Emmanuel Angelicas is like all photographers, the inheritor of tradition. ln his case, he appears to fall within the tradition of documentary photography with one significant stylistic exception: although his images are clearly taken “straight” and thus function within a broadly photojournalistic vein, Angelicas is by no means dedicated to explanation. His images occupy a curious time zone, a kind of “Still Noir” far removed from mere narrative.
It appears to be enough for Angelicas to use photography to provide a series of touchstones for each of us to reach towards. Outwardly his photographs show nuances of a place with which having grown up there, he is obviously comfortable, but with an accomplished sense of mystery, Angelicas chooses to place the specific within a universal context. His image of the bank robber, almost “solarised” by the effect of his stockinged mask, shows a careless “equivalence” to the famous US ‘l9th century portrait of conspirator Paine.
Angelicas is also fascinated by the fast devaluing trivia of erotica. lt is this arena and its desensitising capacities that draws him to produce disturbing images, photographs which point toward a calibration of the last quarter of the 20th century. These icons of erotica, phallus and inflatable woman, sit side by side with religious and “familiar” imagery and surprisingly coexist in artistic solidarity.
Ultimately it is the portraiture that Angelicas has produced that feels most powerful to this writer. Angelicas has the talent to produce portraits which, in their deceptive simplicity, move deeply towards the universal observation of humanity. His photograph of Australian Triple World Boxing Champion Jeff Fenech, transcends the normal imagery of such athletes, rendering Fenech as a man capable of primal ferocity.
Influences can be clearly seen in Angelicas’ work; Arbus, Mapplethorpe, and perhaps some of the Depression Chroniclers in the US, yet no visual flavour from these sources overwhelms a vision which is obviously personal, unquenchable and growing towards maturity.
ROBERT MCFARLANE JUNE 1988