Hans Bellmer: Wrong and Good
My not-very-alter-ego wrote this on the Photobook Bristol Blog yesterday in reference to photobooks and what can go wrong. It's actually quite a short list, but here goes.
You get books where the cover is wrong, where the title is wrong, where the typeface is wrong, where the text is wrong, where the edit is wrong, where the paper is wrong, where the pictures are wrong, where the story is wrong or there is no story. You even get books where everything is right and then you come to the last picture – and they’ve saved it to the last possible moment to make a mess of it all. Goddamn it, the last picture is wrong.
The idea of photobooks being wrong did touch a nerve, with many people expressing the idea that it's not a matter of wrongness, but a matter of subjectivity. It all depends on what you like or you dislike, it's all a matter of taste.
Maybe so, and in certain circumstances (in education, child-rearing, while hostage negotiating) the word wrong might be the, er, wrong word.
When I do book reviews on this blog, I don't use the word wrong or bad. The reviews are gentle and understanding and try to ascertain what the photographer is trying to do.
Perhaps the reviews are too gentle. Because of course there are books that are wrong. Of course there are books that are bad. Everybody who has gone through the process of making a really good book knows that. They have been there. I have been there.
Sometimes you don't know what is wrong about your book because you're learning how to make it, how to communicate it. So the wrongness is based on ignorance. Just because you are not aware that it's wrong doesn't mean it's not wrong. Learning how to make a book is a process and mistakes are something you need to go through along the way. That, as was mentioned yesterday, is why people like Kazuma Obara, go through 16 dummies before getting at the most effective one.
Chairman Mao: Wrong and Bad
This doesn't mean there is such a thing as a perfect book, or an ideal book. There are an infinite number of possibiliteies of possibilities for a book and there is no absolute right one. There are many more wrong ones and generally they come about because people are taking short cuts, being lazy, are unaware of the errors of their ways, or are judging themself by standards lower than those with which they judge others.
I have done all of those things, everyone I know has done all of those things - including the people who make really great books (or really-good anything else for that matter). Innoculating myself against my essential laziness and self indulgence is part of the process of actually getting round to making something really good. I hope to get there soon.
Dentists: Right and Bad
Anyway, enough of books, what about food. I remember making a Steak and Guinness pie when I was living in Queens Court in Bristol. It was the first time I'd ever made one and I did it without a recipe. I got the idea that the more Guiness you had the better it would be, so I added a couple of cans and then reduced it to a thick sauce.
I still remember that pie. I didn't eat much of it but I remember the taste.
And this year, just a few months ago, my wife made a dessert for us. It was a chocolate and avocado mousse (chocolate and avocado is a thing). She didn't tell us about the avocados though. We thought it was a chocolate mousse.
We still remember that mousse. We didn't eat much of it but we remember the taste.
Freudian Slippers: Right and Good
Like the Steak and Guinness Pie, it was wrong. And it was bad. And we should embrace that wrongness and that badness so that we never make the same mistakes again.
So perhaps in describing the original paragraph should be rephrased. Perhaps it was too gentle. I think this reads better:
You get books where the cover is wrong and bad, where the title is wrong and bad, where the typeface is wrong and bad, where the text is wrong and bad, where the edit is wrong and bad, where the paper is wrong and bad, where the pictures are wrong and bad, where the story is wrong and bad or there is no story. You even get books where everything is right and then you come to the last picture – and they’ve saved it to the last possible moment to make a mess of it all. Goddamn it, the last picture is wrong and bad.