David’s House, by Alex Ingram

St Davids is a small village, at the end of the world (1841 inhabitants) where Alex spent a part of his childhood. Well, in fact, St Davids is a city ! I remember years ago, talking to an English friend about what is the difference between a city and a town, and he told me a city is a place with a cathedral. So St Davids is the smallest city of the United Kingdom, located at the westernmost point of the Pembrokeshire in Wales. The place takes its name from the settlement around the monastery that David, Saint Patron of Wales founded in the VIth century. The Welsh name « Tyddewi » means literraly David’s house, which is the title of the book.

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As often, the places in recluse areas are like islands, and the people who live there form an united community surrounded by a strong landscape, mainly of rocky coasts facing the sea. The landscape is both a constituent element and a unifying element. The landscape and the people become one. The community consists of a delicate mix between a landscape that shapes men and men who shape the landscape. There are however no struggle here, but rather a sort of ballet, a dance of seduction, a common love between Man and Nature.

As a native from this city, Alex returned to his hometown to meet the locals. A neighbour, Dai Turner, was the starting point of this work : a desire to go to meet the people and to better understand them. During a slow work, we go side by side with Alex. We stop for a chat with someone we met, a proud man standing in his workshop, his tools on a wall, talking about his former life as a coxswain on a lifeboat, and who can, now, spend hours looking out at the sea ; or a retired farmer explaining his first date with the girl who’s gonna become his wife, on a boat to collect seagull’s eggs ! Both the portraits and the texts are touching and full of empathy. The portraits are very successful, and the texts provide some « extra time ». They are a complement which creates a synergistic effect. The quality of Alex as portraitist makes them beautiful, but mostly manages to make us understand that community. Photographed in situation, we perceive a link, something intangible that makes them part of a whole. All generations mingled, from older, settled on the land for generations, to younger, who have recently moved and have chosen this place by love. All of them stand proudly and look straight at us and say: yes, we are here and nothing will make us leave this city.

And between these portraits, we traverse the moor, we walk through the countryside, we follow a stream … and always come back to the sea. It must be said that three quarters of the area are made of rocky coasts. Life here is punctuated by the tides. We leave the Cathedral and we go to the fields, pass by a housing estate, we see an old abandoned caravan, toilets close to mobile-homes, farms… There is no doubt that this work is a representation « from the inside », which is offered by someone initiated to roads and detours. Again, the texts come back to mind, they form a kind of soundtrack that accompanies our walk and then, some words become evident : how could it be otherwise ?

The main economy of the town is tourism, but we do not perceive tourists, neither the area around the cathedral or some souvenirs shops. St Davids, as presented to us here, is the one those tourists who spend breezed along the beautiful coast of Pembrokeshire, will probably never see. They will not take the time necessary to understand this place. They will never see the bulb on a ceiling, or green beans freshly picked from the garden beside a cup of tea. Neither they will see all the villagers gathered in the village city ballroom around a mulled wine and the Welsh flag proudly hanged on the wall. Then the night finally falls on St Davids when silence settles. We perceive a light behind the blinds of a house, we look at the starry sky above the village and the sea remains in mind, as it all began and where it ends, as a final tribute to the missing at sea, common tragedies for such territories.

I might as well continue, talking about each image, listening to these stories, but the best is to preserve a little mystery. You will need to take the time to discover Tyddewi ; and with Alex Ingram as a guide, we can feel we have all grown up here!

Limited Edition Hardback (edition of 20) + 10″x8″ archival print, handmade , 21,5 X 28,5 cm , 114 pages, 55 colour images and paperback edition of 50, perfect bound.

« David’s House » has been shortlisted for the South West Graduate Photography Prize! The project will be exhibited alongside 6 other photographers at the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane between 13th-16th October, with the opening night on Thursday 13th October, followed by further exhibitions in Bristol and Falmouth.

More info : http://www.alexingramphoto.com/

Another book by Alex Ingram previously reviewed : https://whoneedsanotherphotoblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/09/the-sociology-of-football-an-unconditional-love-by-alex-ingram-and-fc-volga-united-by-sergey-novikov/

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If you can piss, by David O’Mara

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For once, I am not going to write about a published book. « If you can piss » is, so far, just a dummy. David O’Mara is a photographer living in London. He is known for his previous newsprint project called « Detritus » which focus on different wastes related to photography (I have already published a post about an issue). But well, making a living in photography is not the easiest thing to do, so, about ten years ago, when he arrived in London, he found some jobs for construction companies. And, as many photographers, he always carry a camera with him, shooting here and there, what appears to be of any interest.

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If you can piss could be David’s biography, showing us ten years of his life, sharing his everyday. This is the exact project I could love. No drama, no hype subject, but a strong connection with real life through the team of workers, and a social concern background.

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The dummy I have in my hands may be subject to a few changes but the main lines are already drawn and defined.

