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  • Afterhours #13

    Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-Image 13-noir-vintage-photography-a soho of the mind

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  • Cathi Unsworth’s The Not Knowing and connections to the music and work of certain suave gents from back in the day…

    0008-The-Not-Knowing-Cathi-Unsworth-Afterhours-Sleaze-and-Dignity-1Well, while we’re on the subject of Tindersticks and Stuart Staples (I may well say “while we’re on the subject of…” a fair few times around these parts as much of the world and work I’m wandering about, via and through are interconnected in curious and intriguing ways)…

    …here’s the first novel by Ms Cathi Unsworth. In terms of genre, I suppose the nearest area I would point you towards is a form of contemporary London crime noir…

    … but I think in part what fascinates me about it and drew me to it was that it was also a document of a particular time in old London town, just before Britpop. A time when Gallon Drunk and a new breed of one-over-the-eight, slicked back, sharp-suited rock’n'roll was around and indeed appearing in elements of the music press (something Ms Unsworth had a hand in but more of that another time) and occasionally even the visual airwaves.

    This was a music and style that in part looked back towards a reimagined 1950s / early 1960s past but wasn’t a bobby socks recreation but a new set of work unto itself, that at its peak could be the soundtrack to a rip-roaring ride of recklessness through the heart of town.

    The Tindersticks connection? The title was “borrowed” from the title of one of their songs on their first album.

    Actually, while we’re on the subject of The Not Knowing, I’ve always meant to ask Ms Unsworth if that’s her on the cover as the lady in question has a sartorial style not dissimilar to her own.

    Around that time of rock’n'roll re-imagining in which the book is set, Ms Unsworth was also heavily involved with a magazine called Purr. Something of a rarity now but if Harry Crews, The Cramps, Derek Raymond, Barry Adamson and James Ellroy float your boat, then this is well worth adding to your ballast.

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    Actually, thinking about it, invite those folks around for some cultural nourishment and you’re not a million miles away from some of the roots of The Not Knowing.

    Ms Cathi Unsworth’s site is here. Peruse The Not Knowing and her other published fiction work here.

     

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  • Jacques Olivar – Forever Young and ingrained mythology from over the seas…

    Jacques Olivar-Forever Young-teNeues-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-3

    My own Afterhours work draws in part from a longstanding mythology of a golden age folklore of Soho-esque shennanigans; a layered history found down hidden sidestreets, in the red-lit basements of unlicensed speakeasies and jazz allnighters.

    If I was to cast an eye over the seas to the US of A for a comparable deeply ingrained mythology, I think I would probably look towards the stories of the Deep South, a certain gothic Americana or maybe towards the not too far removed overlooked and marginal world of dusty forgotten towns, roadside motels and diners.

    Jacques Olivar-Forever Young-teNeues-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity

    Along which lines, I have been drawn to Jacques Olivar’s work, which takes that overlooked world as its locale, creating a youth filled, hyper-real, sometimes populuxe-esque vision and version of it, one with high-end fashion production values and gloss but which still contains a certain grit and the intertwined narrative of its homeland locale and stories.

    There is an imagined, filmic quality to the photographs; they could be stills from or fully realised storyboards for a celluloid tale.

    Jacques Olivar-Forever Young-teNeues-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-2

     

    Along which lines, his works can put me in mind of Wim Wenders and Sam Shepard’s fine, moving 2005 film Don’t Come Knocking – which is set in just such a faded American town, one coloured with a certain velvet, neon-lit rock’n'roll here and there – but as re-shot by Erwin Olaf (see here at Afterhours).

    Jacques Olivar-Forever Young-teNeues-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-4

    The stories of Jacques Olivars have been collected in a book, Forever Young, published by teNeues. Visit that here and peruse it here.

    View the trailer to Don’t Come Knocking here, background on the film here and peruse it here.

    Visit Jacques Olivar in the ether here.

