16 July, 2007
Looking at music culture.
An exhibition looks at music photography as a force to shape youth culture, writes SABRINA DEAN
"Essentially, it's down to the photographer - whether he calls himself an art or a documentary photographer."
I had been chatting to Liam Lynch about his new exhibition, and this was his response when I asked him if there really is a difference between art and documentary photography.
Lynch's Open To Misinterpretation, currently on at the Rooke Gallery in Newtown, is a photographic exhibition featuring local band Fokofpolisiekar.
Presented in the black and white "language of documentary", it is a lovely collection of images built up over several years. I would call it art, certainly, but it is just as much a documentary picture of the real life existence of these band members.
Lynch describes documentary photograph's as being surrealistic, "because that's how we see life." He speaks of the "juxtaposition and contrast" being the key purpose of black and white imagery. Over the years, Lynch has built up a strong reputation as a music photographer in SA, though he is adamant that he dislikes being categorised as a band photographer. Instead, he says it's not about the bands, it's about music.
Having started out in the field of political science, Lynch says, "I came to photography at a time when I thought I was going to be a political writer." Language has always been key for him, as well as politics and people, and he says these remain the most important components of his work, regardless of it being photography. His socio-documentary work on issues like HIV/Aids and poverty has appeared in Time magazine, and would seem more in keeping with these components.
However, when you start delving into factors like sub-cultures, chosen identity and the potential for music to shape a youth culture, that statement makes sense.
In a description of the exhibition, Lynch refers to posters on bedroom walls featuring as "snapshots of popular youth culture... Music photography lies at the very heart of this phenomenon as it captures, in a tangible format, the single most powerful force that shapes youth culture. Music."
Talking about what he intended with the exhibition, Lynch says he started out with, "What do I want people to get out of this?" He says, though, that he ended up negating this, after realising, among other things, that he was dealing with the the "fan's sense of ownership".So rather than trying to tell any kind of truth, it became more of a background documentary, became more personal. "The point was to put something down on paper and tell something about me, express myself."
Having worked closely with Fokofpolisiekar over several years and even toured abroad with them, I asked him what their relationship was like. "It's definitely a love relationship," he says, "they appreciate my work and I theirs." He adds, though, that despite this good relationship it's not to say that there's no objectivity.
"It is subjective from my perspective, but not according to the band's agenda."
One of the factors that did help in putting together the final exhibition is the fact that Lynch never intended to show something that was at odds with Fokofpolisiekar. "We come from a similar aesthetic mindset and there has never really been any frustration," he says.
Lynch has an obvious high regard for Fokofpolisiekar, saying, "I don't think you're going to find anyone as relevant as this band - not even the Stones."
Comments from certain Fokofpolisiekar members about the work include: "It's us on the inside," and, "I see it as our life through the lens of one of our own."
2 July, 2007
Liam Lynch- Open to misinterpretation
A Journey with Fokofpolisiekar
The Rooke Gallery. Newtown Johannesburg. June 28.
By Sydelle Smith
The endless queue cramming to enter Liam Lynch's first public exhibition - documenting the life and time of the legendary Afrikaans band Fokofpolisiekar - was a good measure of how many people admire his work and have a strong relationship with his subject. On a mid-wintery cold Jo'burg evening, the queue snaked its way around the Rooke Gallery - a newly renovated happening spot in Newtown.
The gallery walls, still redolent with the smell of new paint, gave the bold black and white images a stark and clear background space. Fokofpolisiekar, with their controversial name in a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world, exploded onto the airwaves shocking and igniting the youth from 2003 to 2006. Proudly, they claim the title of being the first Afrikaans punk band to be played on nationwide radio stations.
Talking to Liam about his work, it is apparent he has a deep passion for the counter culture the band represents, a passion one sees clearly reflected and engrained in his documentary approach to photography, driven by his urge to tell a stories as they are. The photographs capture the unique energy of this bold group of musicians who weren't afraid to push limits or stir the pot, especially amongst their own Afrikaans compatriots. With daring lyrics like "Can someone get God on the phone and tell him he is not needed anymore," Lynch capture the ironies of their messages in provocative poses. In one, band members hold Christian crucifixes; in another an injured drummer lies in his hospital bed with a cigarette dangling from his mouth. These are personal moments that could only ever be captured on camera by a close friend. A friend who has followed and documented the journey of a moving statement that shook up the stage wherever the band has traveled and played together.
Lynch may have made more careful selection of the work exhibited to avoid repetition in the theme and poses of some of the photographs. Not all of them held as rich visual meaning as others. Most striking were pictures of live shows that captured a vibrant and real perspective of the frenzied crowd dynamically interacting with the band on stage - chaos and the mayhem, all about.
A group of images in particular held my attention - The Tuks FM New Year's Eve party in Pretoria: one of the last gigs the band would play together. Interesting moments on the road in Belgium, the Netherlands and London show five young guys having a rocking time as they expose Europeans to a new African sound, in a sister-tongue of Flemish or Dutch. Other images that portray the legend that Fokofpolisiekar will no doubt come to be, are of silhouetted band members caught in mid air, legs outstretched; immersed in smoke and sweat, beautifully portraying an intense passion and rage emitting from the stage.
Band photographers such as Liam are gifted with a powerful weapon, being able to blend into the background of a lifestyle of shows, parties, recording studios and bad road food. A musician himself, formerly with The Slashdogs, Liam's eye is fine-tuned. He has successfully captured the rise and the fall of a unique Afrikaans band that shook the nation with its lyrics and daring questions, commentating on social and political issues that the post-apartheid generation of Afrikaans South Africans has had to deal with.
Lynch's camera and fine artistic eye has given us a well-chronicled visual document portraying critical iconic moments of a band that did more than just get a crowd moving to catchy lyrics. Fokof managed to break all the boundaries in the realm of the music of the youth in this country. More than just a wall of beautifully constructed black and white images hung on a newly painted wall in a gallery of the regenerated Newtown precinct, Lynch's body of work stands as evidence that the Afrikaans Music Revolt has irrevocably arrived.
Mail and Guardian
Friday 22 June
By Lloyd Gedye
Photographer Liam Lynch has spent years hounding South Africa's radical rockers. Now his images are on exhibition, writes Lloyd Gedye
When photographing a animal like Fokofpolisiekar it is easy to go straight for the obvious sex, drugs and rock'n'roll myth, but photographer Liam Lynch is more interested in the whirlwind of emotions that come to the fore when the band members are off stage.
Lynch has been documenting Fokofpolisiekar since its inception in 2003 and his latest exhibition Open to Misinterpretation, which has been chosen to open the new Rooke Gallery in Newtown on June 28, takes the audience into the band's deeply personal backstage territory.
Open to Misinterpretation is Lynch's attempt to tell the story of Fokof's tumultuous ride last year. A year that included drummer Jaco Venter fracturing his elbow, upper arm and hip after jumping from a moving car in Witbank; a successful tour of Europe; a critically lauded album Swanesong; and the now infamous "Fok God" incident, in which a scrawled message on a wallet riled religious communities across the country.
Lynch says the chaos that was 2006 took its toll on the band and as the cracks began to appear before his eyes, he realised that this was the story he had to tell.
"I was interested in the way that the off shoots said so much more than the portraits and the live shots," says Lynch. "How the desperation and low moments shone through."
During the process in which Lynch and the band reviewed the pictures for the exhibition, Fokof often chose to assign lyrics to the images. Lynch was initially uncomfortable with this until songwriter Hunter Kennedy told him that, ultimately, the lyrics and the photographs told the same story. "You were photographing what I was writing about," Kennedy told him.
Lynch faced an internal struggle with the personal nature of his photographs, trying to ascertain whether what he was creating was a documentary, or whether there was too much of his interpretation in the images.
Ultimately, Open to Misinterpretation is a gonzo account of a rock band coming apart at the seams, a document of Fokof being pulled in a million directions at the same time and the resulting desperation and disillusionment that set in.
Open to Misinterpretation opens on June 28 at the Rooke Gallery, 37 Quinn Street, Newtown, Johannesburg, and will run for at least a month. The opening will include an address by Rian Malan and Fokofpolisiekar bassist Wynand Myburgh. The opening is by invitation only. Interested parties can register at www.rookegallery.com
Except for being the only photographer we ever chose to use, Liam has been a constant source of inspiration and encouragement. He's a workaholic and he is one of us.
His camera is an inseparable part of him that we never questioned or doubted and thus we were never intimidated or forced to pose in the traditional sense of the word.
Early in 2006 Wynand (our bassist) phoned Liam to confirm his loyalty, unaware of the unholy shit that would hit the fan a few months later.
Our faith and friendship in Liam allowed him to capture a part of us, unseen by the general public during our most vulnerable time spent as heathen outcasts.
His relentless attention to detail allowed us to view ourselves from a third person's perspective.
That in itself is an opportunity few people, let alone groups ever get to experience. Liam's contribution to who and what we are is invaluable.
Open To Misinterpretation gives us a sense of finality to a unique experience. We all need closure. In many ways Liam's accounts are the only ones we have and trust. -- Hunter Kennedy
Jun 28 2007
Fokofpolisiekar se 'fotoman' stal uit
Francois van Coke, voorsanger van Fokofpolisiekar, nŗ 'n vertoning in Moen, België. Dit is een van die werke in Liam Lynch se fotografiese uitstalling Open to Misintepretation wat vanaand open in die Rooke-galery in Newtown, Johannesburg.
Liam Lynch, Fokofpolisiekar se "foto man" - soos hy op diť groep se webwerf genoem word - volg diť rockers al sedert 2003 op hul toere en na hul konserte. En as goeie vriend.
En nou stal hy 'n reeks van sy foto's van diť groep uit onder die titel Open to Misinterpretation.
Die titel van die uitstalling in die nuwe Rooke-galery in Newtown, Johannesburg, kom so reg uit 'n snit op Fokofpolisiekar se derde album, Monoloog in stereo.
Benewens sy werk aan dokumentÍre projekte, oor verligting van armoede in Limpopo en MIV/vigs-verwante sake, wys Lynch by diť uitstalling werke van 'n liriese aard oor sy groot passie. "Ek neem foto's van musiek en taal," sÍ hy.
As hy homself dan as "storieverteller" beskryf, kry jy in die Fokofpolisiekar-werk fotografiese vertellings van 2006, 'n stormagtige jaar in die groep se kort bestaan.
As invloed huiwer Lynch nie om te verwys na die kunstenaar en fotograaf Omar Badsha nie, "wat my geleer het om vrae te vra, om skerp waar te neem, om agter die voor die hand liggende te kyk".
Dat Lynch hierdie waarnemingsvermoŽ sy eie maak, blyk uit die werke in die uitstalling. Agter die foto's is dalk 'n storie aan't ontvou. Maar goed, dit is oop vir waninterpretasie.
# Die Rooke-galery open vanaand met die Open to Misinterpretation-uitstalling. Die galery is by Quinnstraat 37, Newtown.