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Sport 30: Peter Black-Real Fiction

Street Level

Street Level

The engagement of Peter Black's human subjects with the camera is as momentary as the camera's engagement with them: there are looks of surprise, a few knee-jerk reactions. Occasionally his subjects appear stunned, scornful, abusive even. At the time of writing, the European Economic Community is considering—under its Human Rights Charter—banning street photography on personal privacy grounds. But, then again, isn't the street photograph as much a portrait of the anonymous subject's inscrutability as it is an invasion of privacy?

With their anonymous individuals, their flimsy, implied social structures and their occasional vistas of earthly redemption, Peter Black's photographs make up a quietly voiced essay on the human condition. In the end, however, Black's world and its characters remain unknowable—the car speeds off into the distance, the pedestrians disappear left and right of the camera frame. The objects in the shop-window are sold or rearranged the next day.

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‘If there's one thing life offers us besides life itself and for which we must thank the Gods,’ wrote Fernando Pessoa, ‘it's the gift of not knowing: of not knowing ourselves and of not knowing each other.’ Peter's photographs are imbued with this sense of unknowing, and a metaphysics which hums through the particulars of a humanised world whose emblems might well be an assortment of stuffed toys and lawn mowers.