     

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  • China Town, neo-noir creations and edited ephemera…

    Chinatown-1974-Roman Polanski-Jack Nicholson-Faye Dunaway-neo noir-8mm-Afterhour Sleaze and DignityWhen I was heading towards this first public year of Afterhours, I took a visit and a re-visit to various film favourites and a number of neo-noirs; in particular The Big Sleep (1978), Farewell My Lovely (1975) and China Town (1974).

    The first two spring in one way or another from the pen of Raymond Chandler… the third is a fellow brethren in all but actuality. I don’t know if it’s right to call it a homage – this isn’t a nuance for nuance retread and recreation, it is its own story and creation…

    A lovely looking film, in particular Mr Nicholson and Ms Dunaway; Mr Nicholson was heading towards 40 when it was made but looks almost impossibly young in a way, Ms Dunaway was in her early 30s but seems far older somehow – possibly a reflection of the trials of her character’s life.

    Chinatown-1974-Roman Polanski-Jack Nicholson-Faye Dunaway-neo noir-film poster-Afterhour Sleaze and Dignity Chinatown-1974-Roman Polanski-Jack Nicholson-Faye Dunaway-neo noir-Barrio Chino film poster-Afterhour Sleaze and DignityChinatown-1974-Roman Polanski-Jack Nicholson-Faye Dunaway-neo noir-Afterhour Sleaze and Dignity

    On this page are a few related images and ephemera that have caught my eye since re-viewing the film; in particular the Super 8 version.

    I like the way that pre the ubiquity of video recorders, such versions were the only way that films could be shown at home.

    The box says it is a “SELECTED SCENE EDITION” and I think it would have run for about 11 to 17 minutes, which as the actual film runs for 131 minutes, well, that’s quite a selected scene version indeed.

    Peruse the film here.

     

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  • Jennifer Greenburg’s Rockabillies and the occasional flickering frames amongst a high definition past

    Jennifer Greenburg-Rockabillies-Center for American Places books-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-3

    Often, when I think of subcultures I tend to veer towards nightlife activity and I think in general the word is quite closely associated with youth and youthful lifestyles.

    This is one of the things that makes Jennifer Greenburg’s Rockabillies book interesting: it is a photographic consideration of those who subscribe to a particular subculture and style generally post the first flush of youth, often in domestic settings and with “grown-up” life accoutrements and signifiers.

    Jennifer Greenburg-Rockabillies-Center for American Places books-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-1

    In Rockabillies kitchen towel sits next to a photograph of Elvis in the kitchen, proud parents hold their child next to their from back-in-the-day automobile, period detail lives picture perfectly amongst family life and the well honed quiffs.

    Jennifer Greenburg-Rockabillies-Center for American Places books-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-2

    On first glance the photographs seem to present an idealised, seamless recreation of times gone by; it is on closer, second and third inspection that the modern world can be seen through the cracks, the occasional frame flickering briefly amongst the whole film reel.

    They are only occasional visitors in these highly curated, high definition selecting from the past homes and lives: the period television stood on an Ikea-esque media stand, the modern television quietly peering out from its new home in a vintage wooden case, a contemporary soft-drink held in the perfectly upholstered and kept interior of a Pink Ladies glamour car interior, a once taboo leg tattoo next to the lovingly kept sofa, a latter day Johnny Cash CD and accompanying player.

    Jennifer Greenburg-Rockabillies-Center for American Places books-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-4

    Interestingly, although I expect that cars and homes have had something of a brush and scrub up in preparation for the photographs and considering the vintage age of many of the items that can be seen in these homes, there is little sign of day-to-day wear and tear. Again, in contast to much of the more rough’n'tumble of nightlife/subcultural photography, this is a more polished, populuxe-esque, possibly affluent representation of passions and culture.

    Visit Jennifer Greenberg’s site here. Peruse the book here.

     

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  • Stuart A. Staples, Somerset house and a gent back in a suit…

    0007-Stuart-A-Staples-Lucky-Dog-Recordings-03-04-Afterhours-Sleaze-and-Dignity-croppedThe first solo record from longstanding Tindersticks gent Mr Stuart Staples.

