Review of Christian Patterson Joan Fontcuberta and Yukichi Watabe’s work

Christian Patterson

My tutor had pointed me to Redheaded Peckerwood (1) a book by Christian Patterson about the teenage murders carried out in Nebraska fifty years ago. The book follows the path of Starkweather and Fugate, who murdered ten people in 1958, some of which included members of Fugate’s own family.

The first material I found was an interview by Daniel Augschöll and Anya Jasbar for Ahorn Magazine (2) . In this interview Patterson explains how and why the work had taken five yerrs to complete. He returned to Nabraska each January for about a week to continue his research. He met people who were willing to share their stories about the murders and to point him to other sources. He continues to find and be given material pertaining to the story. His book, now on its third addition contains some of this recent found material. He is extremely interesting on what, in his book, is fact and what is fiction. he leaves the whole thing purpously vague which I love. He also says he is not sure if his next story will be based on a true story or not. He is drawn to the idea of an invented story created to make it absolutely believable.

The interview also contains a lot of information about the making of the original ten handmade books and the eventual printing, by MACK, of the commercial editions. Everything from the cover to the inserts looks fascinating and I would so love to possess this book.

I wish I had know about this photographer before I worked on my assignment1.His work makes my little assignment look so amateur. Below is a video of Patterson talking about his book. His attention to detail and passion for his subject is evident. He openly admits it is part truth and part fiction but this does not matter to the book. It is a work with which the reader must interact. There are inserts and pages superimposed on the images. It looks splendid.

Joan Fontcuberta

Where Patterson’s work follows, meticulously, events in Redheaded Peckerwood and uses some of the actual material Fontcuberta invents ‘almost’ everything in his work. He has been exhibiting his work since 1984 (Hemograms) to this present day, the latest exhibition I could find, until I saw his work in Arles, was 2014 (Camouflages). He takes an idea or invented story and creates a whole narrative around it. Fauna was, he claimed about work he had found from a German scientist who had researched extraordinary animals. Fontcuberta added documents, research notes etc. to his exhibition, of the supposed scientist’s work, thus giving the appearance of authentication.

In “Googlegrams,” the Spanish witchking employs a freeware photo-mosaic program that composes big pictures from zillions of tiny pictorial tiles. All culled from the World Wide Web.(3).

Zoom detail of Googlegram 8: Auschwitz, 2005

Zoom detail of Googlegram 8: Auschwitz, 2005

The critic of his exhibition Googlegrams says of it that it turns your eyebrows into exclamation points of alarm and I can well believe it. While I admire his work and his creativity I cannot say I actually like it. Then I don’t think that is the object of his work I think it is done to provoke and stretch out thinking which it certainly does.

Yukichi Watabe,

A Criminal Investigation, the work recommended by my tutor,  was in fact, the only work by this photographer that I could find online. I was able to peruse the book on YouTube but found this frustrating as the written parts were not clear. A review by Jesse Freeman (4) did throw more light on the work. It would appear that the Photographer, Yukichi Watabe was allowed to photograph two detectives as they went about their work trying to solve a brutal murder in the 1950’s. The book is printed and bound to look like a police report. It is packed full of black and white images, many of the two chain smoking detectives. Some of the images are really aesthetically beautifully composed. This, unlike the other two photographer’s work is very real despite being represented in a cinematic, film noir style. I think it would be necessary to hold and look at these images to fully appreciate the work.

In conclusion I really appreciate being introduced to these three photographers’ work. it has made me reflect about truth, manipulation, and even creation of truth like images.

 

  1.  Patterson, C, 2011. Redheaded Peckerwood. 3rd ed. London: MACK.
  2. Interview with Christian Patterson. 2016. Interview with Christian Patterson. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.ahornmagazine.com/issue_9/interview_patterson/interview_patterson.html. [Accessed 19 January 2016].
  3. JOAN FONTCUBERTA: “The Con” | #ASX. 2016. JOAN FONTCUBERTA: “The Con” | #ASX. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.americansuburbx.com/2011/06/joan-fontcuberta-con.html. [Accessed 21 January 2016].
  4. Jesse’s Book Review – A Criminal Investigation by Watabe Yukichi – Japan Camera Hunter. 2016. Jesse’s Book Review – A Criminal Investigation by Watabe Yukichi – Japan Camera Hunter. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.japancamerahunter.com/2014/07/jesses-book-review-criminal-investigation-watabe-yukichi/. [Accessed 21 January 2016].
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