zaterdag 9 augustus 2014

Errata Photobook Classics Martin Parr: Bad Weather Richard Billingham: Ray's a Laugh Donigan Cumming: The Stage Photography

Books on Books #17
Martin Parr: Bad Weather
Essays by Thomas Weski, Peter Turner, Jeffrey Ladd
Hardcover w/ Dustjacket
90 pp, 9.5 x 7 in.
50 Duotone illustrations
ISBN: 978-1-935004-33-2

Martin Parr's Bad Weather is the debut book from Britain's most world-renown and prolific photographers. Armed with wry humor (and a water-proof camera), Parr captured the social landscape of the UK during downpours, snow storms and the most challenging elements. Published in 1982, Bad Weather has been long out of print and is one of Parr's most sought after books. Books on Books # 17 offers an in-depth study of this important photobook including a new essay by Thomas Weski called Even the Queen Gets Wet. 

Review by Blake Andrews

Martin Parr's Bad Weather is the classic counter example. Unfortunately this is one of those books which is hopelessly out of print and rare. I've never seen an actual copy (maybe a job for Eratta?), but images can be found here and there on the web. 

from Bad Weather, Martin Parr

Parr used an underwater camera with flash, and judging by the photos he needed it. Many of the photos are shot in winter, in dim light, during downpours. It must've been difficult for him to stake out scenes, much less analyze them with a photographic eye. Nevertheless he came up with some doozies. 

Manchester, England, 1981, Martin Parr

I'm not sure how he saw this one. Maybe the photo gods were with him. Who knows, but it works. 

I think part of Parr's lesson is that photography isn't a straight mirror of reality. We always apply a filter. We aim the camera in certain directions and not others, and we shoot at certain times and not others. Which is fine. A filter is a form of vision. But it helps to be aware of that filter, to realize that the choice not to shoot during hurricanes is a conscious one, and maybe wonder what else is being filtered.

Books on Books #18
Richard Billingham: Ray's a Laugh
Essays by Charlotte Cotton, Jeffrey Ladd
Hardcover w/ Dustjacket
108 pp, 9.5 x 7 in.
90 Color illustrations
ISBN: 978-1-935004-35-6

Richard Billingham's Ray's a Laugh is considered one of the most important contemporary photobooks from Britain. Centered around Billingham's working-class family who live in a cramped Birmingham high-rise tenement apartment and his father Ray - a chronic alcoholic - these candid snapshots describe their daily lives in a visual diary that is raw, intimate, touching and often uncomfortably humorous. Books on Books #18 contains every page spread from this classic book including a contemporary essay by Charlotte Cotton. 

Meet the parents By Robert Chesshyre

Richard Billingham's family photographs - all fags and booze and TV dinners - accidentally led to his explosion on to the art scene. Robert Chesshyre interviews the Turner Prize nominee who invites him round to see the mother and father he has made famous

Richard Billingham // Ray's a Laugh from haveanicebook on Vimeo.

Books on Books #19
Donigan Cumming: The Stage
Essays by Robert Enright, Jeffrey Ladd
Hardcover w/ Dustjacket
240 pp, 9.5 x 7 in.
275 Duotone & Color illustrations
ISBN: 978-1-935004-37-0

Donigan Cumming's The Stage is one of the most challenging photobooks published in the last century. Collaborating with his subjects to explore a kind of psychological portraiture, Cumming created a theatre of domestic and institutional interiors peopled by the strange and eccentric. Books on Books #19 presents an in-depth study of this remarkable and little known Canadian photobook with an essay by Robert Enright called The Overwhelming Quotidian: Donigan Cumming and The Stage. 

Donigan Cumming’s Photography of the Absurd

What is going on in these pictures? Is this an unsanitized view of society’s margins — the aging, the sick, the poor, the painfully awkward? Or is this a grotesque fantasy of a photographer-exploiter who pokes fun at other people’s misery? The photographs are incongruous and illogical; something about them is just not right.
The handful of spreads comes from Donigan Cumming’s infamous and rare 1991 photobook, The Stage (Maquam Press). Published in an edition of 600, the work went largely unrecognized until its inclusion years later in Gerry Badger and Martin Parr’s The Photobook: A History, Vol. 2 (Phaidon 2006). The Stage featured 250 jarring, full-bleed photographs across 125 pages — uncaptioned, unnumbered and undated. Though the imagery may have quoted the styles of social documentarians like Diane Arbus, Weegee and the lesser-known Chauncey Hare, the book was a first.
“I was stunned and could not recall seeing another like it,” says Jeffrey Ladd, a founder of Errata Editions, who are releasing Books on Books #19a study of Cumming’s provocative monograph this spring. “It is a difficult work, often funny, and I found much of it offensive. I think it should be known in wider circles.”
Cumming’s art is meant to be challenging. “I want to be vexed, pushed, startled by a book,” he told TIME. “It shouldn’t be set up as too smooth a ride.”
Over the years, Cumming (66), who was born in Virginia and moved to Canada in 1970 in resistance to the Vietnam War  had developed a rather jaundiced attitude toward photojournalism and other “straight” image-making.
“There’s a mythology of concerned photography that revolves around improving things for humans, stopping war and doing all kinds of things that are G-O-O-D,” he says, literally spelling out the word. “At the same time, the people that make this are usually driven by another set of motives, and some of them are not very transparent, and pretty self-absorbed.”
He decided he would adopt the documentary mode in order to expose its fracture points.
Cumming walked the streets and suburbs of Montreal, approaching people he thought looked interesting. He would offer them a picture of their apartment or their pet, and in exchange ask that they pose for one of his own. Motivated by a mixture of curiosity and desire, many agreed.
In their homes, surrounded by their possessions, Cumming directed his subjects into exaggerated, unreadable gestures while highlighting his own presence and the manipulation inherent to all photography with a heavy-handed head-on flash.
He sequenced the work from a distance of 15 feet — the length at which one might stand to view a large abstract expressionist canvas — arranging the pictures on a grid purely based on tonal quality, further disrupting narrative logic.
Cumming says he sought a truth about people by “confronting them as aggressively as possible and pushing them around, tricking them into revealing the secrets of their culture.”
“People act themselves all the time,” he says, “but it is not a theater that is false. It is a theater that leads to insight and a provisional truth.”
Though some were surprised, nearly none of his subjects objected when he asked for permission to release the work. They were comfortable with their roles, as Cumming was with his.
Indeed, he was fine playing aggressive, mean and cold-hearted — which is exactly how many view the photographer when they first encounter his work. Our own pained amusement at this compendium of wrinkles, sagging skin, awkward postures, gap-toothed grins and drool might make us feel complicit in the exploit. Instead, most blame the messenger.
Cumming hopes viewers get past that initial response. “If you leave unsettled and afterwards don’t look at photographs the same way, the next time perhaps you won’t approach them with the same shallowness,” he says. “That’s what’s important.”

Donigan Cumming is a Montreal-based visual artist who uses photography, video, painting, drawing, sound and text in experimental documentary films and multi-media installations.
Eugene Reznik is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor and photographer. Follow him on Twitter @eugene_reznik.

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