woensdag 16 augustus 2017

Views & Reviews London Martin Parr Gian Butturini Photography

(Verona): (Editrice SAF) [self-published], (1969).

Folio (333 × 270 mm), pp.[104]. 78 black-and-white photographs. Texts by Butturini and Luciano Mondini, poem by Allen Ginsberg. Quote by Robert Capa printed in black to front free endpaper, rear plain; contents and endpapers toned. Grey paper-covered boards, upper side lettered in gilt; toning to top edge, slightly cocked. Black-and-white photo-illustrated dust-jacket, text in white; toned, chip to head of spine with tape repair, light wear to corners, crudely price-clipped by hand, presumably by Butturini himself. Pencil note to copyright page: ‘Ref. autore 20-11-69’. Butturini’s contemporary presentation inscription in black ink with a spherical drawing to front free endpaper dated 1970.

First edition, a presentation copy. In these scathing photographs of Swinging London at it’s apex Butturini shows a side of London far from the popularised image of Carnaby Street, which he describes in his introduction as being an amusement park of sequins, bad taste, visual clamor, and sales pitch. Having been shocked at what he found on a visit to the City he felt compelled to create this report which contrasts a tourists idea of London with photographs of the homeless, addicts at Victoria Station, and ordinary working Londoners. At the age of 35 Butturini gave up a successful career in advertising to concentrate on photography, this was his first book. ‘Gerry Badger remarks that, ‘It is more Don McCullin than David Bailey... Occasionally, Butturini labours the social contrast, but all in all, this is the book that McCullin might have made about London but unfortunately never has - although he still might.’

Scarce, KVK locates 6 copies in Italian libraries; OCLC locates only 1 copy elsewhere: National Library of Australia.

Parr, M. and Badger, G., The Photobook: A History vol. III pp.154-5.

Gian Butturini: London
Text by Martin Parr, Allen Ginsberg, Gian Butturini, Luciano Mondini.

Featured image is reproduced from 'Gian Butturini: London.'
“Butturini’s London depicts the poor and the working class who failed to make good in the 1960s, contrasting that with the tourist view" -Martin Parr

In 1969 Gian Butturini was just over 30 years old and a successful graphic designer working in advertising. His journey as a photographer began at Victoria Station when he saw a young man staggering by with a syringe embedded in a vein. He began investigating 1960s London through the Nikon hanging from his neck.

Butturini’s photographs of London are full of pain and sarcasm but also joy and lyricism—hippies and fashionable young women share space with the homeless, the pacifist demonstrations and the orators at Speakers’ Corner. Butturini’s London, in the photographer’s own words, “is true and bare ... I did not ask it to pose.”

Gian Butturini: London is the new facsimile edition of Butturini’s cult 1969 photobook, which interspersed his black-and-white photographs with text by Allen Ginsberg. No less an authority than Martin Parr—who contributes a text to this new edition—has credited Butturini’s photobook with containing some of the best photographs ever taken of the British capital.

Gian Butturini (born 1935) began his career in the early 1950s as a graphic designer in Milan. The publication of London in 1969 marked his transition to photography. After catching the end of the Swinging Sixties in London, Butturini continued to take photographs, documenting the Troubles in Northern Ireland, Fidel Castro’s Cuba and violence in Bosnia, among other key sights and events of the 20th century.

Featured image is reproduced from 'Gian Butturini: London.'

Gian Butturini: London


I have been collecting photobooks for over 40 years now. One of the most exciting moments on this journey is when you discover a book, for the first time, that is clearly a great book, but is not known or acknowledged as a significant contributor to the field.

Because of my natural interest in things British, I have paid particular attention to photobooks by British photographers and also books about Britain produced by foreign photographers. I found that many foreign photographers homed in on cities like Liverpool and London. Britain was in the midst of the swinging sixties, when the British youth scene became an international story. Strangely, this revolution was under-documented by British photographers, who were more interested in the fashion movement as photographed by people like David Bailey and Terence Donovan.

About ten years ago someone showed me the London book by Gian Butturini and I was immediately excited. Just looking at the cover made me think this has to be a great book. When I flipped through the pages, with its strong graphics and grainy imagery, it was abundantly clear this was an overlooked gem. What was even more exciting was that this book had slipped under the radar and was totally unknown in the city that it so ably portrays.

With my curiosity alerted, I wanted to find out more about Butturini and eventually found the contact details for his widow (he died in 2006) who, it turned out lived in Brescia, in Italy. I eventually met with Manuela and her daughter, Marta. Along with her brother Tiziano, Marta had decided to look after their father’s estate. I asked did they have any vintage prints from this project and whether they could tell us more about his time in London. With these questions (and some answers) the story slowly began to unravel.

Gian Butturini had established himself as a successful graphic and interior designer when he was posted to London in June 1969 to work on a trade show. There he found himself compelled to pick up a camera as the city—with its medley of drug users, the underclasses and fashionistas—had a profound effect on him. He realized his calling and started accumulating images which were speedily published later in 1969 in book form. The book cost five thousand lire and the small print run of 1000 copies sold out immediately, having been supported mainly in his town of Brescia, where he was already well known as a designer.

Butturini wanted to make a politically charged book. The London book was the start of his photographic calling and his left leaning manifested itself in his later books that he produced in conflicted territories such as Chile and Northern Ireland. The striking thing about the London book is the strong grainy quality of the images, woven through with the graphics of the same period. These place it firmly in a moment or—or more precisely— a decade of time. Using his considerable graphic design talents, he combined all kinds of tricks to build his narrative, from graphics, torn paper, drawings and small blow up of details of his images. The overall effect works perfectly.

In 2016, I curated an exhibition at the Barbican Gallery in London that explored the whole issue of the foreign photographers who have worked in the UK and of course featured the work of Butturini. We showed a series of prints, but also displayed four copies of the book in vitrines to show the audience the strength of the work. So now the cat is out of the bag and the book is now known and appreciated by a London audience. This is the curious thing about our photo-history. It is constantly being tweaked as new discoveries are made, and books in particular are a primary source of this constant shifting. We also get a chance to re-examine and re-define the contribution made by Gian Butturini, by reviving this and the other books that have been overlooked for far too long. Although the book is long out of print, and now fetching a very robust price in the secondary photobook market, this is where this reprint can really score. Suddenly, as in December 1969, a copy of this book can be purchased at a reasonable price. I hope you share the excitement I first experienced when I first encountered this wonderful work. - Martin Parr

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