I probably won’t be buying J M Colberg’s book Vaterland, to be published by Kerber, as my bookshelves are already groaning under the stress of far too many volumes. But it was interesting to see a book of photographs by someone much of whose critical writing – which I’ve often referred to on this site – has been about photography books.

The latest post on Colberg’s online Conscientious Photography Magazine is Vaterland, where he writes about the state of his native Germany and the rise of right-wing extremism there. In 2016 he went to take photographs exploring ” the region in Europe‚Äôs heart whose largest parts are made out of Germany and Poland, Central Europe” without the intention of producing his first photo book.

He writes that living for 20 years away from Germany has resulted in him being more engaged with the changes that are happening there than had he stayed and he sees the book as a metaphorical “expression of my unease, of my worries, of my upset, of my realization to what extent Germany and its past are an integral part of my own life.”

There are more pictures from it on Colberg’s web site – I think almost half of those that will be in the book, along with more text. As would be expected they seem very precise and carefully framed, but they seem to me to perhaps be both at times too obvious – a headless statue, rubble, grass like a stain punctured by some kind of fence – and too controlled, too cold.

In part I think this represents something that I was aware of in my visits to Germany and in some aspects of German photography. A few of the photographs I took there in the very different 1980s would certainly fit into a book like Colberg’s, though the exhibition of images and text I showed in 1986 had a very different feeling.

Of course things have changed since then though when I went back to Germany to stay in the same place and with the same family in 2013 my experience was rather more positive than his.

You can view the book I produced based on my pictures from the 1980s on the preview at Blurb, and if you make the preview full page can read the texts that I wrote back in 1986 to accompany them in the show, which represent both some of my feelings about the pictures and my experiences in Germany and my sometimes odd sense of humour which these brought out.

German Indications
German Indicat…
By Peter Marshall
Photo book

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