So, just how does one choose a favourite image of Mick Karn from the many that Steve has taken over the years?…..for that is the challenge I have thrown down to the readers of this blog over the last few weeks. For some, it has been an easy-ish task; Emma chose the shot of Mick holding one of his own sculpted masks over his face, Craig wrote about the beautiful image that Steve had shared following Mick’s untimely death in 2011 and Penelope went for one of him standing beneath a Chinese parasol, staring straight into the eye of the photographer and, therefore, the eyes of the audience. So now, it is my turn. And good grief, it is a hard task.
Mick was an incredibly photogenic creature and his close relationship with Steve meant that the two of them had lots of opportunity to experiment with styles and ideas, resulting is some fantastically evocative images. I remember the first time I saw the shots of Mick that accompanied that Zig Zag article back in 1982; stripped to the waist and looking wasted, the angst and hurt of his ‘situation’ apparently etched into ever fibre of his being, all streaked make-up and petulant pout; it was like witnessing someone going through a mini-meltdown. At the time it seemed shocking and raw and unexpected. With hindsight, I am pretty sure it was just a bit of a daring idea the two of them had, to see how far they could go and what they could get away with.
And there are the beautiful shots of Mick at the window of a hotel room in Leeds; all cropped blonde hair and enormous eyes, sitting in another soulless room looking out across an unfamiliar city-scape, a cigarette dangling defiantly from his lips. The peripatetic lifestyle they were leading at the time meant that many of Steve’s “tour” photos were taken during sound-checks, or are of ‘hotel room interiors – or band members in hotel room interiors.’
However, if I really have to narrow it down, there are a couple of pictures from a another hotel room, in another city, which I find most compelling and would definitely rate amongst my favourites.
Mick, in a hotel room in Hong Kong in 1982 (top and below). Once again, the bond of friendship between the two of them results in the most sublime of images (although I am sure there must be loads of contact sheets of less than perfect pictures of him too, somewhere in the Jansen archive!?!) as if Mick totally trusts him and can be himself. Not self-conscious, not having to ‘pose’, just being himself. The one below, in particular, radiates that confidence mixed with a sense of naivety. It is truly beautiful. Steve once again uses the window as a barrier between the world within the room and the one outside; the cars and people below oblivious of being watched from above. Never one to blow his own trumpet, Steve maintains that he was lucky to be able to take the photos he did; he found himself in certain places with certain people and the combination resulted in some good photographs. And although I agree with this reasoning to a degree, there is no denying that there is a technical beauty within these images, a fine balance between the two visible worlds and an ability to capture his subject in his most relaxed, and possibly even vulnerable, state.
Steve has previously described the contrasting aspects of Mick’s personality – on the one hand bright and easy-going with a ready smile and wicked sense of humour, but there was also a darker side – and I think these 2 pictures get to the heart of that in some way. They don’t seem posed or overly staged, unlike the tortured images from the Zig Zag shoot, but merely moments where 2 friends were killing time; waiting for yet another gig/TV appearance/interview to take place, in yet another hotel room in yet another city.
Signed, limited editions of many of Steve’s photographs are available via the imageshop on his website here: http://www.stevejansen.com/imageshop/index.html
Steve occasionally posts new photographs on his ‘sleepyard’ tumblr here: http://sleepyard.tumblr.com/
Steve has recently launched an official facebook page, where he posts information about projects he is working on: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Steve-Jansen-Official/803014983085400?fref=ts
All photos by Steve Jansen.