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Sport 30: Peter Black-Real Fiction

‘Love today is weaker, paler than in the past’

‘Love today is weaker, paler than in the past’

(Michelangelo Antonioni, 1961)

Peter Black's images tremor with, but do not broadcast, human emotion. A heart is painted on a tree [p167] or cut from corrugated iron and nailed to a building. Nuance by nuance, an emotional life—and a record of an emotional life—is constructed. These are necessary co-ordinates on his ‘map of our going and of our being’. In as much as this body of work describes Peter Black, it establishes the vernacular of a life as it is led—shunning the epiphanous highs or climactic moments.

Like Pessoa's narrator in The Book of Disquietude, Peter Black changes nothing. The world goes on in these photographs. The woman asleep on concrete warmed by the sun dozes on through her lunch hour. The Fiat Bambina ambles onwards—or is overgrown with some particularly noxious weed. Buildings continue to leak. The seaside ‘develops’, the temporary hillocks of sand-dunes peppered with temporary mansions—that peculiarly ‘New Zealand’ mixture of the half-built and the half-destroyed.

‘The life we live is a fluid discord, a happy mean between the greatness that doesn't exist and the happiness that can't exist,’ Pessoa might chime in at this point. Yet Peter Black's photographs are by no means this pessimistic. Ultimately, they suggest to me (and they might mean something entirely different to the photographer) that human lives are made up of patterns and textures, overlapping narratives of thinking, feeling and remembering. The function of the camera is to record this; to open our eyes a little wider, insisting we attend to the reality with which we are presented, AS IS, WHERE IS, to adapt the New Zealand vernacular. We live in the foreground and middleground of our allotted territory. A dream of here, not there. The faraway hills of nationalism and transcendence are lost and, for the most part, unaccounted for.