Most of my photographic education has come through American publications. It is only within the last few years that I’ve begun to dip into the vast sea of European photography. (I’m saving Japan for my retirement).
Upon the recommendation of Mr. Whiskets, I recently purchased a copy of Conversations with Contemporary Photographers. One of those conversations is with Bernard Plossu. Plossu spent years living in Taos and seems to have served as a critical link between American and European photography in the 70’s and 80’s. Even though he has published numerous books, his pictures have never crossed my eyes until now:
Le Mauritanien endormi, 1976 by Bernard Plossu
Plossu was born in 1945 in South Vietnam. At thirteen he traveled with a Brownie across the Sahara with his father. Ever since, he has been fascinated with deserts. But Plossu is equally drawn to the energy of the city. In the Conversations interview with Juan Manuel Bonet, he talks about this contrast and how it affects his photography:
Bernard Plossu: To take photographs one has to be like a monk, to achieve a maximum degree of concentration, like with meditation, and at the same time possess a delirious disposition. This is why I say that photographing is a meeting place for that sort of delirium and absolute peace. Photography is made up of those two moments. They combine to create dynamite.
JMB: Although there are works of yours in which I can see that combination there are others where it is the calm that predominates. Maybe it is with your urban landscapes where a dose of chaos is more noticeable. It’s in the city where the delirium counts more than the calm for you, no?
Bernard Plossu: Absolutely. There is no peace. But I do believe that the two experiences complement each other, the experience of nature and those of the city.
The work of Bernard Plossu reminds me a bit of Tom Sandberg. Sandberg (b. 1953) lives and works in Oslo, Norway. I learned of his work earlier this year at an exhibition at PS1.
Sandberg has been working for thirty years in large-format, black and white. His subjects include an eclectic mix of aerial views, close-up portraits, nudes and still life. But the work is all unified by a quality of muted elegance. He talks about this in an interview with The Morning News.
TMN: Very little, if not none, of the material world shows up in your work. How do you find your way to these pictures? Surely you turn on the television now and again.
Tom Sandberg: A Norwegian art historian who came by my house shockingly remarked that I was looking at the television and listening to rock music at the same time. Then suddenly everything turns still. Movement plays an important role in the way I live and work.
TMN: What are you working on now?
Tom Sandberg: At the moment I am very into people just hanging around, doing nothing, or standing there looking—these in-betweens that define the human experience. I have always been interested in what goes on in the sky above our heads, and lately have worked a lot with the stars. Flying often, I am excited about the radiations from the big cities and the ocean meeting outside my window. It makes me both humble and hungry.