Photography Reviews

Sabine – Jacob Aue Sobol; Dream Away – Michael Northrup

Aside from Sally Mann’s Immediate Family and Richard Billingham’s Ray’s a Laugh, here’s another example of work that is photographing and publishing the work of someone that is personally very close to the photographer.

Sobol’s first work “Sabine” is a book about the girl that he fell in love with when he was living in Greenland. The work shows intimate, closeness, sensuality and emotional photographs of his relationship with Sabine and his relationship with Greenland. For Sobol, he wasn’t a photographer in this project, he was a hunter, a boyfriend whom carries a camera and takes pictures. His work shows us that he was in it, part of the community, shooting from what he sees and feels as being one of them. It is a visual story of what he was experiencing, rather than an outsider trying to understand the community which, was what he tried to do when he first went.

‘I was ambitious and driven, but that meant nothing there,’ he laughs. ‘After a while, I realised I was only meeting the outsiders and outcasts in the community. They were drawn to this strange foreign guy with a camera, but no one else was even remotely interested. I was a distraction, an intruder.’

And then when he fell in love with Sabine the 2nd trip he went,

‘Something changed inside me and I got so much into hunting, shooting and fishing for trout and salmon. I realised that it was more important for me to come home with food than photographs. When I picked up the camera again, I was part of the community.’

As we know, later on Sobol and Sabine fell apart, and the work was published under the name of Sobol. Now maybe they had consent with each other for the work to be published, who knows? Or where Sabine was from, somewhere that’s so primitive and aged, did she know about her portrait rights?

Now a similar work about intimate relationship – “Dream Away” by Michael Northrup which was produced in the US. It is about his personal relationship journey with Pam – his girlfriend, then wife and then ex-wife.


Similar sort of route and experience as Sobol’s with Sabine, yet with this work, there was a huge controversy discussion as to whether the book should/can be published. The case even went to the court. Pam although earlier on in their relationship consented these photographs, towards the end of their relationship, she refused to make her work public. This frustrated the artist, Northrup, and consulted Blake Andrew, a blog writer and photographer, about this issue.

Here’s the blog post about the email conversation exchange:

Which brings back to these moral and ethnic questions evolving around photography:

Should a photo subject (assuming they consent to the image) ever have some level of control over what eventually happens to their photos? Or is it always up to the photographer? Is this culturally affected?

Some food for thoughts.


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