‘in praise of……..’ – reflections on Through A Quiet Window


Ever since Steve finally published Through A Quiet Window earlier this month, I have been chomping at the bit to write a piece focusing on his beautifully modest book of photographs. However, I was also aware that a few people who had pre-ordered the book, and who read this blog, were still waiting for their copies to arrive, and I really didn’t want to spoil the one chance they had to sit down and savour some of the new images contained within  its small, but perfectly formed, pages. So, it is with absolute delight that I feel the time has now come to throw open the floodgates and dive right in to the crystal clear waters and wade merrily around; and, as so many other people have expressed their own delight in the book’s publication, I thought it would only be polite to invite them to have their say.

It has been a wonderful few weeks, reading so many positive responses of the book; many people have been slightly over-awed by the sheer number of new images of JAPAN and the realisation that there are even more photos archived that have yet to see the light of day. So, I asked a few folk if they would like to express just what the release of Steve’s book means to them, and to maybe pick out their favourite image from the 200 featured. That should be easy, right?

First up to the mark was regular blog contributor Shane McElligott, who has been a long-time fan of Steve’s photographic work, and owns 3 of his limited edition prints. It is he who has long cried ‘BOOK’ at every opportunity, and he admits that he feels slightly bereft, now the book is here, as he no longer has anything to shout about!

“When I received Steve’s book the first thing I did was hunt through it for the ‘Hotel Room – Japan’ photographs. I have a bit of an obsession about them and was hoping they’d all be in there. There was only one featured in the book and this caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Once I’d recovered from this disappointment I started the book again. It is filled with beautiful images, many that I’d never seen before. From those, the one that I found most evocative was of Big Bad Sylv™ (John Punter) looking out of a window. It suggests his increasing, self-imposed, alienation from the rest of the band while he contemplates the future without them. I’m obviously totally over thinking this and making stuff up. I do that a lot. He was probably just thinking about what to have for his tea. Anyway, it is a wonderful image and has gone straight onto the big bloody list of Steve’s images that I have to own. After the ‘Hotel Room – Japan’ photographs. Obviously.

‘Through A Quiet Window’ is a beautiful little treasure and Steve’s introduction highlights his talent with the written word, as well as a camera and music and…. bastard!

I’d have preferred a larger format book to showcase the images more effectively and there are many incredible photographs conspicuous by their absence. Perhaps a Limited Edition version could be produced. Available at an exhibition of his photographs. Where he’ll be signing copies of his autobiography. I can dream, can’t I? At my age, what else is there?”

040 'sylvian - stanhope gardens'
040 ‘sylvian – stanhope gardens’

Another ‘old school’ (i.e. middle aged) Japan fan and blog contributor, Craig Hamlin, shared his thoughts of finally seeing the book published in an equally enthusiastic way.

“It’s still difficult to believe it’s actually there – as I look up at the book shelf, free to peruse at any given time….but there indeed it sits. A book of Steve Jansen’s photography. I have been wishing for such a thing for the best part of 2 decades. Over those  years, as each new image would be found, (whether on-line or in a magazine) I’d often wonder ….“ wow, he must have a hell of an archive; I bet they’d look great as a collection in a book.“ However, because Steve has always preferred to stay out of the mainstream, such thoughts would be put to the back of my mind.

The last few years though have seen an avalanche of new and unseen images … better still, released with the kindness and generosity of the photographer himself. We dared to dream, and he dared to do. It’s an amazing thing. Synchronicity and happenstance collide, and a certain ‘lady’ decides she wants to do a blog, where admirers of Steve’s photographic work can discuss his images. These are the things these are the things, the things that dreams are …. oops, wrong band!

But the point made. It’s a glorious book.

The sharing of images of my favourite band at work, at play, personal shots, and funny shots. It’s an absolute privilege to have it here on my bookshelf. So many lovely shots, that trying to pick one above all others is impossible. But I can tell you which one made me take a sharp intake of breath. Richard on a roadside, the words TOKYO writ large. It has so many connotations …. but ultimately it has that quality that Steve produces in so many of his shots. Of drawing the surroundings and environment into play, as much as the person or object he’s photographing. Indeed, is Richard jumping in on a photo of a street-scape or vice versa?