    A touch more lo-fidelity (in a good way) and intimate than some of Tindersticks recordings, it’s a warm, human record full of the faith and foibles of life; Somerset House in particular is a fine song.

    Whenever I hear it I’m transported to six in the morning somewhere, with the sun coming up and you’re still out or maybe just heading home as the world wakes up around you. Gentle and pleasantly melancholic. Lovely indeed.

    Actually, listening to Somerset House again, I’ve just remembered that a part I’d always thought was a jump or a click on my vinyl copy is actually in the song. That always catches me by suprise.

    I like how the album was made after the Tindersticks had split up and his partner told him to “just go and make something” and stop moping about.

    Stuart-Staples-Comes-With-A-Smile-18-Afterhours-Sleaze-and-Dignity-copyActually, while we’re on the subject matter of Mr Stuart Staples around 2004, there were some photographs of him that accompanied/were on the cover of Comes With A Smile magazine around that time (issue 18), which were quite an influence/point of reference when I was starting out with Afterhours; they captured a particular mood that I think I wanted to wander off and see if I could also throw my net around.

    Plus, to be honest, it was nice to see him suave and back in a suit(!).

    I shall have to see if I can dig out some more of those CWAS photographs at some point…

    Last time I had a look-see you could listen to the record at Stuart A. Staples site. You can peruse it further here.

     

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  • Jim Jocoy’s We’re Desperate, The Cramps and cuckoos in the nest

    Jim Jocoy-We're Desparate-The Cramps-Lux Interior-powerhouse books-Afterhours Sleaze and DignityThere’s a certain kind of nightlife photography book / tradition that I seem to have been repeatedly drawn to over the years (and probably also amassed more than one or two of them on my bookshelves).

    They take the form of a collection of quite formal photographic portraits of subcultural / nightlife inhabitants – often using the blank walls, corners and backrooms of those estabilishments as fleeting studios and backdrops.

    Along which lines, I would probably look towards Derek Ridgers When We Were Young that focused on London’s fashionable club and subcultural groupings from the late 1970s to 1987 (published by photoworks in 2004), the 1980s post-punk gathering Paradiso Stills by Max Natkiel (originally published by Fragment in 1986, reprinted by Voetnoot in 2013), Geordon Nicol’s multi-snapshot New York club recording Misshapes (2007, MTV Press) and more recently Oliver Sieber’s 7-year international photographic odyssey Imaginary Club (BöhmKobayashi / GwinZegal, 2013).

    One particular book that I have returned to the most would be Jim Jocoy’s We’re Desparate, a capturing of late 1970s Southern California/L.A. punk/no-wave/post-punk nightlife dwellers (clubkid forerunners?) in a manner similar to the aforementioned portrait like manner.

    Jim Jocoy-We're Desparate-The Cramps-Poison Ivy-powerhouse books-Afterhours Sleaze and DignityAnd of all the photographs in that book, the ones that come back to me are probably the least typical – those of b-movie creature from the black leather lagoon mutant rock’n'roll world creators Lux Interior and Poison Ivy of The Cramps.

    Just as in wider life, culture and music, they seem like cuckoos in the nest, separate to those that surround them.

    That is heightened by their particular backdrop being, well, more literally cramped, more decorated and colourful than many of the more blank settings of other photographs in the book but it’s not just that. The photographs seem to capture an ingrained sense of outside-rness.

    We’re Desperate was published by powerHouse in 2002, visit it there here and here. It’s sadly out of print but can be perused here or visit a selection of the photographs here.

     

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  • In The Mood For Love and neo-noir forerunners…

    Wong Kar Wai-In The Mood For Love-2046-Days Of Being Wild-neo noir-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-3

    Well, if you should be talking or thinking about a certain kind of golden glow, neo noir, the work of Wong Kar-Wai could well be a good place to start, in particular In The Mood For Love and 2046 (which is heading more towards Blade Runner-esque futuristic neo noir if memory serves correctly)… and I expect that subconsciously they’ve quietly seeped into my consciousness from the years back when I first saw them and tumbled out a touch in my own Afterhours work.

