The photographs I've been looking at have been in books I have added to my collection. After missing out on the first edition of Pentti Sammallahti's acclaimed Here Far Away I made sure I secured a copy of the second edition when I saw it announced on The Online Photographer (TOP). When it arrived I was excited to open it up. Alas I had that feeling of dissatisfaction I've mentioned before of finding myself admiring the cleverness of the pictures rather than what they have to say. I had that feeling looking at the print offer on TOP too. As if these are photographs made to appeal to photographers. It's all a bit too much like jazz to me. Stuff you can only appreciate if you are in the loop and thoroughly tedious if you are not.
But perhaps that's how the sort of photographs I find I get more out of appear to others. Two more books arrived a few days after the Sammallahti. Two books of boring photographs of Britain: Pierdom by Simon Roberts and Strangely Familiar by Peter Mitchell. Neither book contains obviously 'clever' pictures. They are both quiet, unassuming collections of pictures which benefit from quiet, considered perusal. Maybe I connect with the subject matter better. Pierdom is about the British seaside and Strangely Familiar about the North. There's an element of nostalgia in both books, even though some of the pier photographs were taken as recently as this year.
One thing that Pierdom (and, just yesterday, this article) has done is stop me worrying about the white balance issue I thought I was having. The colours of the sand and sky look pretty similar to those I was getting before I started having doubts.
The Reuters piece made me think again about how clichéd photographic representation of the British seaside has become. Did it start with Tony Ray-Jones and get continued by Martin Parr and his followers? Is it the way the British really see their seaside resorts? It's always the tourists who are depicted by outsiders. Middle class outsiders photographing the working class holiday makers always brings with it a suspicion of the sneering which Parr was accused of. Photographs aren't neutral and people always read into them what they want to.
For all I have reservations about Parr and Ray-Jones I still admire their work. If it wasn't in London I'd go see the exhibition which brings some of their photogrpahs together. I'll no doubt be adding a couple more books to my shelves soon - one of Ray Jones's colour pictures and one of Parr's black and white (the reverse of what they are both most noted for).