Either way, it’s a stunning image and will make a lovely print for my wall …. next to the bookcase.”

165 - barbieri, tokyo 1982
165 – barbieri, tokyo 1982

Daniela Mendes is one of the wonderful new breed of young and enthusiastic fans, and her knowledge and appreciation of music certainly makes the future a brighter place for Mr Jansen and his ex-band members, I feel.  She had to wait longer than most to finally get her hands on a copy of Through A Quiet Window, but once she had seen it, she felt compelled to contribute to this piece. It is great to get a different perspective; one from someone who wasn’t born when most of the pictures in the book were taken.

“For those who have been following Steve’s tumblr, one could say TAQW is a companion book; or vice versa. It’s still a bit surreal to see all these wonderful photos in print! It can be a challenge to talk about which pages I liked the most when the whole book exceeded your expectations but I’ll try.

Some of my favourite sets of photos can be found in the book, such as outdoor photos with Sakamoto and Sylvian from the Bamboo Houses recordings, and the Elm Park/Stanhope Gardens shots of a sometimes dishevelled and pensive Sylvian, either looking out of the proverbial window (with Oppi the cat) or by the piano; because there’s a quiet intimacy and simplicity to them.

It’s also bound to be a favourite of mine if there’s a keyboard in the photo or even someone smiling – as in the shots from the Tin Drum sessions (even if Richard’s left arm is still nowhere to be seen!).

I especially like this image though (see below)  with Nye, Sylvian and Barbieri  – an extremely cool triangle composition, which reminds me of my inclination for photos with architectural lines.

The inclusion of photos from the late 80s and the early 90s was a surprise and I’m drawn to Yukihiro’s ‘candids, ’ many of which are in colour and previously unseen (by me at least!) Speaking of colour, the Polaroid pages are lovely! They might be tiny but that means there’s a whole bunch of them! And I mustn’t forget the shots of Mick in Japan, where his hair colour(s) is captured so vividly.

Mr. Takahashi’s words at the end explain how the book came about. He also muses about photography. But what really stuck with me was the way he talked about his and Steve’s friendship. It’s an exclusive insight that reveals more about his relationship with “the quiet eye” and the man behind the camera.”

057 barbieri, sylvian & nye recording 'tin drum' 1981
057 barbieri, sylvian & nye recording ‘tin drum’ 1981

One of the more delightful aspects of writing this blog, (and there are many, believe me) has been the opportunity it has given me to chat with like-minded folk; I have become acquainted with a number of lovely people across the globe in the last 12 months. It is even more lovely, when some of these want to get involved with the blog, as Paula Sterling Stead has done. She has been a fan of Japan since waaaaay back when, but this is her first contribution – quite apt then, that it is about Steve’s book.

“Simply stunningly stylish in its execution, Steve’s book does exactly as it says on its cover. He allows us a peep into, what no doubt, must have been a wild, exciting and adventurous life on the road for a young, popular musician. His shots, however, convey a sense of serenity and tranquillity. Probably because we hit pause at that one moment in time and thereby eliminate all background noise.

Through each carefully framed visual, Steve enhances the subject, making them the key focus; and in doing so, he creates a connection with the viewer, so that they too are present and experience the situation which led to the cheeky shot of a (slightly dishevelled) David and Richard, as the latter is obviously trying to hold a serious conversation, or Takahashi backstage as he leans forward to the young boy: an intimate moment that is both touching and un-staged.

The captivating scenarios are left intact and it is the viewer who becomes the ‘fly on the wall’, looking through the lens, alongside Steve. We are not part of it, just merely spectators.

The small but compact ‘album’ contains an arresting introduction in Japanese and English translation which provides insight into the purpose and development of this visual documentation. The summation written by Takahashi is heart-felt and emotional – Steve the quiet observer who played a huge part with his presence and position in both bands.

