Tuesday, 7 October 2014

British books

My collection of photobooks continues to grow. They do say that if you are going to collect something it's best to have a restriction to it. Don't collect stamps, but collect stamps featuring fish, or aeroplanes. Given that I'm interested in British photography it seems fair to concentrate on books of contemporary British photography. Over the last couple of months I've added three more to the pile.

The latest addition is the oldest work, published in 2012 - Roadside Britain by Sam Mellish which is a pretty straightforward documentary about roadside dining in the UK and a bit of Ireland. The acknowledged influences and inspirations being the road trip works of Robert Frank in America and Paul Graham in Britain. There's accompanying text about the project's making which is interesting in its way. Still a nice book to have and worth returning to.

Somewhat against my better judgement, I had already bought  Stags, Hens and Bunnies by Dougie Wallace. I'd seen enough of this on-line to have an idea what to expect, and my suspicions were confirmed - the now familiar fare of drunken behaviour in a seaside town. There are some good pictures in this book, but not enough of them despite an obvious eye for spotting expressions, moments and behaviour but maybe not for making complex pictures in the way Tony Ray-Jones or Maciej Dakowicz might have managed. One of those books to flick through rather than sit down and contemplatively soak up.

Something like a Nest - Andy Sewell is a book which is getting good reviews, and justifiably so. Where Roadside Britain approaches its subject head on and Stags, Hens and Bunnies takes a vivid look at an aspect of British culture, Something like a Nest comes at a view of Englishness from a quietly contemplative angle. There's not much happening in this book, but the pictures are well considered and there's a loose narrative thread following the seasons through a rural landscape that isn't presented as idealised. A book which will have lasting appeal.

Something like a Nest is undoubtedly the pick of the bunch, but together they illustrate three approaches to documenting aspects of Britain through the medium of photography and all are very British in their different ways. There are still more books I have on my wishlist. Do I clear out my less loved photobooks, or buy more bookshelves?

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