AVAILABLE LIGHT: WHEN ONE PHOTO LIVES FOR A DECADE

Jacob Seelochan
Peter Anderson, 1983

Peter Anderson, 1983

Peter Anderson makes me wish I lived through the 80s. I mean I’ve always wanted to – what with Madonna still having those bushy eyebrows, and Bowie’s sexy face being on every magazine. But it’s Mr Anderson’s lively photography that has now really reinforced my desire. So thankfully, in collaboration with Sighthound Films and director John Edwards, Rough Trade has finally managed to bring his pictures back into the light… or, to hit the blindingly obvious pun, the Available Light.

Now if you’re a fan of blow-up black-and-white street snaps and epic live-action stills, then Peter will be your kind of guy. And Sighthound’s short film really brought to the forefront the painstaking work that went into his distinctive dark-room photography. Edwards’ choice to combine Peter’s narration with visuals of him meticulously sculpting a singular print also helped to cleverly create an appreciation for the artistic heartbeat that existed behind every image.

Peter Anderson 3

Peter Anderson

The incredible pace at which Peter worked during his candid sessions was notable too. In some incredible scenes, we even see the photographer getting no more than 30 seconds to get the shot he desires. Just 30 seconds to achieve something remarkable. But in the insightful Q&A that followed, Anderson confessed that this kind of pressure could sometimes be an added motivation, and even triggered his Midas touch. He then coolly went on to add that it’s much better to look at these kind of constraints as exciting challenges than constrictive obstacles. And it was very much this kind of inspirational figure that Available Light illuminated.

Edwards smartly surrounded us with some of Peter’s best flash-interactions in the form of single shots or flitting blurred action sequences, and it certainly makes for compelling viewing. But nevertheless, it proves almost impossible during the film to comprehend the impact that Anderson and his subjects (or ‘victims’, as one budding audience-member termed them) would have on the British burgeoning photography industry as a whole. So this event marked the perfect opportunity for that penny to drop.

Peter Anderson

Peter Anderson

In short, I had really learned to admire Mr Anderson’s work by the end of Available Light. His non-stop attitude to life and working with anything that steals his interest was engaging to say the least. Director John Edwards definitely played an important part in this too. He really helped captivate us as an audience, and it was very interesting to see film being used to take us deep into the world of creating photos. And this immersive take definitely made me even more desperate to grab Anderson’s eye for a cheeky snap.

So if you’re in the local area, and you can’t imagine what downtown New York was like (as a place to live rather than just a movie set), head over to Rough Trade now as they still have a mini-gallery dedicated to the photographers’ work. As for me, all I have left to do is ask, “Peter, will you shoot me like one of your French girls?”.

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