Friday, 27 September 2013

Is This Thing On?


Mottisfont Abbey, September 2013

One, two, three.  Testing, testing.  Is this thing on?  One, two, three.

Well, what a strange summer. The weather has been almost stereotypically summery, which is disturbing and disorientating.  As all good puritans know, we will surely pay a heavy price for this.

Luckily, I was far too busy with various work projects to enjoy much of this meteorological bounty, so will doubtless pay a much less heavy price than those of you -- grasshoppers! -- who lounged about in the sun, enjoying yourselves.  We did manage two days in Somerset in August but, as I said to someone recently, two days out of the county is not quite the same as two weeks out of the country.   Absurdly, I still have 10 unused days out of my annual leave quota of 30 days.

But, enough of this Stakhanovite self-righteousness!  Retirement is getting closer, and my days as an industrious ant are surely numbered (but in a good way, I hope).  The summer had its pleasures, too, and some of them I should share with you:

First, two weighty and well-produced career-survey photobooks.

The work of Saul Leiter will be familiar to those of you who follow photography closely.  After an active career mostly spent happily below the radar of celebrity, Leiter hit the big time late in life and in a big way when Steidl published Early Color in 2006.  The book I am recommending, however, is Saul Leiter: Retrospektive, published by Kehrer in 2012 to accompany an exhibition at the Hamburg Haus der Photographie (ISBN 978-3868282580).  It is a monument to both Leiter's decades of originality as a photographer and painter, and to the production values of German book-publishing.  (For anyone seeking an inexpensive introduction to his work, I highly recommend the little book published by Thames & Hudson in their Photofile series (a.k.a. Actes Sud Photo Pôche series).


Emmet Gowin should also need little introduction.  One of the outstanding independent artist-photographers of our time, he has published few books, but those books have been very influential and are much sought-after.  A mighty retrospective volume Emmet Gowin has just been published jointly by Aperture and Fundación MAPFRE, again in conjunction with a European exhibition, this time in Spain.  The quality of this production is truly outstanding -- on a par with the Pentti Sammallahti book Here Far Away I recommended last year -- and if you can afford a copy buy it now.  I ordered mine sight unseen, and this gorgeous object is bound to sell out quickly.


Second, an exhibition:  Pradip Malde is a contemporary photographer whose work I follow with great interest.  His understated yet passionate and pure photographs deserve your close attention.  He is based at Sewanee University in the USA, and his current exhibition The Third Heaven is showing there.  You can see an installation overview on his website, and his blog is showing individual images from this complex and challenging work, made in Haiti and featuring its resilient people, but about so much more.  I find his combination of sensibility and commitment admirable.


Talking of which, and third:  there is a fascinating two-part interview with John Gossage on the website A Photo Editor.  Gossage is the Real Thing, or at least one contemporary avatar of it.  Provocative, political, influential, unafraid to offend or to baffle -- if you know his books you'll know what I mean.  There are a lot of them, but The Pond (Aperture,1986) is generally reckoned a masterpiece, and another is entitled, with typical tact and reserve, Hey, Fuckface.   You can read the interview here: Part One  Part Two.



Somebody asked me once what the perfect reaction to one of my photographs would be, when someone saw it for the first time. I said it should be sort-of-like, “Huh.” That’s about right. “Huh” means “there’s something there…I don’t quite understand it…but there’s something that attracts me…something that I want to look at again.”
John Gossage

Finally, I should mention the Idiotic Hat Summer Survey.  Although primarily intended as an amusement, it did yield some interesting results.  Not surprisingly, given the self-selecting nature of the sample, most respondents liked this blog, and things generally divided 50/50 between those who come for the pictures, and those who come for the words.  More surprisingly, the blog comments received an overall thumbs-down, and many survey-takers took the trouble to add a "comment on comments".

Partly as a result of this, and partly because of the daily chore of removing the spam comments, I am now going to "moderate" all comments i.e. I will read them and decide whether or not to publish them, or report them as spam.  I am happy to receive any comments, but will only publish those that, in my view, enhance the post in question.

Let the new blog year begin.



Charmouth beach, August 2013

1 comment:

Pradip Malde said...

Mike - Thank you for mentioning 'The Third Heaven'! The Gowin book arrived about a week ago, and I have not been able to leave it alone. It is beautifully printed, but the essays and historical material alone make this book a must-have. Both the Gossage and Leiter works are also tremendous, and very moving. I feel very honored to have been mentioned in their company!