It is partly Peter Sutherland’s charm that allows him access to his subjects, but also his beard. The bearded are an important trope for Sutherland, his own beard nothing to sneeze at, commanding respect from the beard wearers he seeks. To Sutherland, these men are not simply eccentric derelicts, but more like mystical gurus. Hot Coals Only has one bearded man casually handling a python, another has his beard in plaits, wearing an expression of zen-like concentration as he sets up his pool shot.
Sutherland’s photography is documentary in style, but the images aren’t simply literal - they conjure more than they document. Sutherland’s heroes are the Maysles brothers, Werner Herzog, and Danny Lyon, documentarians who put themselves in situations of intense living, capturing strange narratives that say as much about the recorder as the recorded. None of the photos in Hot Coals Only are taken in Sutherland’s home of Manhattan. Many of the characters are strangers and the places foreign, yet the work feels personal and autobiographical.
Hand numbered with dust jacket. Limited edition 200 copies.