Thursday, June 08, 2006

accidental men

I've just realised why I've been staring, brow furrowed, at my copy of the new Primal Scream single so much over the last week or so, trying to figure out where I know the image from. Apart from the fact that it's one of William Heggleston's - the 70s snapper whose ultra-saturated shots revolutionised colour photography, as well as the man who provided the neon confederate flag on the 'Scream's last straightforward rock n' roll album, Give Out But Don't Give Up - I suddenly realise that it's the second item on my shelves featuring the shot. It's also the picture on the cover of Ali Smith's remarkable 'The Accidental'. Another reason why Ali Smith is increasingly looking - after her recent Guardian revelation that she spent the entirety of a recent Ladytron gig at the bar drinking whisky - like the most unlikely inheritor of Bukowski's rock and roll torch. Oh, well, OK, maybe not. But I'm impressed all the same. You don't get this kind of value out of Ian fucking McEwan.

Although you do if you dig back into the archives for an interview with William Heggleston, the man who single handed changed the definition of colour photography and who answers, when asked how he would like to be remembered, 'as a lover'.

From Sean O'Hagen's interview in the Observer, back in July 2004.

"Though he seems tired of talking photography, I ask him finally if there is an underlying discipline that governs his work. He shrugs. 'Let me put it this way, I work very quickly and that's part of it.

I only ever take one picture of one thing. Literally. Never two. So then that picture is taken and then the next one is waiting somewhere else.' Let me get this straight, I say, astonished: each image he has produced is the result of one single shot? He nods. And what happens, I ask, if you don't get the picture you want in that one shot? 'Then I don't get it,' he answers simply. 'I don't really worry if it works out or not.

I figure it's not worth worrying about. There's always another picture.' He makes his genius sound almost accidental, I suggest. He thinks about this for a while. 'Yes,' he nods, smiling. 'There's probably something to that. The "almost" is important, though.'"


Pete Ashton said...

Not to diminish your post - the Heggleston link is great - but there was a trend in British publishing for using photos of girls in flowery dresses lying on grass, either full like this one or partial. Around 2001 there was about one a month coming out.

So unless Smith specifically requested the cover you can probably put it down to an unimaginative designer at Penguin.

jonathan said...

Ha ha, yeah, I'm sure you're right. As an editor myself I can confirm that the ideas that authors put forward for covers - while imaginative - are often totally unusable!