Each description that accompanies the images is succinct and informative, albeit I’m still non the wiser when it comes to photographic effects, but that’s not its intention. It is instead, I believe, to simply and adequately impart the minimum information to the viewer without spoiling the relationship/emotion created. Steve has without question achieved all he set out to do in this book, and for me choosing a favourite portrait proves too difficult – save for perhaps 059 (see below) – that of David recording Tin Drum. I would say it is because of the vulnerability that is conveyed as he sits, hands grasped together ready to record, but who am I kidding – I have always had a soft spot for him!

This book should be seen, displayed and enjoyed. It is just a pity that, for me it’s too valuable, and will therefore live in its bubble wrap, to be retrieved from the shelf when occasion permits and savoured in private.”

059 sylvian recording 'tin drum' 1981
059 sylvian recording ‘tin drum’ 1981

Another long-time fan (and very proud owner of her own Jansen print), is Becky Olenchak. Her book was delayed in getting to her, because of the floods which affected the Eastern seaboard state of South Carolina, where she lives. However, it finally arrived, and once the floods had subsided and she could think straight, she was keen to share her thoughts.

“Last week began with a literal flood and ensuing devastation to the city where I live, and it ended on a much happier note for me with the arrival of Steve Jansen’s exquisite book of photos, ‘Through A Quiet Window’. I wish I were able at present to wax as eloquently as I would like about this incredibly special tome and all the beauty within its pages. I can say, though, that each photo feels truly animate to me. I can smell the lovely aroma of the pipe tobacco Mick Karn is smoking in my immediate favourite image,  in which Mick and David Sylvian are enjoying breakfast and conversation together at home in Stanhope Gardens. The year is 1981, but it might as well be today. I can hear the thought or question that appears to be lingering in the air; perhaps posed by David, as Mick lights his pipe and considers his response. I can taste the coffee, and read the headlines of the newspaper on the table before David. I am an unseen guest in the room, hovering behind the photographer’s shoulder, observing through his lens. Steve has an uncanny gift of welcoming the viewer “into” his photos, if you will. I don’t sense a figurative wall between subject and audience in any of his images, unlike the work of other photographers I have seen.

Thank you, Steve, for inviting us to go back in time and experience the worlds of Japan and YMO, among others, through your eyes and lens, through your quiet window. It is a true gift indeed.”

136 - karn, sylvian stanhope gardens 1981
136 – karn, sylvian
stanhope gardens 1981

Last up (and certainly never least) is the lovely Penelope Hughes. It was through a long, and rather hilarious, discussion with Pen a year ago, that the whole idea of this here blog was dreamt up; so you have her to blame for all of my ramblings.  Here is her take on a book she has waited a long time to see.

“The saying is: “It’s a great time to be a Japan fan.” I do hope Steve knows what sharing his memories means to us, D. Fanz. (and on a very basic level, I’d also just like to say a huge thanks for making the book affordable and giving us all the chance to get a signed copy at no extra charge. Considering the books are shipped from Japan it seemed a nominal fan-friendly amount to ask.) And now, there is the chance to own any of the images in the book, as a limited edition print –  flicking through you can think which ones you ‘d love to put on the wall, can’t you? There’s certainly more than a couple I feel wouldn’t look out-of-place over our piano!

When he’s not writing sublime music, drumming, mixing, remixing and being naturally bloody hilarious on Tumblr, Steve takes pictures; and the ones in this book are of our heroes, and his friends; the combo we came to know as Japan. The two I love the most are the doe-like but wolf-eyed soft skin close up of Mick on page 117 where he looks  as fragile and appallingly sexy as it is humanly possible to look. The other is of Mick again, this time with a stressed-looking Rob Dean at the Andy Warhol exhibition in Tokyo in 1981. I love that the two friends are so different. They are both as skinny as sticks and sporting suits (and they both look gorgeous) but that’s where the similarity ends. Mick is ‘done-up’ even by Mick’s standards. His make-up is such that it pronounces the expression he wears, turning a private smile into a half mocking smirk. In 1982 Mick’s already full and sensuous lips would often be distorted into a Joker-like grimace, thanks to the liberal application of lipstick, and that day was clearly one of those days. His gloved hands hold a program which he is clearly examining, or maybe he’s signing an autograph, knowing he is observed at all times. He’s a pop star. He’s clearly come ‘as’ one that day and looks to be enjoying the whole thing (as I think many in his position would.) He looks to be in his element. Rob, on the other hand, looks like he wants to leg it. It’s not the Warhol, it’s everything else. He’s maybe wearing a tiny bit of slap, I can’t tell if so, but his expression is very easy to read. He looks fed up and trapped, as if at any moment he’s going to rip his jacket off, jump on a plane to Costa Rica and never come back.

