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, 13 February 2015
Cheaper, Deeper Budget Burials: Fibro by Glenn Sloggett
'Cheaper and Deeper'
Fibro Dreams is an Australian neighbourhood watch for Australian neighbourhood oddness; a can man who says G'Day is the start of the book and he's the highpoint. It's all downhill from here on, as suburban Melbourne goes to seed; it's Porpoise Spit without the class. A broken picket fence, a pond full of stumps of trees and an empty barrel point the way. Midway through the book, past the 'mattress for a homeless man', the sad cemetery plot and the shopping trolley in whatever the Australian version of the canal is, and we're into a picture captioned 'Life on the piss'; a ripped red bar stool set against red wallpaper rubbed raw by the clients' chair,
The captions are vital here. It's kind of Goldberg meets Eggleston with a bit of black humour thrown in for good measure. It's a tour of the poverty and the quite relentless shabbiness of things that are pretty much dead. All the objects in Fibro are on their way out, if not out already. So that's the visual story and it's echoed by another story that, thanks to the captions ( which are short and sweet) does have a strong narrative thread that really is a narrative thread (when people use the word narrative in photobook world, it usually means the narrative in their head that they think you should see on the page. But it's in their head and it's never been on the page and never will be). There is a story in Fibro Dreams here that has some strange bitter-sweet substance.
'Life on the piss'
The 'Old man's home' comes next. That looks like an old man's home with its folded blankets and worn out curtains. And then it's a grim diner, 'you are alone' and 'amputee op-shop bride.' Op-shop is the Australian term for charity shop and forgive me if I don't go and throw myself into the patch of water where the shopping trolley is.
That's Fibro for you. It's a book about the lives that old men lead (maybe?) and the lonely death they are going to end their lives with. But told in a kind of funny way. There's a text in there saying how Sloggett used to work in a shop selling meths to the old men who came in from the boarding hours across the road.
And there's some hope in there too (and there's a picture of as street calle 'Hope Street'!) because in the text we hear about an old man whose eyes lit up when he talked about getting seconds of dessert at his Christmas lunch.
Simon (Red Cross)
But overall it's about wasted lives on wasted streets. It's partly handmade with little snippets (like the page of text and a 'junkie love poem') dropped in. And the captions are everything, driving us down and down into this slow meander towards the cheaper, deeper death (as advertised on the side of a pink hearse for 'Budget Burials') that awaits us all.
Fibro Dreams is launching tonight at Photobook Melbourne
Hear Glenn Sloggett talk about Fibro Dreams here
Buy Fibro Dreams here.