Ever had a conversation where much of it crumbles into a mess of misunderstanding and rupture? When I look at Yvonne Shaw’s images in Auxiliary Movement I feel a bit like this is what I am witnessing vicariously and visually, but then, there are also a mass of deep, palpable moments of touch and empathy presented in these absorbing images too. Like a compressed two-dimensional Douglas Sirk film, Shaws’ pictures chart the complex territory of human interpersonal and familial relationships, or grief, loss, rupture, and then reconnection.
Shaws book Auxiliary Movement takes as its subject weekend Psychodrama Psychotherapy sessions held in an old theatre somewhere in Auckland City. These images have all the hallmarks of a Jeff Wall photograph but this is no staged affair, at least it’s not staged by the photographer, but a re-enactment from life, re-performed by a group of protagonists in an effort to form a deeper understanding of an event or to reframe traumatic and personal occurrences. One does feel privileged to witness such intimacy, and is drawn to place oneself in the image and to identify with the personal struggle of these strangers. This is the undeniable achievement of this convincing photo driven publication – it creates empathy.