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The book is very dense, all photographs are printed full page or double-page and a few breaths herein are black pages. Moreover the whole book is black and the site is « enlighten » by the progression of the work. The quality of this book is its proximity to the construction site. The photographer is not foreign, neither passing through nor visiting. He is part of the team, what we fully feel in the pictures.

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I especially like this book because it deals with two elements that are important to me. The first deals with the essence of photography, writing by the light and this is revealed in the book. Among the sweat and dust, the light illuminates a gesture, touches material and reveals the beauty that lurks in this chaos that is difficult to understand for the uninitiated. There is a transfiguration which operates under the auspices of light and reveals the transmutation of chaos to the aesthetics and this refers to the second element very touching which is the amount of work the worker to build our society. The bodies suffer, they are cut, sliced, crossed by the space where they work. They are exhausted at the end of the day, and so we are, but there is a real added value with their job : from a pile of stones, sand and water, workers will make a wall. Their hard labor will produce a manufactured product. This is a knowledge that is not within the reach of all, and unfortunately forgot in our modern societies for the benefit of activities of appearance and illusion.

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David’s photos make us the world endearing. We no longer look at a wall, an opening, or even a scaffold in the same manner. The book smells of sweat, dust and those smells remind us a certain amount of things, especially because the book is crossed by moments of grace : a look that you come across, a curtain fluttering in the wind, a light on a torn wallpaper, the trace of a hand on a lamp and this beautiful image of a hand, along a working jogging holding a smartphone showing the photo of a girl, with a mixed feeling of both pride and humility! Another point which is particularly successful is the alternance between individual and collective. In this kind of job, you can’t survive alone, you need the coherence of the group. You need to find your place by your own, but you also need the collectivism of the group. Work can’t be accomplished by a single man. Well, maybe this is something we call… society !

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We never completely see David in the photos, apart on the cover, behind the hand painted dust jacket which lets us discover a self portrait, repeated, slightly differently on the back of the book. And from page to page we discover a hand, a foot which can be his… or ours ! The book ends with a touching dedication to a former co-worker we have already met in previous pages of the book.

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I would really love to see this book comes true. It remains a few adjustments, but that would fairly be the job of a publisher.

Softcover 15 x 21 cm with hand « paint it black » dustjacket, 132 pages.

More info about David : http://www.davidomara.com/#/homeportfolio/4540332014

Follow David on twitter : https://twitter.com/Detritusphoto


Thames : Dark River, Still Shining by Tom Farmer

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Documenting the communities living by the River Thames from the source to the sea, through their connections to the river and its surrounding landscapes. This is more or less the purpose of Tom Farmer’s work which was funded via a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. The photographs have been made during the last years and a touring exhibition has started in 2014. Then the idea of a book came out and took ten more months to become real. And here it is, in a ultra limited first edition of 20, which will be probably followed by a second edition very soon !

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I like the idea of documenting a community, but the nature of the community did not make the work easy to apprehend. Here we are not in a closed world in the casual sense of « community » with a limit which is defined by the territory, but, like in many communities, the appartenance or the belief is up to everyone. The River Thames has its own existence, a source in Gloucestershire, and 346 kilometers later a mouth in Essex. The name Thames is supposed to mean « dark » whose the title of the book refers to ! When you live by a river, you can choose to live with or without it. You can « grow up » in the floodplain, enjoying all activities induces, or you can just dream to « escape ». This is when you are (or not) part of the community.

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There are two main reasons why I really like the book. The first one is very personal : I have a particular relationship with The River Thames since I have been on a summer camp, years ago when I was a teenager, in Wallingford in Oxfordshire. We spent time visiting around but also had some free time for canoeing, which was, of course on the River Thames. I am particularly at ease in the water and this was the only time in my life when I got almost drowned. Since then, I consider myself as part of this community of the Dark River and I don’t blame it. Well, you may already know that I like to add some personal considerations to my book reviews.

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The second one, more simple, is a fascination for English photography, especially when it focuses on the Brits and their way of life. In his work, Tom Farmer shows us all the life beside the river. From open landscapes to detailed close-ups of the banks which confines to some intimacy. We’re not on a guide tour but rather with someone who leads you to his very secret and hidden places. You meet boats and find some fishing spots, you discover an old caravan at the bend of a path. In the first part of the book, we are in rural areas and slowly, industrialisation appears. Trees disappear to let the place to concrete buildings. The landscapes change from natural to anthropized and they open. The horizon becomes visible, when not hidden behind a wall and the light also changes. It brightens. But apart in the first photograph, the presence of human beings is always palpable in the photos, wether it is a person herself or the trace of anthropisation (a pylon behind trees…).

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Many scenes shown are popular events : a traditional fest, a point of view from Battersea park, regattas, a takeaway van with people queuing…) and all those photos are interspersed with some intimate close-up portraits of inhabitants. They sometimes stare proudly at the camera or don’t pay attention to it, absorbed in their activities. The third typology of photographs is « interiors » photographs. People are photographed inside their home, or empty rooms are shown with what appear to be decorations or trophies hanged on wall. They say a lot about their owners… Last but not least, I also really appreciate the square format of the photographs which does not push the reader in a preconceived formal reading.

