Monday, 17 November 2014

Here Comes Everybody

James Joyce aficionados (or maybe Pogues fans) will recognise the title of this post.  For reasons I have long forgotten and have no wish to be reminded of, the pattern HCE crops up throughout Finnegans Wake, and "Here Comes Everybody" was the title of an early draft.  However, relax, this post does not concern that eternally baffling dead-end of literary endeavour (that Highly Compacted Encyclopaedia,  Heavily Concentrated Entertainment, Highly Confusing Ennui, Higher Camp Exemplified, et bloody cetera).

I'm drawing your attention to another book with that title, Here Comes Everybody: Chris Killip's Irish Photographs (Thames & Hudson, 2009).  As you probably realise, I have a bit of a photo-book habit, and buy them more readily and more frequently than is normal or necessary.  My collection would not compare with that of, say, Martin Parr (whose would?), but is substantial, and I like to think it is made up of carefully chosen, unusually interesting and valuable items.

"Value" is a relative and highly negotiable term, of course.  It is a matter of principle for me that I don't pay "collector's prices" for books, which can be extremely silly.  I either buy them new, or search for overlooked bargains, like an antique dealer at a car-boot sale.  One of the prizes I obtained quite early on was a hardback copy of Chris Killip's Isle of Man, a quietly powerful collection of monochrome portraits and landscapes of his native island published by the Arts Council in 1980, which is fairly scarce in paperback, and very rare in hardback.  In good condition, signed, copies sell for a lot of money -- sometimes in excess of £500.  I have no idea why someone would pay £500 for a book published in 1980.  Mine cost me £25.

But, at the risk of sounding pious, true value is not measured in money.  One of the books I take down most often is Killip's more recent Here Comes Everybody. Price-wise, in collector's terms, the regular hardback edition is worth next to nothing.  The cheapest copy on Abebooks right now will cost you £6 plus postage.  It clearly didn't sell well, too many were printed, and "as new" copies are everywhere.  But it's a book that I think has real magic and I recommend it to you.

It's essentially a facsimile of an album of postcard-sized prints made by Chris Killip on visits to Ireland between 1993 and 2005.  On the left-hand pages are monochrome images of the famous (and much photographed) Croagh Patrick pilgrimage, and on the facing pages are colour images of the scenery and people of the west of Ireland, many of which are among the most evocative and visually-exciting colour landscape photographs you could hope to see anywhere.

Many have complained that the images are "too small", but they're missing the point: this is photography as memory, images compiled into an album sequence as practised by everyone, but brought to a pitch of perfection by a major contemporary photographer.  It's moving, exciting, encouraging and intriguing, all at once, everything a photo-book should be.  Did I say you can pick up a copy for £6.00?

One intriguing note.  Killip writes in his introduction that
I had previously resisted going to Ireland since Markéta Luskačová, the mother of my son, and Josef Koudelka, who introduced me to her, had both photographed there, and I felt that it was not my 'territory'.
I hadn't been aware of this connection between three of photography's "celebs".  You will probably know Josef Koudelka's work (you certainly ought to), but may not know of Markéta Luskačová.  Not so long ago, I used to recommend her retrospective collection, published by Torst in 2001, as the greatest photo-book bargain currently available.  It's "humanist" photography of the highest order, in a beautifully produced volume, and could be bought absurdly cheaply, like Here Comes Everybody.  No longer.  And I see even the little paperback catalogue of her exhibition Pilgrims, held at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1983, is hovering around the £200 mark.  Curse you, collectors with deep pockets!

As to the idea of "territory", it's a very real thing, and deeply felt, absurd as that is where photography is concerned.  I recall recently being down by the docks one weekday morning, and crossing the path of another photographer, who was encumbered with a tripod and some weighty "L" series Canon lenses.  Not your casual snapper.  As he checked the Fuji X-E1 slung round my neck -- also not your casual snapper -- you could almost see the thought balloon above his head, "Hey, what are you doing here?  These are MY docks!"  No, my friend, I'm afraid they're MY docks, now...

N.B. If you want a cheap introduction to Chris Killip's work as a whole, there's a decent selection in one of those cute little "Phaidon 55" books (a nice series, all of which are worth getting hold of, I think).


Zouk Delors said...

Couldn't help noticing those cranes appear to be giving Nazi salutes. Not in your docks, surely?

Mike C. said...

Hmm, you may be right. I'll go down later and have a word.

Bizarrely, I've only just discovered there has been a BBC TV series on Southampton docks, "Sea City" (shows how little TV I watch). "Must-see TV" or what?


Zouk Delors said...

I'll add it to my Must-See-TV list, and push "TV set" up a notch on my Must-Get list.

Kent Wiley said...

Zouk, "I don't even own a television machine."