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Brexit Pictures

Brexit Pictures is sold out and has been delivered - but here are some of the spreads from the publication.  It was a real pleasure to make,...

Thursday, 21 January 2021

Ann Petry, The Street, Robert Frank, The Nickel Boys, Confederate Flags


The Street by Ann Petry, a black doctor who worked in Harlem in the 1940s, is a book about a mother and her child trying to make a living in a racist, male-dominated society where you can be paid to look after a white family's child (that is Lutie's job until she decides  caring for somebody else's child causes harm to her own chidl), but it will always be at the expense of the care of your own child. 

It's about childcare, it's about being a woman, it's about being black, it's about being the mother to a black boy, it's about a lot of things. Ultimately, it's not a book that is generous either to white people or to men - the latter didn't go down well with everybody at the time.

It was published in 1946 and sold 1 1/2 million copies. The cover designs are not really indicative either of the main character or the content. The little blurbs change (the second Signet edition featured loses the 'passion') and motherhood is never mentioned. Nor are price-gouging landlords. 

Here are a few quotes from The Street.

 'Streets like the one she lived on were no accident. They were the North’s lynch mobs, she thought bitterly; the method the big cities used to keep Negroes in their place.'


“You know a good-looking girl like you shouldn’t have to worry about money,’ he said softly. She didn’t say anything and he continued, ‘In fact, if you and me can get together a coupla nights a week in Harlem, those lessons won’t cost you a cent. No sir, not a cent.’

      Yes, she thought, if you were born black and not too ugly, this is what you get, this is what you find. It was a pity he hadn’t lived back in the days of slavery, so he could have raided the slave quarters for a likely wench any hour of the day or night.”

“She didn’t have to turn around, anyway; he was staring at her back, her legs, her thighs. She could feel his eyes traveling over her — estimating her, summer her up, wondering about her. As she climbed the last flight of stairs, she was aware that the skin on her back was crawling with fear. Fear of what? she asked herself. Fear of him, fear of the dar, of the smells in the halls, the high steep stairs, of yourself?”


'She held the paper in her hand for a long time, trying to follow the reasoning by which that thin ragged boy had become in the eyes of a reporter a ‘burly Negro.’ And she decided that it all depended on where you sat how these things looked. If you looked at them from inside the framework of a fat weekly salary, and you thought of colored people as naturally criminal, then you didn’t really see what any Negro looked like. You couldn’t because the Negro was never an individual. He was a threat, or an animal, or a curse, or a blight, or a joke.'


I always wonder if Robert Frank read the Street because when I see his picture of the black nanny with the white baby it makes me think of the Lutie (the mother) and her son (Bub). 

And if you want a follow-up to The Street, the Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead is a place to go. It tells the story of a black boy who is sent to an abusive and punitive reform school in Florida. Like The Street, it has a great ending.

It's based around the Dozier School for Boys among other places. That's a picture of it below, and here are some of the testimonies from some of the survivors. 

If you wonder where such cruelties come from they are embedded in our histories, in our power structures, in our political leaders. Very happily, that disgusting man left the US Presidency so we won't be seeing the picture again in the Capitol for the next four years - the thoughts will be there in some, but not the flag. And the flag is my final memory of the Trump presidency. And he got voted for by 75 million people. Trump might be over, but the rest isn't...

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Brexit Pictures

Brexit Pictures is sold out and has been delivered - but here are some of the spreads from the publication. 

It was a real pleasure to make, to market, to package, to send. Thank you to designer Megan Gallacher for all the wonderful design, ideas, energy, and upbeatness.

Brexit Pictures is an unromantic vision of the British landscape that visualises Brexit in the past, present, and future. This is how it has unfolded, is unfolding, and will unfold. 

The really tragic thing is that after the last four years of Brexit Pain, the real agonies are only just beginning.

To see more of the work, visit my website. 

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

Thank God that's the end of 2020. Oh wait...


So thank God it's the end of 2020, but oh wait, what's that I see steaming up on us in our rear view mirror. 

Here's the year as I saw it in pictures. It started with the picture at the top on New Year's Day. That kind of set the scene for the year. And the rest explains itself...

Happy Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year. Here's to a better year and to the suffering in this life of corrupt and venal leaders past and present.

Monday, 7 December 2020

2020: My End-of-Year List of Books I have enjoyed


It is end-of-year booklist time. At the end of a terrible year, they are an escape. I haven't seen so many books, but of the ones I have seen, there are some brilliant ones. Some have sold a handful, some have sold a few thousand, some are superbly crafted examples of paper engineering, some are pragmatically made, some have a rough shine about them. There is humour, anger, intelligence, wit, doubt, pride, and beauty in this selection. 

And there is real pleasure. 

Enjoy your books. 

Ukrzaliznytsia– by Julie Poly

This is a book of staged situations in the carriages of the Ukrainian Railway System. Photographed by former Carriage attendant (and graduate of the Ukrainian Railway Academy) it is a fun journey through space, time, gender, and sexuality.

Galerna– by Jon Casenave

Jon Casenave takes us into a beautiful heart of darkness in images where his homeland ( the Basque Country) is elemental, ancient, and wild.

Rabbit/ Hare – David Billet and Ian Kline

This is a roadtrip of a book (the destination is Texas) with one of the great cat pictures of all time, and a level of ambiguity that can befuddle the careless reader.

Woman GoNo’gree – by Gloria Oyarzabal

This is a considered, thoughtful, and beautiful rumination on the dangers, prejudices, and responsibilities (past and present) in representing African women. It doesn’t have any answers, but it does ask questions through both word and image.

A les 8 al Bar Eusebi – by Salvi Danes

A bar, a street, a prison, a panopticon, Salvi Danes wraps them all into a superbly sequenced flow with nods to film, fashion, and masculinity.

