Were I a stickler for such things, then this post would have been written & published 4 weeks ago, as I had always intended to do a “6 months on” piece about the blog. However, as I tend to lurch from one chaotic incident to the next, my life is rarely ordered and lacks a certain amount of cohesion; so instead, here is a “7 months on” piece.
Rewind to early November 2014 and, following a rather rambling and hilarious conversation with the lovely Penelope from TMK, the idea of this blog was born. You all know the story by now; our intention was to celebrate and promote the photographs Steve had taken of Mick over the years……a way for the members of TMK to collectively archive the images and to encourage discussion and an appreciation of what are, I’m sure you will all agree, some truly iconic shots. Like this one…….
Steve’s blessing was sought and generously given; with the idea being for it to be based within the TMK facebook page and accessible only to its members. Which was indeed, how it started out life. The first few posts were (and I am not embarrassed to admit this) a tad ropey and not very well written. At all. I had no idea what I was doing, to be honest, but as they were only read by about 12 people, it really didn’t matter that much! The limitations of it being linked to facebook – and for registered users only – became apparent very quickly and by mid-December, the current format was adopted and things just sort of grew from there.
Looking at the stats page now for those first few posts, I am relieved that they have still only been seen by a couple of dozen people, at the most. Which means they will shortly be re-written and recycled into something (hopefully) far more interesting and accessible. In contrast, last week’s post was seen by 200+ people in less than 24 hours.
What I find incredible, is the sheer number of people who now access this blog on a regular basis. As of today, there have been 14,285 individual views of JansenPhotographyBlog. If I thought about it too much, I may just give up with the sheer pressure of it all! But fortunately, the sheer pleasure that writing this blog gives, and the comments and contributions from fellow enthusiasts, will ensure its continuation for the foreseeable future.
We are fortunate that Steve still has a (sadly finite) number of images which he continues to periodically publish on his sleepyard tumblr – all fresh grist for our mill. And we are even luckier that he has graciously provided us with a few lovely snippets of information about some of the photographs and filled in a little of the back-story to images which we have featured. However – and I cannot stress this enough – as supportive as Steve has been, this not an official blog and it is not meant to be a promotional tool for the sale of his prints.
So, as this is a retrospective piece about the first few months of the blog, here are some of the best moments, re-lived in all their, mainly monochrome, glory:
Steve published this photo of David on the roof of his Stanhope Gardens flat, in response to a question Shane asked him on ‘sleepyard‘ about alternate shots for the ‘ghosts’ cover. He later recounted the fact that whilst shooting these pictures, he had stepped backwards and fallen through a glass skylight, only narrowly avoiding serious injury. Ouch. The most interesting (and painless) fact to me though, was that the photo he took for the 7″ cover of ‘ghosts’ was from a different shoot to the one used on the 12″ sleeve; although I was aware that Yuka Fujii had taken the latter one, I had always assumed they were from the same session. The full post is here: https://jansenphotographyblog.wordpress.com/2015/04/10/japan-record-covers-2/
Following a question from Emma about him and Mick ‘dabbling’ in surrealism, Steve published this image (below) which makes me smile a lot. Simply entitled ‘surreal vs daft’ I think it is obvious which one he believes it is. Mick’s sculpted head poking out from beneath his coat, his face painted with white make-up and encased in a rather fetching hat, there is a lovely sense of the ridiculous about this – you can imagine them both the night before, planning to go out early in the morning, to take advantage of the quiet London streets and have a bit of a laugh with a clay head and camera.
Emma’s original post about her favourite image of Mick, and Steve’s response to a question she asked about the ‘sculpted head’ photo shoot, can be read here: https://jansenphotographyblog.wordpress.com/2014/11/24/1108-karn-near-london-home-in-south-kensington-2/
The most successful post so far – if we are using the number of views to measure such things – is the one post I really wish I had never had to write. On 4th January, 2015 I wrote a piece to mark the 4th anniversary of the passing of Mick Karn. I hadn’t planned what to say and had no idea how to approach such a piece, but as I sat down and started writing, I chose to play ‘Dreams of Reason……’ and with Mick & Steve’s music as a backdrop, the words just kind of flowed out. The added ‘interest’ created by the anniversary meant that the blog was read by hundreds more people than had previously even known about it; and since then, this number has continued to grow. It feels right somehow, that it is a post about Mick which has proved the most popular (with over 1400 views) even if it is for the saddest of reasons. https://jansenphotographyblog.wordpress.com/2015/01/04/ill-be-here-dreaming-remembering-mick-karn/
One of the concerns I had about the blog, was that people would only be interested in the ‘japan’ pictures. After all, the reason you are all here reading this now is because Steve was once in a band you liked……with the greatest of respect to both his photography and my writing, no way would you endure all these posts if there wasn’t the chance you might see a new picture of Messrs Sylvian, Barbieri or Karn…..or maybe have some light shed upon an image you particularly like. I’m not daft; I realise this. However, I have to say that I have been really, really pleased by some of the responses to the non-japan posts. I think my favourite piece was the one about the widelux self-panning camera – basically, what we have here are some of Steve’s ‘holiday snaps’ from his trip across Europe, after the initial Rain Tree Crow sessions at the end of 1989. But, the beauty of the widelux is the ‘softening’ that occurs and gives an almost hallucengenic quality to the image. https://jansenphotographyblog.wordpress.com/2015/03/27/a-disturbed-sense-of-distance/
For me, the most enjoyable aspect of writing this blog, has been discovering little snippets of new information about some of Steve’s images. I have always loved the ‘japanese bells’ print which I first saw on Steve’s website about 8 years ago; so much so that I eventually bought a copy of it. However, I was always intrigued about where the photo had been taken and what the bells actually were – and I longed to see a colour version of the picture. I was provided with the answers to my questions when Steve published this wonderful shot of Richard Barbieri in a restaurant in Japan in 1983: but sadly, it transpired that there wasn’t a colour version available.
I have relied heavily on the support and encouragement of a number of people to keep the blog going over the last 7 months. Mischa, Shane, Craig, Becky & Penelope have all contributed pieces, and Simon, Adam & Sey have given us access to their own stories about purchasing Jansen prints over the years. I hope that people will continue to contribute their stories, comments and thoughts as it makes the whole thing far more interesting. So thanks to everyone who has contributed and a massive thanks to everyone who takes time out of their busy lives to read my witterings. I really appreciate it.
Obviously, the one person who I really have to thank for this whole venture is the man who took all of the pictures…….ever since the idea was first raised, he has been incredibly generous with his time, answering my many, many, many questions with grace, patience and good humour. And I do ask a LOT of questions……..I think we are incredibly fortunate that Steve is happy to share his photographic archive with us via his imageshop and tumblr sites and I feel very lucky that he has been happy to give me free reign to wax lyrical about them here.
And, as the one person who tends to be missing from his own photos, here’s a rare Jansen selfie….
all photos are reproduced with kind permission © 2015 steve jansen all rights reserved
steve’s sleepyard tumblr is here: http://sleepyard.tumblr.com/
selected images are available to buy from steve’s website here: http://www.stevejansen.com/imageshop/
TMK – Team Mick Karn – join the discussions – https://www.facebook.com/groups/teamMickKarn/