‘The benefit of hind legs,’ as Steve-not-quite lookalike Noel Fielding would say.

I can imagine feeling both ways as I look in through this quiet window on the past. It’s all the more potent an image knowing the direction both took.

Thanks to Steve I have a chance to empathise with two of my heroes, despite being about 10 when this photo was taken. Steve wasn’t much more than a child himself when he forever captured that moment with all its emotion and potential.

It’s beautiful, as is the book, as is its creator. Thank you Steve.”

125 - dean, karn warhol exhibit tokyo 1981
125 – dean, karn
warhol exhibit
tokyo 1981

I have so much I want to say about this book and some of the images it contains – it really has been a long time coming, and I am slightly over-awed now that I finally own a copy. However, there is plenty of time for me to wax lyrical about the contents, and do not doubt for a moment, that I shall be doing just that over the coming weeks. In true VCC style, I shall reveal my new favourite photo from the book though – and those of you who have picked up on a theme, when it comes to the Jansen images I favour, will not be surprised to see that the one I have chosen has neither hair nor hide of one of the Japan boys in the frame.

025- pilot toronto airport 1979
025- pilot
toronto airport 1979

Steve’s book, Through A Quiet Window can be purchased here:

http://artespublishing.com/books/86559-127-9-en/

Images from the book are available to purchase as individual prints.  All enquiries: info@stevejansen.com

Many thanks to everyone who has contributed to this week’s piece, and to everyone who has been in touch and shared their impressions of the book. Please feel free to leave any further comments below – the more the merrier!

The reproductions of the photos on this site are not indicative of the quality of the images in the book. As Steve explained in a previous post (see link below), the process of choosing the images and getting them ready for the book was long and laborious. Sadly, I have a crappy scanner and so they look a bit rubbish. Apologies to Steve for ruining all his hard work.

https://jansenphotographyblog.wordpress.com/2015/09/18/talking-drummer-words-with-steve-jansen/ 

All photographs on this site are © 2015 steve jansen all rights reserved unless otherwise stated.

074 - takahashi backstage 1982
074 – takahashi backstage 1982
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6 thoughts on “‘in praise of……..’ – reflections on Through A Quiet Window

  1. It is true, I DO feel bereft. My new ‘clarion call’ is now “EXHIBITION!” Other than my contribution, this new entry to the blog is brilliant, even though no one else’s favourite images include any of the ‘Hotel Room – Japan’; unconscionable and clearly madness! One day, they will be mine; oh yes, they WILL be mine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I share your love of those images Shane, but then I am the only person in the world who ever chooses to spend her money on Steve’s ‘non-Japan prints’, so it is to be expected. Having said that, I could be persuaded to buy a copy of the latest image he posted on sleepyard this weekend….*coughs*

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s a delightful book. I need to find time to have a good second and third look, to digest it slowly (school is eating my brain ).
    Thank you Steve.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Victoria, thank you so much for running your blog, I really appreciate your efforts!

    It’s still very hard to pick an absolute favourite photograph, but I really adore breakfast at Stanhope Gardens. Emotions are overflowing.

    At the end of this year, if everything goes according to plan, I will have a book of my poetry published. Lots of traces of Japan, David and Mick in particular, can be found there – well, if you know what to look for, that is. Anyway, I just wanted to say that the world, created by this truly unique band, is what keeps me not just afloat – but in flight these days.

    Like

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