Hearts of Darkness, A Filmmakers Apocalypse 1991
Jefferson Airplane Rooftop Concert film by Jean-Luc Godard 1968
New Order Blue Monday, Live 1984 BBC Radio 1
Gillian Wearing Interview with The Brooklyn Rail
Rail: And Diane Arbus?
Wearing: Warhol wasn’t as big an influence as Arbus, whose work I didn’t know until I was at Goldsmiths. There was a lecture on photography, and one image really stuck out out was her photograph of the twin girls. It was beautifully explained by the lecturer at the time; he said “this is a psychological portrait, if you look at the eyes, one’s introverted, one’s extroverted, that’s all you kind of need to know.” And then you realize the differences in individuality; these are twins, they’re meant to be the same, virtually, but they’re completely opposite of each other. It was a bit like an Alice in Wonderland moment. But I didn’t go out and make any photographs after seeing that. It wasn’t until I started doing the signs that someone pointed out the similarity to Arbus. I know what they were trying to say, because I was just approaching anyone on the street, but I couldn’t see that many parallels. If I was to find a parallel I’d say it’s because you look twice between what the person’s saying and what they look like. With Arbus there is that sense of the psychological which interests me, but I’ve taken a different path. It’s good to have that spiritual family there as a sort of backbone, but you don’t want to emulate anyone: what interests you is a part of who you are and how you were brought up and the experiences around you. Arbus had a different life and a different experience from me so I can only bring to the work what I know about the world that I inhabit. But they’re there as really good role models in that sense. So that’s trying to inhabit them for a very brief moment. I almost thought maybe one day I’d do a film where I would play Arbus, but I don’t know how successfully it would ever work out.
Rail: There’s a heavy element of personality in the Arbus, Warhol, and Mapplethorpe portraits, but the August Sander image of himself is much more staid and sort of documentary. Why did you choose Sander to inhabit? That seems less about iconic imagery and more about a fascination with perhaps a methodology.
Wearing: I feel the Sander looks like a Sander photograph, a documentary photograph where the person imaged directly faces the camera. Arbus I believed also looked at Sander’s work, in fact some of Sander’s images look like she could have taken them. His influence on me came after Arbus, but you can see how he changed the face of photography. His photographs are more than the explanation behind the work of photographing everyone he could; they transcend that.
Interview with Tony Ray-Jones, Creative Camera, April, 1970
T.R-J: What for you is the relationship between composition and subject matter?
B: There are two things: I think that there are photographers who compose very well but who have no understanding of life or human things. There are others who have much human understanding but no feeling for form. I feel that it is important to have both because one must convey a living thing with strong composition. Form can be many things in photography. Photography has nothing to do with painting, but even so there is a frame in which the photograph must be composed. Photography has one leg in painting and one leg in life but the two things must be combined. I like well composed pictures: I don’t like disorder in a photograph. Photography in the beginning began by imitating painting and then there was a revolution in different countries. Stieglitz in the United States and Emerson in England, and Atget in France. They all tried to do something different, they didn’t want photography to be taken for painting but wanted something especially for photography.
Strangely enough when I published Paris de Nuit I received a letter from Emerson in the UK. He said: “I am giving you a medal for your book.’ I thought it was a joke. He also asked me for a picture of myself because he was doing a book on the history of photography and he wanted to put me in it because my book showed that photography is art. I didn’t reply until his second letter, I thought he was mad. In his second letter he said: ‘I am Emerson, the medalist, and you will be the last of the Emerson medalists.’ He had spent some time with the painter, Whistler, who told him that photography was not an art. He spent three months on a boat thinking about it and afterwards wrote a letter to his friend saying: ‘I was wrong. Everything that I said was wrong. Photography is not an art and I will take no more photographs.’ It is interesting because fifteen years later he told me that photography was an art.
Jem Cohen’s Museum Hours
Making The Abyss
Making The Abyss Part 2
Making The Abyss
Making The Abyss
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