People in circumstances
When the later-to-be-famous German photographer Albert Renger-Patzsch published his first major work in 1928, it was called “Die Welt ist schön” (The world is beautiful). Granted, the titled was not invented by the photographer himself, but by the editor. Never the less, it is a bit ironic that Trine Søndergaard received the Renger-Patzsch award in 2001 for showing us a world that is exactly the opposite of beautiful.
Now that you are mine (Steidl, 2002) are glimpses into the everyday life of prostitutes and drug addicts in Copenhagen. The pictures has been taken during a two year period, and my guess is, that it has taken some time for Søndergaard to gain the trust of her subjects, so as to be able to take these pictures. Never the less, her work has the aesthetics of snap shots: taken right on, in glaring colours and often a sharp flashlight. Sort of the pictures your teenage daughter would bring home from a trip to Ibiza. Apart from the content, hopefully…
Normally, I’m no great fan of this type of photography. But I must admit that it makes sense here. First of all, it suits the meagre circumstances. Secondly, it reminds you that you are nothing but a tourist into another world. A world that might seem far away – but never the less is a reality, a few kilometres from your own safe, suburban life.
Further credit goes to Trine Søndergaard for keeping the fine line between exposing reality and exposing her subjects. There are traces of love and tenderness, even here. These people are not freaks, but persons like you and me – in fact; it could probably have been us, if circumstances had been different.
Circumstances certainly have been different, for most of the people that are portrayed in Ole Christiansens Photographs (People’s Press, 2003). Most of the pictures are portraits of Danish and even some international celebrities. Some of them include some context that helps to characterize the person, while some are just plain close ups – such as the brilliant portraits of Iggy Pop or Leonard Cohen, just to mention a few.
However, I sometimes find books of only portraits a bit boring. What makes this book stand out is the fact that the portraits have been mixed up with some other shots: situationals, cityscapes – even the occasional nude. These are fine pictures in their own right. But even though they have no formal connections to the portraits, they also bring a much more vivid and varied experience to the book as a whole.
It should also be noted, that the book is in a large format that really do justice to the pictures.
Amazon by Liv Carlé Mortensen is also about circumstances – or rather: about the circumstance of being a lover, a mother and a woman. Imagine you could take one part Cindy Sherman, one part Sally Mann and one part punk-rock, ad a good measure of blood and mix it all together in a blender. This will give you some idea of Mortensens work…
Amazon gives you the impression, that living in a family – or maybe even life as such – is a constant, hard fought battle with yourself and your messy circumstances. Something you have to be an Amazon to cope with. Personally, I think this is a rather one-sided picture. But then again, that might have something to do with my gender and my age?
Anyway, you have to respect Liv Carlé Mortensen for her personal commitment. This is a book with absolutely no compromise and no filter between the artist and her work. Try to get adjusted to the amount of blood, and this is a book that probably won’t please you but certainly won’t leave you untouched either.
To be continued…