Monday, 18 November 2013

The danger of book buying

There's a strong temptation to start collecting photobooks. The internet makes it so easy to find titles which shops in provincial towns are unlikely to stock. So easy to become aware of books that you might never otherwise of heard of if you don't read the right publications. My temptation is to collect books of British photography.

While it might be the case that American photography and latterly European and Japanese photography has been influential on 'current practice' I find myself drawn to photographs of the land I was born in. The avant garde would call me parochial and insular, I prefer to think of myself as deeply rooted!

Niall McDiarmid's Crossing Paths project, which I have mentioned before, has become a book which dropped through my letter box last week. It has a lot going for it. Not only are the photographs worth looking at, it's of a size which doesn't make your arms ache. Not too big, and not too small.

There are many things I like about the pictures, and their Britishness is one of them. I can't really define it, but there's a warmth and affection in the photographs which strikes me as essentially British in it's quietly understated way.

After seeing the Tim Hetherington show at the Open Eye Gallery a few weeks back I ordered a copy of Infidel. As I had expected the book made a much better job of showing the pictures than the exhibition had. This is another small book. Which goes to show that photographs don't have to be printed huge to make an impression. Having them small enough to hold in your hand can make you study them closer. The number of images also build to form a bigger picture. The whole being stronger than the sum of its parts.

Although the photographs are of Americans fighting (or mostly resting) in Afghanistan, they again share the British reserve and are not as gung-ho as most conflict photography is. There's a quiet compassion in the pictures.

More British photography books are tempting me at the moment, but they are mostly retrospective publications. Martin Parr's The Nonconformists and Bert Hardy's Britain. However, I'm trying to avoid the lure of nostalgia so it might be The New English Landscape that I purchase for next. One thing's for sure. Whatever books I buy they will not be poncey, hand made limited editions with hefty price tags. Call me an idealist, but I still believe that the first infinitely reproducible medium of visual expression should be widely available and affordable. Although I can, and do, appreciate books as objects of desire, I still think they should be books first and foremost. It's the content, the information, that matters. Postcards before mahoosive prints, paperbacks before 'artist books'.

No comments: