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Sport 30: Peter Black-Real Fiction

The Camera is a Factory Making Parentheses

page 65

The Camera is a Factory Making Parentheses

The narrator in Jean-Luc Godard's 1966 film 2 ou 3 chose qui je sais d'elle, observes: ‘One might say that living in society today is almost like living in a vast comic strip.’ Image and text in two dimensions clutter the three-dimensional world. The language that reverberates through clapped-out billboards, graffiti and advertising hoardings meanders ‘in parenthesis’ through Peter Black's work—the parentheses, in this case, being the photographic process. So a trail of words burbles through these real fictions. A quick trawl through ‘Fifty Photographs’ (1981) yields the following visual ‘noise’ or Ruscha-inclined narrative: New Zealand…DINING ROOM…everybody's crunchin…BRINGING YOU HAWKES BAY SUNSHINE…RIVERLAND the top orange…PURPLE BEAR, TEA COFFEE TRAILER HIRE…Ride MUSTANG…KIWI BACON…right…left…SHEEPSKIN SEAT COVERS…NATIONAL DOG…One Way Jesus… If, for the generation of McCahon and Woollaston, the voices in their heads were the Bible and Gerard Manley Hopkins, for the post-war generation—Peter Black included—the voice and rhythms are more likely those of advertising jingles, theme tunes and popular songs that you can't keep out of your eyes and ears.

So we arrive at an aural dimension to these photographs: the noisiness of their interiors, the road music, the kind of voice-over Bill Manhire incorporated into his poem, ‘South Island Companion’, from Milky Way Bar:

The voices, Kaikoura, Bluff, the Haast:
places go by, and that's how
you leave the past, not even

alphabetical order. And wherever you stop
you say: Do you think
things happened here?

The poet then continues on towards Dunedin where ‘you drop down / to roofs and that grey / documentary harbour…’. In Peter's photographs, a sense of place is suggested rather than announced, nuanced rather than signposted (and what signposts there are tend to be of a more general nature: ‘DEFINITELY’ [p70] THANK YOU’ [p112]).