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Sofa Portraits now available for pre-order

  1.          Sofa Portraits is now available for pre-order from my website (orders will deliver in October/November)   The pric...

Friday, 29 January 2021

Buying Photobooks across the English Channel is not easy anymore


    Image from Salvi Danes

Brexit is beginning to bite and it is having an effect on the photobook market. These are a few comments posted on Facebook the other day about the way in which the UK (or Great Britain and Northern Ireland to be more accurate - Northern Ireland is not subject to the same kinds of problems I think. I don't know, but I think) is becoming even more of an isolated island than it was before. Tragically, I think that effect will be amplified by the ending of the Erasmus programmes, by the ending of particular kinds of funding, by the increased bureaucracies that are only just beginning to emerge (but were entirely predictable and predicted). 

What is interesting is how people are thinking about workarounds. Ana Casas Broda of Hydra has been thinking about this for a long time I know (think of shipping charges from Mexico, where she is based, to Europe), as is anyone in Europe who has tried to buy a book from the US. 

    Horse by Heleen Peeters from the Eriskay Connection - not directly available from the publisher in the UK, but available from here)

These are some of the problems for buying books from the UK, or selling them to the UK. 

Giulia Zorzi on the impact of Brexit on photobook selling.

Colin Pantall asked about BREXIT and I say in short: it is a nightmare and UK publishers and distributors are not understanding the point. We have customs now.
First problem: timing.
IF I receive a book (I write IF as it is totally uncertain now, and this is the first problem), it happens with 3-4 weeks of delay (average) Consequence: to deal with this, of course I must change the way I make orders. I cannot order 5 copies only.
Second problem: costs.
I have to pay 25€ for every shipping just for the customs procedure.
I also have to pay 4% VAT - this has not changed, as I always had to pay VAT on UK books, even before, but now bureaucracy is more complicated, so the invoice for customs must correspond to the invoice issued to me for payment. As simple as this may sound, it never happens. I pay xxx and get customs invoice from yyy with books listed with different quantities / titles / prices.
This is just the beginning of a list.
Also, I am dealing with publishers based in the UK or US or Switzerland who send me books from EU countries and do not consider that this is a problem. Where there is a customs, there must be a procedure of books going through it. This means a lot of work on my side trying to solve problems that cause fines.

On the Eriskay Connection website: Due to Brexit, we stopped shipping to the UK until we sorted out our VAT application.

Until then, residents of the UK can order our books directly from our distributor: Idea Books.

Stefan Vanthuyne
 Correct, unfortunately. Due to the magnitude of issues, we had to temporarily suspend shipping to the UK. We thought after Brexit sending a book to the UK would be just the same as sending one to the US (or any other country outside the EU), but we couldn't have been more wrong. Instead, we have trouble sending packages in the first place, as some shipping companies temporarily suspended shipping to the UK. Secondly, packages got stuck in customs. Thirdly, in order to send products to the UK without worrying about these arriving in good order (both to businesses and consumers) we have to register for our own UK VAT number, just so we can do our own quarterly tax returns in the UK, and this is only for the packages up to £165. On top of that, in order to send packages to Northern Ireland, we need another separate registration as well. Finally, most business in the Netherlands who already applied for a UK VAT number have not yet received one. The bureaucracy involved is horrible... I certainly hope things will smooth out in the near future, because this is nearly unworkable

I'm just beginning to navigate this nightmare from our side, too. Prospects look frighteningly unworkable indeed! I'm wondering if there's any way for us to band together to work out a better position for all of us.
Also, given that books are zero rated for VAT in the UK there should theoretically be no change for you shipping books in, no matter the amount. It is all so confusing 😕

                                                                                                                                                                                     Giulia Zorzi
of course if a UK customer buys something from Micamera, there is a 25€ fixed fee to add to the shipping cost for customs handling procedures.

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

The Windsors, The Crown, Real Life


I resisted for  a while but finally we succumbed to the Crown an its curious mix of royalty, politics, snobbery, and denied love. The highpoints were the first two series when Claire Foy (Stockport's finest, along with Phil Foden and Fred Perry) brought a new life to the young Elizabeth, where the weight of duty and a deeper, hugely conservative gly reactionary state lay just beneath the surface. Claire Foy and her micro-expressive face could handle that very easily in a way that made her Elizabeth a character in her own right rather than a series of shoulder-slumping gestural tics that emerged later in the sequence of series. 

After the cast turned over, that underlying weight (which defines England in particular) dissipated and the whole series became frothy, lacking emotional weight, missing huge chunks of the essential trauma of being English. The acting became more of a pastiche of head angles, clasped hands, and helmet hairdos compared to the brilliance of Claire Foy, and the pastiche merged with memories of real events, with other depictions of royalty (and for all my moaning, the Crown is far superior to any other recent depictions of Charles, Diana, the Queen etc) and for a misty shared knowledge.

