Friday, 21 February 2014

Here comes everybody – Chris Killip

From what I have seen of Chris Killip’s images on a Google search this book was a bit of a surprise. Instead of gritty real-life shots of child coal pickers and the bleaker side of life in the 80s NE of England we get page after page of engaging – sometimes slightly whimsical – shots of small villages on the west coast of Ireland, and a record of people making pilgrimages to places of unknown (to me anyway) religious significance.

One thing immediately strikes me – and that is the variety of shots and the diversity of the layout – sometimes 4 to a page – sometimes just 1, colour and black and white on facing spreads, mists and sun , landscape and people up close. Overall the sensation is of someone who has fallen in love with somewhere – and it’s inhabitants - and wants to explain why. This is a place where things change slowly, farmhouses appear to decay – only to be revived, walls are repaired with whalebone, religion is a central theme and hayricks are built by hand. And yet - presumably once a year – all is frenetic activity as modern waterproofs are donned and people labour uphill in dodgy weather for a moment of calm contemplation with an ancient saint.

These are among the first colour photos Killip ever published – and the book would have been very different in black and white only. I think it would have lost some of the sense of contrast – an ancient ceremony happening now - if produced solely in black and white. But at the same time, and perhaps counter intuitively, the black and white photos act as an accent – separating the ancient and customary from the current time.

Intriguing – given the standard advice not to mix colour and monochrome in a single presentation. It clearly works if you have a reason for it.

Killip, C., 2009. Here Comes Everybody. 1st ed. London: Thames and Hudson.

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