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The European History of Photography British Photography 1970-2000

I was commissioned to write this a few years ago for the Central European House of Photography in Bratislava (and thank you to all the photo...

Friday, 8 May 2009

Something Disappointing from Richard Yates (and not disappointing from Least Wanted)

After all those How not to... posts, I should write something uplifting and spiritual but I've been reading a Richard Yates collection of short stories, so it is difficult.

From his short story Liars in Love, Yates describes London as....

"...big and drab and unwelcoming; you could walk or ride a bus for miles without seeing anything nice, and the coming of winter brought an evil-smelling sulphurous fog that stained everything yellow, that seeped through closed windows and doors to hand in your rooms and afflict your wincing, weeping eyes."

The main character is Warren, an American who has an affair with a Scottish prostitute called Christine. Warren finds subtle pleasure

"...in considering all the pathetic things about her - the humorless ignorance, the cheep, drooping underwear, the drunken crying."

And that's as good as it gets for Warren. He goes back to his wife at the end, the story, like all Yates stories, resolved in a cheerless kind of way, with a sense of chronic dissatisfaction and overwhelming misery rippling beyond the ending.

It's not just Liars in Love. Every Yates story seems to start with disappointment, failed expectation, dashed hope or small dream gone to seed. And each story ends with the same disappointment of those same dreams gone to seeds. There's not even the consolation of the dreams being ripped to shreds, that never happens (ok, almost never), there is just a recurrent bathos of mundane destiny being met.

I wonder what photography captures these snippets of gloom, but can't quite think of any. So instead, via the fascinating Prison Photography, here are some of the Mark Michaelson's (aka Least Wanted) wonderful archive of crime-related pictures.

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