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Hardcover book with a blue linen and a silkscreen cover, 22 x 22 cm, 60 pages with 45 color photos. Print run of 20 for the first edition.

More info : http://www.tomfarmerphotography.com/

And the gallery where to find the book if some copies remain : www.vortigernmargate.com

All images copyright Tom Farmer, can be removed on request.


The sociology of football : An unconditional love, by Alex Ingram and FC Volga United by Sergey Novikov

In the mid seventies, as a teenager, one of my biggest concern was football, particularly because, in France, it was the glorious time of « Les verts » the football team of Saint Etienne which gained access, in 1976, to the final of what was then the equivalent of the European champions league. I with my friends had a crazy spring time watching all matches until the last one versus the Bayern who defeated St Etienne 1-0. In those days, every spare moment was dedicated to play with a ball or… to collect Panini stickers and save them in a, seasons after seasons, never finished album. I discovered recently that, nowadays you can buy the missing vignettes from their internet site, clever business !

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« Un unconditional love » could have been, at least in the first part, my own story and that’s probably why I like it so much. What Alex Ingram shows us here is the true and honest passion an amateur could have for football in its more noble consideration.

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The book is organised around what could be the story of someone. It opens with black and white photos of kids playing in fields, backyard houses. We instantly recognize the English greyness which remind the film Kes by Ken Loach : here the bird is replaced by a ball, but the young boy has real similarities with Billy Casper. So when the « film » begins with the first pictures we’re caught by the story.

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Then we move a little further, times are changing and photos are now in color. We follow the teenager, having his first official team shirt, playing his debut matches in front of a couple of spectators, in some almost deserted stadia with not nets for the goals and a burger van for restaurant. All those sequences interlaced so we never really know if we follow one single person or if we have different characters who interact.

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The middle part of the book is dedicated to the memories. Of course here are the Panini vignettes which alternate with contemporary photographs shot in studio by Alex Ingram. The confrontation turns to a funny mixture. The old photos are incredibly dated 70’s while the studio photos are modern young women standing in sport suits, showcasing the evolution of this sport which was mainly, or even only, a male game in the 70’s. There is a great attention to the use of color and black and white which emphasizes the passing of time. Amongst the collections of photographs we found some old black and white pictures « from the archives », photos from the 70’s are grainy and faded while the recent ones are bright and colorful. It is in the middle of this section that comes an essay by Senior Lecturer in Sociology David Green who explains his equivocal love for Liverpool team but more generally for football.

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To stay on the tracks of the amateurism, the third part is about supporters. We follow them down the streets, wearing scarves, drinking beers, shouting loud or staring sad, depending on the occasion. We meet people alone but also crowds, people chating or watching religiously, respectful or kidding… This is a portrait of the humankind in its glory and decadence. This is what makes all human being lovable with his strengths and weaknesses. We meet babies, young fellows and elderly people, all generations share the same passion for football. Well… This is England !

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What is not the less remarkable with this body of work is that nowadays many photographers work on autobiography which is not the case here. Alex has never been a football fan and his work has much to be considered in a documentary style. He was intrigued by the sociological aspects of football in England and focused around his hometown Bristol. In this work, there is a direct filiation with some famous English documentary photographers Daniel Meadows, Chris Killip, Paul Graham (early years) or more recently Ken Grant or Jim Mortram, amongst many others.

Softcover book, 21 x 28 cm, design by Yee Poon, 118 pages, self published in a first edition of 10. A second edition is already planned. Published in 2015.

More info : http://www.alexingramphoto.com/football

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This book remind me another very good one published a few years ago. It is called « FC Volga United », by Sergey Novikov. Despite the fact that they are very different, they share a lot. The topic of Sergey’s book is the football clubs all along the Volga river which all got an FC Volga name.

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The book comprises three kind of photographs : portraits of players standing on the field and staring proudly to the camera, photos of the Volga river in the nearby area and pictures of the stadia with their surrounding environment and where a competition takes place. Between photos we found texts about the ambiance before, during and after the matches which explain the context with sentences heard around the stadium.

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In this book again, what is magnified is the amateurism and the passion for a game. And maybe for us in the Western world, there are some more resonnances due to the magical evocation of the Volga River amongst which is the Red Army Chorus singing the Volga Boatmen or some cinematographic reminiscences from Alexander Nevsky in Nizhny Novgorod.

FC Volga United is a small softcover book, 13,5 x 21 cm, 60 pages. The first edition was limited to 25 and came with a small 10 x 15 cm print. A second edition is available. Published in 2011.

More info : http://sergeynovikov.com/index.php?/projects/fc-volga-united/

All images copryright Alex Ingram and Sergey Novikov.