Review by Gerhard Clausing •
We expect contemporary street photography to go beyond what was traditional, which often sought out dingy and dreary locations and moments to show the lesser side of things. We expect contemporary street photographers to capture the dynamic nature of city hustle and bustle, people unobserved and interactively pursuing their business, allowing us to study their moods and emotions. When at its best, what’s shown becomes primary and technique recedes to the background, and if the project makes us think, so much the better. Previously reviewed street photobooks that I consider current state of the art were, among others, those by Koolhaas (City Lust), Doyle (Made in Dublin), and Diggs (Middle Distance…). These projects combined cultural and social insights with nuanced layering of presentation, with dynamic content, composition, and layout.
Allen Wheatcroft is an astute practitioner of contemporary street photography as well. By using wide-angle views exhibiting sharpness in the entire image, his up-close and personal visions enable the viewer to feel as if they are part of the action. The hustle and bustle of city life is well portrayed; we see the stress and joys of being in the middle of these street scenes. The effect of in-between moments, sharply defined and full of colorful life, makes us wonder what came before and what will come after the captured moment for each of the individuals shown. Each capture represents a dynamic moment in progress, never to repeat or be observable again. Thus it can fire up our imagination in strong ways. The facial expressions and the body language of the individuals depicted are realistic, but never demeaning, and we get to share and contemplate their struggles and predicaments.
Wheatcroft is an equal-opportunity photographer: we see all age groups and ethnicities in these populated cityscapes. The impact of our perception is enhanced by a wide-screen cinematic or theatrical approach, with images printed across generously-sized double pages. The design is clever, in that the margin areas and their placement vary throughout; thus we are stimulated as we view the sequence, both by the content and by the design. We also don’t feel that any part of the image is lost in the center (gutter) of the double page, as so often happens in other photobooks.
Isn’t it refreshing and almost worthy of nostalgia to view times when people could move around without masks and without worrying about social distancing and virus droplets contaminating the air we breathe? Let’s hope we soon can get back to the normalcy that will allow further street photography of the kind presented in this project! And then again, where is there less tension, in the turmoil of city life or in the quagmire of home confinement?
Allen Wheatcroft – Body Language
Photographer: Allen Wheatcroft (born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; lives in Chicago, Illinois)
Publisher: Damiani, Bologna, Italy; © 2019; published in 2020
Texts: Foreword by Jeff Mermelstein; notes by Allen Wheatcroft
Hardcover, illustrated, with stitched binding; 88 pages, unpaginated, with 43 images; 10 x 11 inches (25 x 28 cm); printed in Italy by Faenza Group SpA
Photobook Designer: Caleb Cain Marcus, Luminositylab, New York City
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