1528 – by Rohit Saha

A book styled after a dossier that is titled after the 1528 people murdered by Indian government forces in Manipur, one of the eight states of Northeast India. It’s dark in every way.


Human Territoriality – by Roger Eberhard

This is a book of maps, borders, and the arbitrary ways in which our world is shaped; economically, geographically, politically, and on the back of a cigarette packet, it’s all in this book.

Zaido – by Yukari Chikura

This is a beauty of a book, with multiple papers, transparencies and moods taking us on a journey into the snow country of northern Japan.

Erna Helena Ania - by Tomasz Laczny

A handmade publication from the Reminders Photography Stronghold workshop, this tells the story of Laczny’s German grandmother and how she fell in love with his Polish grandfather. In 1945.

Post -  a newspaper publication by Tim Williams, Callum Humphreys and Philip Jones

This is the wild card of the selection which was the most heartfelt publication of the year for me. It tells the story of growing up, and being Welsh, in north Wales. It’s direct, it’s political, and it’s a scathing read.

Monday, 5 October 2020

Erna, Helena, Ania: Family Histories from the Second World War

Erna, Ania, Helena is the story of Tomasz Laczny's family history, how his grandmother (German) fell in love with his grandfather (Polish) at the end of the Second World War, and the struggles she underwent.

It is a beautifully illustrated book that strikes a chord with me because of my German Family Album and the ways in which love stories collide with political histories and extend beyond them. How do you begin to tell those stories. Tomasz did it with gold ink and paper. Here is what he says about the book. 

The idea came around 10-12 years ago when I was obsessively investigating my grandmother's story -- a sad and dramatic love story between my German grandmother and my Polish grandfather during the time of WW2 when this kind of relationship between enemies was prohibited. I discovered this story quite late when I was in my 20s but I really started investigating it when I reached my 30s -- I think it is the time when we starting to look back and ask questions about where we are coming from.

However at that point I didn't have a clear vision of  what kind of medium I wanted to use for this project. I had a lot of material in different forms like video and voice recordings, documents, family pictures, my diaries, drawings and sketches. And I also had a lot of "empty spaces" -- things I didn't know about the story and was not able to find out anymore because the people who witnessed the events were already gone. At the beginning I wanted to make a graphic novel as the whole book.  At the same time I wanted the medium somehow reflecting the shattered way of storytelling, a story which on top of that is incomplete. The project was abandoned for a few years -- during that time I went through difficult personal time (divorce and separation from my children). This however gave me a completely different perspective -- I found some similarities between my personal story and the story of my grandmother (living in a foreign country, separation from the child). I also wanted to include this intergeneration experience into the story, the idea of collective memory and events which are passed from one generation into another. I decided to make a book using different mediums and fill the missing gaps using my own photography (alongside the archival one). The idea was to use photography which suggests rather than illustrate to give the viewer the possibility of imagining their own version of the story.  

I strongly believe in the power of stories -- it is a starting point to any of my projects. Storytelling seems to be the best way to connect with people you don't know to gain their interest and, if the story is good, their trust. I believe that personal stories give this enormous opportunity of becoming universal simply because everyone of us have some stories to tell and can be easily connected to. I was showing my book in Japan and even though the historical and cultural context is different people still were able to quickly connect with the story of my grandmother. 

The initial idea behind the book was to capture simply the story of my grandma: her love of the "enemy", giving birth to my  mum as a consequence of that, her imprisonment and struggle to have contact with her child, her struggle after the war in a country which was earlier occupied by her nation. However during that research I found many layers and it gave me the possibility to ask more universal questions about who we are when we have lost our country family and even name. 


The project actually started with the illustrations. In my practice I use both photography and drawing.  As I mentioned before the initial idea to tell the story of my Grandmother was to use a graphic novel genre. But at some time I wanted the book to reflect the process of discovery of the story  and have "the different medium feeling". When I was doing my research (interviewing people, historians, reading books, visiting places, taking pictures etc) I started to think about how we actually preserve the story from one generation to another.

On many occasions during the research I had been told  the same story with different details (even my mom at some point told me some fragment of the story contradicting her previous version from a few years ago). I started to think about how our memory works and how I could capture that. I wanted to mirror this in my book to give the impression of many narrators who speak about the same thing but have different voices and sometimes contradict each other. It was not my intention to do a documentary, rather I wanted to capture the way the story is told and form a collective myth at some point at the end.   

I wanted the physicality of the pages (the variety materials used) to follow the multi narration used in the book. I am very much interested in creating handmade art books as it gives the possibility of making something very unique -- even each copy can be different. This uniqueness is key in my practice. For me photography, drawing, illustration exist fully when it is printed. Seeing the image on the screen of my computer is just a starting point to reinterpreting it and giving it full life in a form of physical object. 

The variety of forms of expressions in the book (photographs, illustrations, drawings, comics) are a reflection of my thoughts about storytelling and how we preserve story from one generation to another. It also mirrors my fascination with different techniques of storytelling like using silent graphic novel sections at the beginning of the book for example or using collected old family pictures later in the book. 

Making the book was a closing over 10 years process of research and discovery. I learned a lot not only about my family but also about my country, history (the events which are not really discussed in schools like for example the biggest forced migration of humans in world history). And I also learnt a lot about myself. It changed my perception of the family as a concept and gave me a completely different perspective of how I see my parents and grandparents. I learnt how much history and politics can influence the life of individuals -- how vulnerable we can be in the midst of dramatic historical events. I think it also changed my mum and her relationship to the past. She helped me a lot with researching the history, (she even started to interview some people herself). Also, I think this is the most important thing for me, I met my grandma when she was still young looking for love and was full of dreams about her future life.

Enquire to buy the book here