Monday, September 24, 2007

The Day to Day Life of Albert Hastings

So, the one thing that's a keeper - The Day to Day Life of Albert Hastings by photographer KayLynn Deveney is a gorgeous little book, very nicely produced by Princeton Architectural Press and selling for a quite reasonable price - in fact as photography books go, it's a bargain.

The book is poignant and elegiac and yet straightforward and down to earth and not in the least bit sentimental. In fact nostalgia or sentimentality would have quickly sent it over the edge into Hallmark territory, but the mixture of pictures and words always remains grounded - in part due to a slight undercurrent of melancholy - and yet there is humour as well.

To my mind, this is an example of one of the things photography does best and in doing it, it leaves us room to make our own minds up about things, it points to certain things but it doens't do so dogmatically or directly. It's an oblique, tangential look - understated - with lots of room for the viewer to do some work for themselves.

I think Deveney's photographs are just right - in fact they are some of the best examples of colour work "in the documentary style" that I've seen in a long time. I wouldn't be suprised if they owe a little something to Nick Waplington's work from the 80's, but there is an intimacy in these that Waplington's often lack (which are respectful, humorous, but often blunt). Deveney's pictures aren't direct, but they tell us enough of what we need to know.

The publishers blurb sums it up very well:

When Albert Hastings was eighty-five years old, photographer KayLynn Deveney moved near his small flat in Wales. KayLynn took notice of the small rituals and routines—gardening, laundry, grocery shopping—that made up Bert's life. A friendship slowly developed as KayLynn began photographing parts of Bert's day. The two developed a simple yet effective method of storytelling—with KayLynn's images and Albert's handwritten text—and the project evolved into The Day-to Day Life of Albert Hastings a poignant and profound chronicle of aging, living alone, and the small things that make up our daily lives. Containing seventy-eight photographs along with poems written by Bert, his clock drawings, and personal family photographs, The Day-to-Day Life of Albert Hastings gives the reader a glimpse into one man's life, we can only imagine what stories are left untold.

5B4 has a very good review of the book:

...Kaylynn’s photography is warm and respectful. As photographers, some approach a subject knowing that it is full of potential to make “good pictures.” Others approach a subject because of an interest in learning something through the process of picture-making. Deveney seems intent on using the medium to bridge a generational gap and befriend her seemingly charismatic and warm neighbor. Photography may have invoked the friendship but after looking at the pictures, it seems to have taken a back seat to the importance of the relationship in both of their lives.

If it were just a book of photographs alone, we might read Mr. Hastings as simply a stand in for a representative portrait of an older Wales everyman, but through his participation in the project, by captioning the photographs, we decipher his personality due to his choice of words in describing the photographs content. They often display, not only humor, but also a directness that comments on his perception of himself and photographs.

Under one photograph of a hat he writes simply “Size 7 1/8”

Under one of him near a golden lit window he writes, “I’m not talking to a ghost, I’m opening the curtains.”... (more).

Deveney has a selection of images and text on her site. The intro is worth reading. There also a review fromt he current Photoeye Magazine.

This is one of the best books of photography (especially by an "unknown"...) that I've seen in a while now.

1 comment:

Stan B. said...

Don't remember if it was actually published in book form, but in the seventies, George Tice documented the life of an elderly loner in a small New Jersey town who was also a member of... a camera club.