Lovers' Rock - Lewisham 1977
March 18, 2015 12:13 PM   Subscribe

In 1977, John Goto made this series of photographic portraits of young British African-Caribbeans at Lewisham Youth Centre, South London, where he taught evening classes in photography. It was not until 2013, however, that circumstances allowed him to first exhibit and publish the work.
posted by timshel (10 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
What were the circumstances ? (stilted language aside) .. It sounds more like "got around to doing it" than the language implies (ie legal reasons, contractual, some unseen foe preventing etc) .. There's a lot of talk about how Goto wanted the prints made (inkjet this, analogue days, artsy details that Goto decides as his craft), but that didn't come across as the reason, just how he wanted it done (now that he finally got around to it .. )
posted by k5.user at 12:26 PM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

There's an interview linked to in the page which he says:

I hadn’t held back from showing this work for philosophical or strategic reasons, it was simply due to a lack of art venues and an audience interested in the community of young British Afro-Caribbeans I’d photographed. Sure, there were documentary photographs in the newspapers of black youths protesting or confronting police lines, and photographs of Carnival, but nothing like I’d made which came not out of a social documentary tradition, but a fine art one.

I was fortunate in meeting Mark Sealy, Director of Autograph ABP, with whom I’ve had a three-year dialogue about this work resulting in the Lovers’ Rock book, which has just been published. There are a number of ways in which we carefully contextualised the images, the most important of which are essays by the distinguished cultural historians Professors Paul Gilroy and Lola Young, Baroness of Hornsey, which offer socio-political and personal perspectives on the black experience in London in 1977.

posted by timshel at 12:29 PM on March 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

The pictures are very good. The photographer, John Goto, sounds pretentious to me. His whole issue with using digital, not using photography paper, etc just seems like he is the subject of the art not the folks who sat for the portraits. I must however disclaim that I am not in any way expert or even experienced in the world of photography. For all I know he alone is what makes these pictures so good.
posted by 724A at 12:43 PM on March 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Some great portraits there. I would like to know more about their lives from then til now, as their burgeoning potential is all too obvious in the pictures. What did their futures hold?
posted by Thing at 12:56 PM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'd say his photo-printing medium choice is a contrivance, and not really interesting to me.

His photos are nice enough, but all this extraneous context - including the weirdly-worded part that k5.user mentioned - distracts.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:28 PM on March 18, 2015

John Goto was the photography tutor when I did my Foundation Course at Oxford Polytechnic - which is almost thirty years ago, now. Nice bloke, as far as I remember; smoked panatellas. The first time I'd met someone with that kind of technical adeptness. At that time his work seemed to consist of very large pictures of bramble bushes.

Photo spreads like this would have been printed at that time - something like the Sunday Times or Observer colour supplements might have gone for it - but Goto probably wouldn't have had the profile or the contacts to pull it off. I can see that the project might have been orphaned somewhat. That said, given the personalities that shine out from many of the portraits, it is surprising that someone (if not Goto himself, then someone connected to the exhibition) hasn't gone to try and find the subjects. It seems like the obvious thing to do (more than it would if they were a more diverse group of subjects or if it were street photography, but even then it would be better to know something about the subjects.) I'd like to hear about their experiences from them, rather than read people talking about them.

As for the prose style - that's just standard fine art-speak. You have to talk like that or no one in the fine art community will take you seriously.
posted by Grangousier at 1:30 PM on March 18, 2015 [6 favorites]

Oh man, those pictures are awful. That guy is a photography tutor? If I'd handed those pictures in to my photography teacher he would have made me do them all again.
These are conveyor-belt portraits with no connection to the subject, executed very badly.
posted by w0mbat at 1:42 PM on March 18, 2015

I'm not any photography expert, but I think these are great. The people's personalities shine through and to my inexpert eye the photos are well done technically.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:33 PM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Well, count me among those too foolish and ignorant to know why those pictures are awful. They look pretty good to me. I'm far too dumb to understand why there was no connection to the subject, as I felt some kind of connection to the subject in each and every one of them.

Obviously I know nothing whatsoever about photography.
posted by motty at 7:34 PM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'd like to see a follow-up too. I keep wondering how each person's life unfolded and I think the photos were very nicely done. I kind of like the raw, un-mucked-around-with look of the pics.
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 10:12 PM on March 18, 2015

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