Not sure about you lot, but I am still smiling like a total goon, at the more-than-welcome news that Steve’s much longed-for book of photography is finally about to be published. Tantalising snippets of information are being bandied about on various forums; a drip, drip, drip of enticing facts & figures – A5 in size! 200 pages! 170 photos! never-seen-before polaroids! …..the mind boggles! (too many exclamations? I think so.) Such was the interest in the book, that people were sharing the information within minutes of it being posted on the Hints Music facebook site – in fact, it seemed to even catch Steve by surprise, as he only got around to posting a picture of the cover of his own book, after it had already been shared on numerous Japan/SJ forums. Which seems a bit rude to me – but then maybe I am just a tad old-fashioned? Such is the way of social media (makes me wonder just how Bowie managed to hoodwink us all and release an album without *anyone* realising he had even been in the studio?) so immediate is everything, these days.
However, I digress……
Prior to the book being published, the only way to actually get your hands on your favourite Jansen print was via Steve’s ‘imageshop’; a gallery featuring an array of mainly monochrome images of his ex-band mates – as well as some amazing Japanscapes, and the odd shot of a random stranger or a glinty-eyed dog. Many of you already have one (or more) of these limited edition prints hanging on your walls at home, (as do I), and soon we will also be able to have access to these images, and many more previously unseen shots, all compiled into a beautiful art book. Heady stuff.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of writing this blog is the contact I have with fellow fans, who all seem more than happy to share their anecdotes about attending Steve’s exhibitions in the early 80s, or will gladly contribute to a collective piece about his iconic images of Mick. So, whilst we eagerly await publication of the Jansen tome, I thought we could have a little look at some of the images that are already out there, hanging on people’s walls, and ask “why that particular one?”
So, please join me in welcoming the newest member of the Jansen Print Owners Club, Natasha Bain. In fact, she is such a ‘newbie’, that she hasn’t actually taken delivery of her prints yet, having only ordered them this week. However, let’s not quibble over such inanities…..she has been a lifelong fan of the band Japan, and she was motivated to grab herself a couple of prints after having a pretty grim week – what better way to cheer yourself up?
Natasha’s first choice was this photo of David, smoking in the snow. Her reasons for choosing this image were complex and personal; she had recently received some distressing news and she felt that this image summed up how she was feeling – she longed for solitude and the time to just sit and think (and maybe smoke a tab or two) but she also saw the snow – as bleak and cold as it appears – as a temporary thing; it would eventually melt and life would get back on an even keel again……the possibility of the positive future is as strong as the reality of her current situation.
Natasha’s second choice was also influenced by personal reasons, although much happier ones; she went for the rather spectacular shot of Karn, Sylvian and Barbieri in South Molton Street (a technically beautiful shot, if I may say so) because it reminded her of family shopping trips! Whatever her reason, I certainly cannot argue with her choice, as I truly believe that this is one of Steve’s most accomplished photographs. (The only criticism I have with this image, is that bloody awful jacket, which David seemed to have welded permanently to his back, throughout 1981 *shudders*)
Next up, is Craig Hamlin, who finally got ’round to ordering two Jansen prints last month, after many, many years of procrastination. He had always loved the image of the Rickshaw Man, which had been used in publicity for Steve’s 1983 photographic exhibition at The Photographers’ Gallery. Even knowing that the shot had been taken off a TV screen didn’t cool his ardour, and he eventually decided to go for it. It does have a beautifully hazy quality to it, and Craig always said it reminded him of early 1960s footage, which I can see….Steve has no recollection of the programme which happened to be on his telly that day though, merely that is was a documentary. However, this matters not a jot; what Craig has ended up with is a pretty wonderful image, not only signed by Steve but, as he was the first person to purchase it, a geek-tastic number 1/250.
