Allen Wheatcroft: Body Language
Allen Wheatcroft’s first monograph, Body Language, explores the balance between connection and dislocation, which he observes while roaming city streets, camera in hand.
Taken in Chicago, Sweden, Los Angeles, Berlin, and Paris, the book includes an introduction by renowned New York City street photographer Jeff Mermelstein:
“We human beings stand on this Earth as unique individuals, filling space and surface with a particular signature.
Our own ways of breathing, unique heartbeats, and blood flow fuel body gestures that leave trails, suggestions, and indications of not only who we are when we’re alone, but also what we become when we’re interacting together in public space.
As street photographers, we try to read pedestrian traffic, its position and isolation, and capture, like a fossil-in-time, the suggestive remnants of our presence and being. We work to give the viewer clues, insights and thoughts about our human condition, which is in constant flux.
This is a high calling, humbling.
Wherever he goes, Allen Wheatcroft seems to bring with him his own template of a stage; a kind of map for his cast of characters to stand on. He writes very effective short plays filled with interactive, peopled dramas performed with hands, arms, feet, twists, grimaces and particular posture. There are active fingers and bending legs, sometimes infused with subtle awkwardness everywhere in the picture, like some kind of Universal-People-Parade.
While each of Wheatcroft’s figures seems connected, as if they were in a photographic spider web, they also look distilled and perplexed at all of it, exuding underlying tension and nervousness as a result of contemporary life.
Introspection, gravity, strangers looking lost or focused, perhaps pondering what it is to just BE, these visuals can all be part of the street photographer’s equation.
It’s admirable that Allen Wheatcroft has taken on the baton of this challenge and task, with such a rich history filled with the work of Lisette Model, Garry Winogrand, Anthony Hernandez, Helen Levitt, William Klein, Leon Levinstein and so many others.
Thank you, Allen, for doing your part in building our street photographer’s bridge, allowing us a look at ourselves with a clear vision, optimism, joy, and respect.”
The photographs emphasize gestures, movements, and expressions; a visual language without words. The viewer comes to wonder about, and empathize with, the loners and bankers, doormen and gym rats, tourists and sunbathers – eager, perplexed, hurting – who inhabit our cities. This project, which focuses on tension, loneliness, and synchronicity in contemporary life, uses the universal language of the body in the street.
“This series of street photographs, taken from 2014 to 2018 in cities in Europe and the United States, emphasizes the emotional or physical distance that lies between people. I’m interested in their uncertain connections to one another, those weak bonds upon which communities stand. Watching body language, I imagine where the people I see live and work, what they think about. I wonder about the connections missed and chances these people have lost, their isolation relieved perhaps by the touch of a companion’s hand, a short daydream, the first warm sunlight in spring, or the assertion of their own style. I know my subjects only from the gestures they make, the feelings they suggest as they walk or linger (so often staring into another world). With my camera, I capture the moods they convey as I pass, never to encounter them again.” (Allen Wheatcroft)
About the Author
Allen Wheatcroft is a largely self-taught Chicago-based street and documentary photographer with an academic background in the social sciences and a long career in publishing. Over three decades, he has built a considerable body of documentary and street images in a number of long-running projects.