I began to get confused by all these depictions, especially when I started to throw the comedy version of the contemporary royal family (the Windsors) into the mix. I loved the Windsors, and my memories of  the bumbling Charles clashed with the rather limp version of the Crown, and the quite despondent, lumpen version of reality, especially his younger reality. He got let off the hook in the Crown. So I started operating in some weird twilight zone of the multiple depictions of the royals - the Windsors, the Crown, the newspaper and tv versions I call the real version, and the deep state reality. In my mind, I think I settled on the Windsors because they are less idealised than the Crown, did I just write that. I'm obviously not giving this much thought. That is what a blog is for.

The Crown vision of Camilla was a disappointment. She started off as a female space devoid of personality. I far preferred the sinister, conniving version of the Windsors, always plotting to have somebody put away so she can finally be queen, at last. In the Crown, there is a veneer of competition and disappointment in access to the succession, in the Windsors it is there, as a caricature, in full view. It defines Camilla. As for the real version of Camilla, I have no idea, I google Charles and Diana and see pictures of them looking happy together and I end up believing they were happy together - and then start linking that to the abdication, loveless marriages and forced separations, Princess Margaret, and Charles and Diana - so it's all mixed up together and becomes a kind of soap opera where characters and institutions become defined on strictly human and emotional terms. Which is fine for soap operas, but ends up creating a distorted and sympathetic view of institutions that are elitist, classist, and are the acceptable face of the English class system and all that falls under it.

As for the other characters, in the Windsors, Ann is a spectral figure who floats through hallways, and appears out of nowhere with an unkind word and a piece of itchy tweed always at hand. I'll just stay with that version...

The Queen doesn't appear in the Windsors, and nor does Prince Philip, but his curses do down the phone. So I'll stick with that. 

That's William and Kate on the Windsors at top, just William on the Crown with Charles and Diana, and in a press image with the same. It's getting dull now.

And that's Harry with Kate's sister whose name I forget. Harry is thick as shit and and Kate's sister wants to marry him so she can be a princess like her sister. 

And that's Andrew on the Windsors, then Andrew on the Crown, then Andrew in real life. Strangely, Andrew from the Crown is far worse than Andrew on the Windsors. Andrew in real life, one gets the feeling, is an absolute piece of shit...

Last of all, that's Fergie on the Windsors who is jolly hockeysticks skint, and always after a free meal. The corruption is worn lightly. There she is above on the Crown. Sadly her two daughters (Eugenie and, er, the other one - best known for wearing a hat) who are fantastic on the Windsors, are not important or relevant enough to be on the Crown.

Well, I thought I would have something more to say on all of that, but really I don't.  What is interesting is the way the different stories mix with the version of reality we see in the media, with our knowledge and experience of the British class system, of land ownership, of those who uphold it starting at the top, and with the mythologies that distract us all from the grim and quite brutal reality of the monarchy, and the layers upon which it rests. And the Crown ultimately is part of that mythology. It is exceedingly kind (and I haven't even mentioned the Queen Mother or Mountbatten or Thatcher god help us).

The Crown is a case study in that mix of the fictional and the real - through how the script ties in with real events, with remembered events, through the myths created and perpetuated by the media, and through earlier representations and idealisations of the Royal Family. There is the overlap with politics and prime-ministers, and the way in which original archive footage is used to show crowds, and then recreated with present day actors inserted, the images and film manipulated to appear as though it is in 1950s newsreel or newsprint. 

The ultimate interplay between the real, the fictional, the physical, the iconic, comes when the character Queen transitions from young to old, when Olivia Colman is introduced as the older replacement for the younger version played by Claire Foy. 

And the transition happens in stamp form. They must have been delighted with themselves when they thought that one up. 

The picture's not accurate though. The original stamp portrait on the right was in 3/4 profile and made by Dorothy Wilding (who doesn't feature in the Crown, though Cecil Beaton and Tony Armstrong-Jones do). It was printed 220 billion times so may be the most printed image of all time (but for images printed for photographic as opposed to other functional purposes, perhaps that's the Chairman Mao poster which was printed a few billion times).

Image by Dorothy Wilding, 1952

Coronation portrait by Dorothy Wilding, 1952

Image by John Hedgecoe, 1966

This image by John Hedgecoe was used as the basis for the plaster cast created by Arnold Machin which was then used for the definitive stamps (and coins) featured below. Hedgecoe got the credit after a court case in which the Royal Mail wrongly claimed the cast was based on a Snowdon image.

Two versions of the Machin plaster cast

And here are some more photographs on stamps which will resonate with viewers of the Crown, the one with Nelson Mandela in particular.

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 child), 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 - there is a lot to write about those. The little blurbs change (the second Signet edition featured loses the 'passion') and motherhood is never mentioned. Nor are price-gouging landlords (and if you read Queenie, or watched I May Destroy You, it's one of the things they have in common with The Street - which is also about property, it's very much about property). 

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 dark, 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.