I spent Saturday morning interviewing Martin Parr for a feature in next month's BJP on his passion for books and the upcoming Volume 3 of the Photobook History. It was a rare pleasure to hear Martin talk about his advocacy of new photography and his passion for the way in which photography connects to a wider world. And to see the new photobooks that just keep coming in - Japanese accordion protest book from the 1970s and Italian fascist propaganda books (including one which Martin said, "...might just be one of the greatest photobooks ever made" - see picture bleow) which are just fantastic to look at but don't feature in any photographic history.
Martin wants photographic history to shift away from dry theory-based academia towards a history that is more photobook-based and controlled by photographers- and I think that's happening. But I think it goes beyond that. As soon as I saw his photobooks both at his home and in his library in Bedminister, it seemed that the photography he is collecting is connected to the big wide world. It isn't precious or elitist or even nerdy, but rather links to life around us. Martin asked what I wanted to look at and I chose some Soviet, Italian, Japanese and Chinese propaganda books (and the Map, and Barakei...) and was blown away both by the production and design, but also the sense that these were once part of a social, political and economic landscape of the 1920s, 1930s ad 1950s.
The marks on the book of politically dead personalities showed this (that's Liu Shaoqi and Khrushev crossed out above ) in an album celebrating the 10th anniversary of the PRC). This was photography that goes beyond the tedious photo-centric wafflings we normally encounter. Every other week, you read something on photography being dead and there is a collective sigh and rolling of eyes.
As Martin Parr said: "Photography has never been healthier. There are more people engaged, involved and interested in photography than ever before. And that's a good thing."
Read all about it in the March edition of the BJP and look out for The Photobook History, Volume 3. Coming to a store near you very soon.