詩人、劇作家布萊希特(Bertolt Brecht)於1955年發行了一本名為《War Primer》(戰爭讀本)的作品,這本來打算在二次世界大戰期間出版卻未果的圖文集,不是去為人類文明史上死傷最慘重的戰爭慘況作墓誌銘,而是喚醒觀者看清戰爭的荒誕。書中圖片在他戰時流亡期間搜集得來,有來自主流新聞刊物、報紙,也有些是來自國家的宣傳機器,抽離了原來的語境,配上他作的「四行詩」,重新整合成為嶄新的圖文檔案。他所配搭的詩句文字往往不具說明性,甚至會覺得是風馬牛不相及,打破文字和圖片相互依存的天性。好些時候文字甚至是跟圖像打對台,譏諷其愚昧浮淺。書名「讀本」之名其實是帶著諷刺性,作者在希望反思戰爭的殘酷時,也是暗示單純依賴圖像了解歷史的不足。

中學時作為戲劇迷的筆者,對於布萊希特的 「史詩劇場」(epic theatre)觀念非常著迷,他所推崇的「疏離」效應(alienation),往往叫人措手不及,例如可以「無厘頭」的安插樂隊在台上詠唱、刻意曝露後台空間細節等等,他訴諸的的種種手段其實就是要你把情感短路,將快要介入劇情的同理心剎停,迫使觀眾主動做審美經驗,從以產生對劇作涵意的批判性。《War Primer》其實是秉承其戲劇理念,以「另類檔案」形式去防止讀者情緒過於共鳴,鼓勵思辯,對我而言這種思路一直影響著自己的創作之中。⁣

2013年英國攝影創作團隊 Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin,利用此書作二次創作成為《War Primer 2》,榮獲當年的德意志交易所攝影獎。他們遵循1955年原版的頁面佈局,保留布萊希特的四行詩,覆蓋上在網上搜羅得來的反恐戰爭圖像,聰明地闡述戰爭本質萬變不離其宗,把 history repeats itself 老調新唱。Broomberg & Chanarin 一方面繼承了那份疏離,冷眼旁觀去批評這場反恐戰爭,其實某程度上也是「借力打力」,對這種影像蒙太奇多加一層諷刺,他們在一個訪問中都覺得這本書對布萊希特而言是種背叛多過致敬,因為這份背叛其實是對布萊希特批判思維的一份尊重。⁣

讀這兩本所謂「讀本」其實有點跟今天香港社會大氣候反其道而行。當下每天面對著巨量圖像埋身,如果叫人去嘗試「疏離」應對隨時會被誤會為鼓勵「離地」,會給人罵死。這些圖像幾乎大部份以布萊希特常常批判的「亞里士多德式」(Aristotelian)劇場形式呈現,也就是說觀眾為戲劇所吸引,將幻想和現實的差別消失的催眠效果,而形成一個共同的心理狀態、共同的人格,這就是戲劇所造成的幻覺,從而追求精神洗滌的效果,浸吟其中。「疏離」其實不難,難在很多時自己其實進入了「劇場」模式卻不自覺。⁣

說到底這只是一篇小小攝影書的簡評,沒有空間去多闡述理論,最重要的是布萊希特這類超級「左膠」今天已沒有太多的市場,講多氣。⁣

噢,話多了。⁣

𝐃𝐒⁣


《War Primer 2》: https://store.thesaltyard.hk/products/war-primer-2
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再起我新門牆:Damian Heinisch 《45》⁣⁣⁣

再起我新門牆:Damian Heinisch 《45》⁣⁣⁣
「走,定唔走?」⁣⁣⁣
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相信是不少香港人近來相互問及,又或是經常自問自答的問題。想離開、要離開或被離開,從來是人類不可或缺的宿命。⁣⁣⁣
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現居於挪威奧斯陸的 Damian Heinisch 原籍波蘭,祖父在 1945 年冬天,在二次世界大戰剛結束後,被蘇軍強迫從他家鄉波蘭城市格利維采(Gliwice)用運載牲口的火車押送到烏克蘭的德巴爾切夫(Debaltsevo)的勞改營,最後客死異鄉。1978 年他父親為了追求嚮往的自由生活,幸運地獲得批文,從當時早已是共產鐵幕國家的波蘭,舉家乘坐火車移居到民主國家西德,那年父親45歲。⁣⁣⁣
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到2013年,Heinisch 自己也45 歲了,受到感召決定去重踏祖父人生最後的旅程,花了十三天坐火車到達烏克蘭,找回了埋葬了祖父的無名塚,為他獻上一束鮮花。八個月後,俄羅斯吞併克里米亞觸發起「烏克蘭革命」,亂世再臨。「45」 這個數字好像成了他家族的命運密碼。⁣⁣⁣
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《45》是 2020 年英國攝影集出版社 MACK 的 First Book Award 得獎作品,通常這類新人獎的獲獎作品,往往強調一些出人意表的點子,以「撚橋」來吸引眼球,很少會在情感上會這麼內斂沉澱。此書視覺上如以無添加的客觀描述,其實只是一張張從車廂窗戶外望的景觀畫面,僅此而已。這些景觀經過大幅剪栽,已經抽離了本身的語境,加上35毫米菲林經過擴大的粗微粒,變得像記憶本身一樣碎片化。⁣⁣⁣
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也許看來平平無奇,但這些窗外的光影流轉帶來的遐想,其實比其景觀本身更重要,叫我想起普魯斯特的名句:「真正的發現之旅不在於尋求新的風景,而在於擁有新的視角。」(The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.)⁣⁣⁣
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你可以把《45》看成一本充滿鄉愁的旅行日誌,但其實更多的是展露作者對其家族顛沛流離的人生的一份無奈。我拒絕以nostalgia的方向作演譯,是因為會麻醉了對建立美好新生活的動力,作為一個經歷過「電視汁撈飯」年代的老餅,容許我老套地引鬼才黃霑為電視劇《決擇》作詞的主題曲裡最後兩句作結:再起我新門牆,勝我舊家鄉。⁣⁣⁣
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DS⁣


https://store.thesaltyard.hk/products/45
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