Errol Sawyer

Immediately, when I saw Errol Sawyer’s photographs, I was surprised by their compositional completeness - which lifts them out of time, and gives one the feeling that they are held forever (that ‘hold it’ moment)  – and by their utter naturalness – that gives one the impression that life is flowing through them and nothing in them is forced, arranged for show, or in any way artificial.  Their authority as artistic expressions lies in this confluence.  Errol Sawyer is that rare thing today – a classical black and white photographer in the Henri Cartier-Bresson tradition, using the camera at its simplest and most challenging, as a trap for catching time. Looking at his pictures, I feel more fully in tune with living today, and my guess is that people in the future will continue to look at them, and by doing so, get a glimpse of what it was really like to be alive today.

Errol Sawyer was born in Miami in 1943.  He was brought up by his mother, part African American and Cherokee Indian, first in Harlem, then the Bronx, where he learnt to survive in the city jungle. He became a brilliant chess player, and then took to photography in 1966.  He became famous in the seventies as a fashion photographer, but withdrew from this world in the late 80s to return to his roots in the streets. He has written beautifully about what he is doing. ‘A good picture results from a subconscious dance between being present and not being present.’  ‘I measure myself as a craftsman in proportion to the degree of consciousness I bring to bear upon a given event at its inception, not at its conclusion!’  And on the subject of politically motivated photography, he asks, ‘While I applaud the efforts of many photographers ... to raise our consciousness regarding the horrendous plight of those who are confined to the third world, I’m nagged by the question: whose interests are actually served by the process?’   

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