Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Spotlight: The Park, by Kohei Yoshiyuki

Suppose you come to a typical pub evening to the Central Pub. You wander in like Radek, Pawel, Maciej or Bartek. Not that I'm saying that you need to be Polish, but it does help. Anyhow, you get in there to meet up for a few beers and a chat before going shooting somewhere or just drinking. You feel like going for the menu and you see something like this:

What the fuck? Joni forgot his book somewhere again. (Nicely lit, I must add.) Oh well, what's it this time? So you just get closer to figure the image out.

Wow! A guy sucking dry another guy! And it manages not to be porn! Great. The book is The Park, by Kohei Yoshiyuki. You can see more images at the Yossi Milo gallery. I also enjoyed the analyses by the New York Times and Alec Soth. I think that between them you can see enough images as for satisfying your curiosity.

I'm a bit sorry that I introduced this great book in such a straightforward and kevinsmithesque fashion. The sequencing is by far more subtle and as the same time as it is disturbing, you feel sucked into it. Kohei spent almost a decade shooting parks at night. Kohei spent almost a decade shooting parks at night when they were populated. Kohei did so armed with an infrared flash and infrared film. Kohei was not caught because his characters only saw a tenuous and distant flash of light.

The book opens with a couple lying on grass. In the distance we see the lights of the city. It's as dark as it gets and they don't see us. The next page shows a couple behind a fence. The third, a couple on the grass, she doesn't wear her shoes. All of them are lying back. At the ninth and tenth frame, Kohei gets closer. We can see the couples in foreplay, a hand here, a hand there. Suddenly, this monotony is broken. As a bunch of lions looking for a pray, Kohei introduces us to the watchers. They are behind a bush and we can't see their faces. The next pages approach us to them. We crawl with them, like a pack, towards the unsuspecting victims. The grass is white and bright. We see the couple. And then, the watchers fall on top of them. In some shots it's subtle, a close look, a hand that could be that of the lover. In others, it's just a pack, it's the vulture lifting the rabbit, it's violent.

That's the overall feel of the sequencing. It's monotonous but intense. It's a tune you already know, but it has subtle variations that keep you going. When we change to the second part, all the interactions turn from being between heterosexual to homosexual couples. Here Kohei shows us his best street pictures as well: a simply amazing arrangement of guys in white clothes walking around a park, perfectly placed. This part of the book is also permuated by a zen simplicity. The variations in vegetation and figures are great. That's why I chose the picture that headlines this post: it's fucking simple, but just great. It's sort of explicit (you know what's going on) but yet doesn't show you anything. (No, there's no nudity in this book.) The ground is cut out of the frame. Everything there is are these two central figures that are given a scale by the tree that raises next to them.

Such a strange and obsessive piece of work. I can't think of anything else than Kohei crawling there night after night with the voyeurs, pondering if that last shot of the hand getting into the knickers of the girl was good enough.

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