In the wake of 9/11, American photographer and Magnum member Christopher Anderson turned his lens towards the cops of New York City. Here, he captured the place he called home as it changed, turned and evolved into a city under lock down. Then stirred by Occupy Wall Street, the death of Eric Garner and the election of Trump, Christopher found himself, again, photographing the city’s authorities.
It was these events and moments that formed the photographer’s latest book, Cop, published by Stanley/Barker. Described as an unconscious form of protest against the higher authorities, Christopher tells us how, during the time of 9/11 where he first began taking some of these images, photography had been criminalised in New York. “Photographers were constantly being harassed and even detained for posing a security threat,” he says. “The camera was a weapon. I think that part of me wanted to challenge the authority. I was surveilling the surveillance. And I guess I found some satisfaction in the sense of provocation at the time.”
As a response and “impulse” to the world around him, Christopher also looked to the politicians in the Bush era for photographing inspiration – this became the first book from what he now calls a trilogy. The first, Stump, is a series of extreme close-ups of American politicians during the 2012 campaigns, the second Approximate Joy, and the third: Cop. Within Cop, he has continued his use of the extreme close-up, this time with a dreamy colour palette infused by the distorted street lights filtering into the shot. Pensive gazes and emotional expressions are paired with uniforms of authority; it’s clear that his subjects are completely unaware of the photographer’s presence, who is, indeed, working as some form of surveillance.
After shooting his imagery, Christopher needed some time to assess the images that he was creating. As they say, time certainly heals – he began to see less of a protest against power but more of a notion of the sentimental. “I mostly make photographs as a response to what I notice or experience. It is later that I try and understand what it is that I am, in fact noticing,” he says.
“At some point along the way, what I noticed in the pictures was me looking at something that had nothing to do with the uniform. There was something more universal about the portraits. Perhaps it is even the repetition of the uniform that brings this into relief.”
New York is a place that Christopher has called home for twenty years: a place where he had spent most of his formative years while starting his career in photography, and a place where he started raising his family. “The diversity of New York City is still something that thrills me and inspires me,” he says. “This all sounds pathetically sentimental but I mean it earnestly.” Having now moved away from New York, Christopher refers to these photographs as his ‘love letters’ to the city: “it may sound a little corny, but I think most New Yorkers would not even blink when hearing that.”