    In a way, they could be seen as a forerunner to the sharp suited early 1960s styling of the likes of Mad Men, while the Far Eastern setting adds a certain stylistic interest and dissonance as this isn’t how such a place and time is normally depicted.

    Wong Kar Wai-In The Mood For Love-2046-Days Of Being Wild-neo noir-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity

    The worlds and atmospheres that are created in these films are a thing to behold – although part of moving celluloid tales, it can feel as though you’re watching single, elegant, still images that have been paused and created with infinite care; filmic paintings that draw you in and entrance.

    Wong Kar Wai-In The Mood For Love-2046-Days Of Being Wild-neo noir-Tony Leung-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity

     

    Wong Kar Wai-In The Mood For Love-2046-Days Of Being Wild-neo noir-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-2They’re the kind of filmic beauty that the detail of hi-definition viewing was invented for… though a look-see and a browse tells me that In The Mood For Love is only available on a Criterion Region A/US player only release… ah well, looks like it’s some more technical jiggery pokery to convince machines on this side of the pond to play nicely with such a disc.

    Peruse the films here. Annoy yourself by looking at versions you can’t probably play on this side of the pond at Criterion here. Lose yourself in this world and its visions here.

     

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  • Behind Union City – Amos Chan, Deborah Harry, Marcus Reichert and neo-noir accompaniments

    Behind Union City-Deborah Harry-Marcus Reichert-Amos Chan-neo noir-Zigguart-Afterhours Sleaze and DignityOne of my favourite photography books is Behind Union City: it is a collection of photographs that accompany the Marcus Reichert directed film Union City, which starred amongst others a then rather famous Ms Deborah Harry and and a just becoming famous Pat Benatar.

    I call it a photography book because it seems like more than a companion to a film – there’s an artistry, beauty and atmosphere to the photographs.

    The world of Union City, as in the film, is presented here as one that belongs unto itself, that existed alongside the “real” 1950s era in which it is set but which had an aesthetic and palette of its own; neo-noir I think would be an appropriate phrase to use about now. A period reimagining rather than a recreation, to borrow from myself and photographer Nick Clements (see here at Afterhours). Behind Union City-Deborah Harry-Marcus Reichert-Amos Chan-neo noir-Zigguart-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-2b
    Some of the photographs are taken as the film was being shot but equally a fair number of them appear to have been created separately, sometimes candid behind the scenes images, sometimes posed images that reflect the world, story and style of the film but which also have a sense of being self-contained works – a film on paper, to borrow from photographer Lou Stoumen.

    Amos Chan, the photographer, had previously been a fine art photographer and teacher – numbering Nan Goldin and Phillip Lorca diCorcia amongst his students. The photographs in Behind Union City were taken at a point when Mr Chan was just about to become a commercial photographer and the images in the book seem like a fine synthesis of both commercial commission and creative expression.

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    There is a sense of the photographer’s own personal mindset/creative impulse being expressed within the book’s imagery, channelling, combining and collaborating with that of the vision of the film’s director Marcus Reichert and the work of actress/performer Deborah Harrry.

    Which may well be another reason that I think of it as a photography book in it’s own right rather than pure film accompaniment, as such expression of personal, inner narratives could be seen to have become one of the defining characteristics of fine art photography.

    (That sense of collaboration is carried through into the crediting of the book, where Deborah Harry, Marcus Reichert and Amos Chan are given equal billing on the cover.)

    Behind Union City-Deborah Harry-Marcus Reichert-Amos Chan-neo noir-Zigguart-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-4Behind Union City was published in 2012 by Ziggurat Books International. It seems like a quite rare or not so widely known book in the world. Hopefully this particular piece of writing will in some small way help to change that.

    Peruse the book here and visit it at Ziggurat here.

     

     

     

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  • Afterhours #12

    Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-Image 12-noir-vintage-photography-a soho of the mind

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