Tom Waits – through the lens of photographer Anton Corbijn
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Portraits of Tom Waits taken over the past 35 years join the musician’s own strangely surreal and revealing images in a sumptuous new photobook
Crows, wires, oil stains, cows, dead trees and a vulture – these are the kinds of things that could easily make it into a song by Tom Waits. They are, too, some of the things he has photographed over the years – alongside the arcane instruments he uses to make his beautifully ramshackle music and the shadows his tall thin body throws on the ground.
The photographs, often accompanied by prose poetry, are included in a sumptuous book entitled Waits/Corbijn: ’77-’11, most of which is devoted to Anton Corbijn‘s many portraits of Waits over the past 35 years. Corbijn‘s stylised photographs show Waits at work and play, growing steadily older. They are a testament to the merits of sustained collaboration between the photographer and his subject, but the most surprising portraits are the ones that catch Waits relaxed or off-guard, whether hunched over a typewriter or engrossed in a bound newspaper archive.
Waits’s own photographs are more cryptic and more revealing – and exactly how you might imagine such images by him would be. They show an interior world of the imagination – dark stains on the ground that resemble the outlines of monsters – and his mischievous-to-the-point-of-being-surreal way of engaging with the world around him. One, A Collection of Wires, is just that, but also looks like someone has taken a line for a walk. A jack rabbit at night looks ethereal and ghostly, like a spirit painting.
There is an old-fashioned rigour to Waits’s two photographs of musical instruments, and a real sense of wintery beauty in his landscapes entitled Fallen Trees. He definitely has a thing about stains. Alongside his scary sidewalk monsters, there is a photograph of a stain called Oil Can Harry who resembles a goblin. He “has been a constant companion since I was a boy”. Elsewhere, a crushed tomato stain has been turned into a map of his influences, with seeds singled out and named with stickers – Nina Simone, Little Walter, WeeGee, Bukowski, Houdini, Sticks Mcgee. The title is Saved and “Named” Seeds (Heirloom Tomato).
This labelling recurs in Things I Found on the Ground, a photograph of various old and discarded items – bent spectacles, an ancient glove, screws, a spoon, hooks, coins, bottletops. This time, the labels relate to the locations where these everyday treasures were picked up. (For some reason, I am reminded of Waits’s beautiful song, Soldier’s Things, another inventory of sadness – “bathing suits and bowling balls/ and clarinets and rings/ and all this radio really/ needs is a fuse …”)
An aerial photograph of a mountainous landscape has been remapped in felt-tip by Waits to include regions such as the Underachiever Canyon, the High and Lonesome River and the EarWaxed Hills. A piece called Road Trip consists of four small photographs and a poem:
the road was like a question mark
I passed 3 steers in a pasture
sitting in a row
a Black cat came out of a ditch
and stood there in the rattlesnake grass
looking at me …
In the words and the photographs, we’re back in Waitsland. It’s a strangely familiar place – even without the music.
via Art and design: Photography | guardian.co.uk http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2013/may/16/tom-waits-photographer-anton-corbijn Thanks for reading Jay
Posted on May 16, 2013, in Photography News and tagged Art and design: Photography | guardian.co.uk, arts, guardian, IFTTT, info, information, journal, news, newspaper, photo, photography. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.