The first thing that catches your eye is a young man inhaling deeply from a solvent filled plastic bag, Dinner Ladies sharing intimate conversations and a man’s scarred and tattooed arms folded in majestic defiance.
Pogus Caesar’s photographs unravel the simplicity of the ordinary and the mundane giving us a glimpse into the lives of people he has encountered on his travels.
During at visit to New York in the 1980’s he was introduced to the work of Diane Arbus and Canon film camera – which he still uses. Caesar has spent a career travelling the world photographing diverse communities in places such as Albania, India, South and North Africa, USA, India and, Albania. The straight forward grainy 35 mm images provide little more than detail, tone and detail. ‘ The photographs in Schwarz Flaneur’ are part of a more extensive body of work spanning three decades and 17,000 negatives.
Charles Baudelaire developed a derived meaning of flâneur—that of “a person who walks the city in order to experience it”. Schwarz, meaning the colour black in German.
‘Schwarz Flaneur’ is named after the unguarded moments that Caesar so strives to capture. These images are signature to much of Caesar’s work and his dedication to Ilford HP5 black and white film and an old 1983 Canon Sure Shot camera. The term flâneur comes from the French masculine noun flâneur—which has the basic meanings of “stroller”, “lounger”, “saunterer”, “loafer”—which itself comes from the French verb flâner, which means “to stroll”. Walter Benjamin described the flâneur as the essential figure of the modern urban spectator, an amateur detective and investigator of the city. More than this, his flâneur was a sign of the alienation of the city and of capitalism.
Caesar says ‘”I prefer the unstable nature of film, and I have the limitation of 36 frames. It’s that random second when the shutter opens and closes providing a document between the past and the future.”
All images are Silver Gelatin prints developed from archival 35mm negatives.
SELECTED BIOGRAPHY: As a photographer and artist he has worked in countries including Spain, India, South America, Sweden, South Africa, UK, Albania and Jamaica documenting the lives of diverse communities. His photographs are in private and public collections such as the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; City Gallery, Leicester; Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield; Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Caesar is also the author of two publications ‘Muzik Kinda Sweet’ and ‘Sparkbrook Pride.’ During the 1980’s Caesar co curated two major UK exhibitions by contemporary Black artists ‘Into the Open’ and ‘Caribbean Expressions in Britain.’
SELECTED EXHIBITIONS: Muzik Kinda Sweet: British Music Experience,02, London UK. That Beautiful Thing: Wolverhampton Art Gallery UK. Forward Ever – Backward Never: Artangel, London UK. Break In The Seal: Herbert Art Gallery, Coventry UK. Into The Open: Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield UK. Caribbean Expressions in Britain: Leicester Museum & Art Gallery UK. Pogus Caesar Paintings: Cartwright Hall, Bradford UK. Instamatic Views of New York: Museum of Film & Photography, Bradford UK. Religion, Slavery and Diaspora: Horniman Museum & Garden, London UK Seeing Slavery: The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke – on – Trent UK. Pattern Recognition: The City Gallery, Leicester. Staying Power: Black Cultural Archives, London UK, UK. Staying Power: Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK UK. Islands on the Edge: Boston, USA