Sunday, November 22, 2015

"The 1960s: Photographed by David Hurn" Introduction by Peter Doggett (Reel Art Press)

ISBN: 978-1-909526-13-6 Reel Art Press

"The 1960s Photographed by David Hurn"  Introduction by Peter Doggett (Real Art Press, 2015)

The 1960s were a perfect landscape for photographers.  Not saying that the era itself was perfect - far from that, but on the other hand the world felt new.   It is interestingly noted in Peter Doggett's opening introduction that the photographer David Hurn wanted to be an anthropologist, but couldn't be due to poor school grades.  On the other hand, I feel his interest in anthropology is very much the focus of his work in this book, "The 1960s."   Whatever he's photographing Sean Connery or people doing their everyday life thing on the streets of Manhattan to a dance that took place at the Hammersmith Palais, he is photographing the everyday of people of various classes and nationalities.

There's the image of the 1960s, that we pretty much have grown into, due to photographic images of that era, as well as its literature, music and films.   Hurn captures another level of that era through his commercial photo work for various magazines.   One gets the feeling that he's not only documenting a place, a moment, an individual, but also how that person, place or moment is placed in the big picture of that entire era.

When a photographer is working, he is just capturing in what is in front of him.  Unless it's a job in a studio where you have complete control of the situation, it is mostly chance of finding something interesting that took place on the street, or a passing incident (he captures a robbery taking place in London) by accident.  This book is put together fifty years later, looking at the past circa the images by Hurn.   The anthropology kicks in, because we are not only seeing The Beatles as themselves, but how they are placed in a world that is perhaps not of their making.   So the subject matter is not really the Fab Four, but the people surrounding the mop-tops.   The same goes for the images of people vacationing on an island off London, Herne Bay, which was the spot for the citizens of London's East End.  Or, the young debutantes about to be presented at the Queen Charlotte's Ball.

in the controlled environment of a photo-studio, we see Jane Fonda (Barbarella) at work, and Hurn comments on her that she was kind to the people who work on the set, as well as Sean Connery's dis-interest in publicity shooting for the early James Bond films.   These are people who are interacting with fellow professionals and I think the inter-subject matter of these images is people working and living within a world of some sort.

This handsome book conveys the 1960s not as an objective view, but clearly through the point-of-view from its photographer.   Each section of the book has commentary by Hurn, that is short and quite profound.   A superb photographer, but also this is a beautifully edited book by Tony Nourmand, who is also the publisher of Reel Art Press.

- Tosh Berman
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