Michael Nyman's best shot
The Guardian : Jan 15th, 2009
I took these pictures during the literature festival in Mantua, Italy, three or four years ago. I had just met Umberto Eco for the first time since 1964 and I was waiting to do a concert, walking around with a camera like a bored tourist. In the end, I went back to my hotel room on the first floor. I leaned out of my window and saw an unexpected photo opportunity: a busy Saturday afternoon, with my subjects below, oblivious to me.
Photographing from above seemed a nice idea. You capture motion, space and the relationships between people in crowds, without identifying individuals. It is a very personal kind of anonymity. The key part of the series is that yellow square, which is obviously some parking indication. I never discovered what.
I shot the sequence without a tripod, so the square moves around. There was also some delay in the shutter, which meant I wasn’t always able to get exactly what I wanted. This brought a huge amount of randomness to the pictures. Although I monitored everything, I didn’t have a plan to take a shot every 10 seconds or so, which I might have done in the 60s or 70s.
In the end, I stood there for half an hour, taking between 60 and 100 pictures. I assume the art director of the book Sublime, in which they appear, used them all. I haven’t counted. I don’t even know which images are on this page or how they were chosen. I just gave the file to someone and they chose these nine. It is a random selection from a random selection.
Born: Stratford East, London, 1944.
Studied: “I didn’t. Just on the job, through the lens.”
Inspirations: “Mike Disfarmer and Miroslav Tich&. I look at a lot of photographs and buy fewer than I should.”
High point: “Making two videos: one in a tea house in Iran of a forbidden conversation between a young woman and a young man; the other a documentation of rehearsals when I was in Mali with Damon Albarn.”
Low point: “Losing both those tapes.”
Pet hate: ” Other photographers, who take pictures of things I missed or would never have seen. It’s professional jealousy. But then I can always say, ‘Well, I’m a composer anyway so what the hell!’”
Dream subject: ” I can’t think. I might go somewhere like Mexico to look.”