Craig has always been fascinated by the image of Steve and David, taken from the ‘Visions of China’ video shoot, which was published in the ‘journal’ section of Jansen’s website. The image places Steve front and centre of the shot, whilst David is awkwardly positioned behind him – small and almost unnoticeable (and weirdly reminiscent of a scene from the film ‘How To Get Ahead in Advertising’!). Anyone who was aware of just how often the focus was placed upon the elder Batt sibling during the Japan years, couldn’t fail to be intrigued by this positioning – not specifically posed, but beautifully captured, never-the-less (most likely by Rich Barbieri) On Steve’s website, the image is published in black and white, even though it was actually a colour shot; Craig had seen the original colour version and felt this was the one he wanted. He felt it dated the picture in a way he liked; it reminded him of the technicolour 1980s, a time when he first heard and saw Japan, and he was sold on having it in its original glory – although eventually, he decided to go with the monochrome version you see below. (A wise move, if I may say so) As Steve didn’t actually take the picture (although it was his camera and film the image was caught on) he didn’t number the print, although he did kindly sign it for Craig.
And Craig has assured me that, as soon as he gets back off his holidays, he will be collecting them from the framers and putting them up on a wall, where they belong.
Not quite sure why, but recently people seem to have been buying a brace of Jansen prints at a time! Here, we have the wonderful Pat Innes, who also chose not one but two images…….and Pat’s first choice was based upon a similar train of thought as Craig’s. This shot of Japan was the one she also chose to write about when we did the MK 24/7 blog post to mark the occasion of Mick’s birthday, last month.
I’ll let her explain……..
“I love Japan and their two “orphaned” lps, I love JBK and their individual forays, but I’m not a David fan. This group picture places Mick clearly in focus; David is there, but is not the centre of attention. I confess to a little delight at that thought every time I look at it. To me, the group shot gives Mick a bit of the acknowledgement he deserved. Drums and bass – that does it for me, with a hefty serving of (cute, fuzzy, pouty-faced) Barbieri on the side”
Pat’s other choice was a beautiful image of Mick, which Steve also published this year on Mick’s birthday. Taken in Firenze during the ‘Alice’ tour in 1996….”the Firenze shot is of Mick alone, looking off at who knows what…It’s just Mick, not on stage or with Japan…just Mick, presumably out for a stroll in Italy while touring. I chose two shots which show Mick at different places in life; one young, flamboyant, and without eyebrows, and one later – sombre, with boatloads of hair and eyebrows. Both are gorgeous.”
When I first started this blog, I had 4 Jansen prints hanging on my walls……I now have another two and, like Natasha, my purchases have been motivated by specific things happening in my life. The last two I bought, were prompted by a house move – always a good reason to get yourself some new art, I feel! Earlier this year, Steve had published some shots taken in deepest, darkest Wales during the recording of jbk’s ‘_ism’, and I was immediately enamoured of the beautifully trippy image of the Foel Studio sign and gatepost……something about it drew my eye and I kept returning to look at it. So, that ended up being top of my ‘must have’ list. When it arrived, it proved to be even more beautiful than I had realised; there is an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ quality to the image – in fact, scrub that thought…….I’ve got the wrong literary Lewis….I have just realised that it reminds me of the picture in ‘The Voyage of The Dawn Treader’, which comes to life whilst Edmund and Lucy are looking at it! It is difficult to explain just how the perspective draws your eye and it really feels as if it is a 3-D image – you’ll have to take my word for it (or pop round for a brew and a nosey one day, so you can see for yourselves) as it isn’t that obvious when viewed on a computer screen.
My final acquisition (for now!) was one I wasn’t sure would actually work……Steve is a bit of a stickler for quality when it comes to his photographic work, and he always runs a test-print of any ‘new’ image before agreeing to sell it. I had been intrigued by a shot of Mick which had appeared on ‘sleepyard’ a few months ago – an out-of-focus, close-up shot of him wearing Banana Splitz shades, with a crisp reflection of the photographer in his darkened lenses. And, of course, the ‘dangly thing’…….which turned out to be a fault in the film, where light had leaked in. Because of this, I wasn’t sure it would reproduce well enough once enlarged (the prints are approx 40cm x 30cm). Weirdly, of the 2 prints, it was actually the ‘Foel’ one which had to be tested twice; the MK one reproduced perfectly first time round.
Mick Karn aka ‘dangly thing’
It is surprisingly easy to get your hands on one of Steve’s beautiful, limited edition, signed prints – simply check out his ‘imageshop’ for details of how to order.
Angela Crook did just that and grabbed herself a shot of David taken during the Visions of China video shoot, which now has pride of place in her living room (and she assures me she gazes adoringly at it every morning!)
Thanks to everyone who contributed photos and anecdotes to this piece. All other photos by Steve Jansen.