Posts Tagged ‘Germany’

Vaterland

Sunday, November 15th, 2020

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’s 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.

Berlin Wall falls

Tuesday, November 19th, 2019

Click on the “vimeo” in the image above to go to Vimeo to view this video larger rather than look at it here. And when you are in Vimeo make the video full-screen and sit back and enjoy. I think I prefer it with the sound muted though it’s not intrusive but I don’t think adds anything to the images.

Twins Peter Turnley and David Turnley both covered the events leading up to and during the ‘Fall of the Berlin Wall’ in 1989 – and certainly from the pictures at times worked together there. That same year Peter Turnley was awarded the prestigious Overseas Press Club Olivier Rebbot Award, and David Turnley was awarded the Overseas Press Club Robert Capa Gold Medal of Courage and the Pulitzer Prize for Photography.

Although the wall “fell” on 9th November it was not until 23rd December that there was entirely free movement between the two sides As some of these pictures show many “wall woodpeckers” went to work pretty much straight away collecting souvenirs and there were unofficial openings made, it was only in the following June that the official demolition of the wall began.


St Ann’s – End of an Era

Friday, August 2nd, 2019

Although the ‘stars’ of photography so far as the media are concerned tend to be those who fly into trouble spots around the world to report on various crises – usually backed by the big international agencies, much interesting documentary work is carried out by people who never get an international reputation, and whose work is made inside communities in which they are embedded, sometimes for years, occasionally for a lifetime.

I’ve long believed that there is a huge unseen body of work out there which has never attracted museum shows, publications or any real exposure, perhaps just seen by a few friends or shown in a local library. Of course now, it may appear on Facebook or Instagram, but tends to remain hidden among the dross and the cat pictures. Of course there are some good cat pictures, probably at least three a year.

My thoughts were directed to this by a Facebook post linking to an article in the Nottingham post, Photographer reveals unseen images of St Ann’s before demolition, about work in the area of Nottingham which was being comprehensively redeveloped when then student photographer Peter Richardson was working ina temporary summer job as a labourer on buildings that were replacing the Victorian housing.

Now, around 50 years later, the freelance photographer has put together a book with 98 photographs that show a real insight into the crowded neighbourhood before demolition. You can see rather more pictures from it in the preview of St Ann’s, End of an Era on the Blurb website.

As well as the quality of the work, the book has other interests for me. At the time when Richardson was taking his pictures I was heavily involved in a similar redevelopment in a similar area of inner-city Manchester, not as a photographer but as an activist. Groups working in the two areas made contacts and learnt from each other – and I think were the first two areas to bring ‘planning for real’ modelling exercises which had originated in Sweden to local community groups in the UK.

I regret very much that I was not at that time an active photographer, being penniless, unable to afford a working camera and lacking any practical training in photography that would have enabled me to work on a shoestring – both things that were remedied a couple of years later. But Richardson’s pictures remind me very much of the people and the homes that I met in Moss Side.

Like Richardson too, I’ve also published books on Blurb – with 16 of them still available. It isn’t an idea way to publish, but does give you the freedom to do so at relatively minimal expense and being print on demand comes with no problems of storing and distributing editions, and the print quality can be good, though not state of the art.

But the problem is price. A single softcover copy of this book costs £44.99, plus an excessive postage charge. Authors can benefit from fairly large discounts offered from time to time by Blurb (and don’t pay any author’s markup), but even so the books are expensive. It makes it impossible to sell through bookshops, where a realistic price would need to be at least £75. There is a cheaper EBook for £9.49 which is more reasonable, and I always advise people interested in my works to buy it in electronic form, though I also sell most of my books direct a little below Blurb prices.

Personally I’ve been thinking for the last couple of years of abandoning Blurb for any new publications. Perhaps publishing a small short-run print book, but making my work available free as PDFs or at higher quality on the web than my current web site. I do make a little from Blurb sales, but hardly enough to notice. For me the point of publishing is to share my work, not to make money.