Father

Fathers Day is the third Sunday of June. Here is a sampling on photobooks relating to Father.

Ray’s a laugh by Richard Billingham
R TR681.F28 B55 1996

“This book is about my close family. My father Raymond is a chronic alcoholic. He doesn’t like going outside and mostly drinks homebrew. My mother Elizabeth hardly drinks but she does smoke a lot. She likes pets and things that are decorative. They married in 1970 and I was born soon after. My younger brother Jason was taken into care when he was 11 but is now back with Ray and Liz again. Recently he became a father. Ray says Jason is unruly. Jason says Ray’s a laugh but doesn’t want to be like him” – Richard Billingham. These words written on the back cover by the photographer are the only words in this book devoid of text. These frank and honest family snapshots depicting Ray the alcoholic father speak for themselves. Uncomfortable, terrifying, and sickly hilarious these are the compelling images of a sensitive son depicting his dysfunctional father at home inside his Birmingham council estate flat. The image of Ray throwing a cat across the room. . .well, it always makes me chuckle in an embarrassed sort of a way. This book does have great moments of comedy – that is, if you like your comedy with an existential zing!

Henry Frank, Father photographer – Henry Frank, [edited by] Robert Frank and Franðcois-Marie Banier.
TR681.F28 .F73 2009

Legendary photographer Robert Frank had a father who, as well as being the owner of a bicycle shop in Zurich, was also a keen amateur photographer. Henry Frank’s collections of images are of travel in Switzerland, Paris and Northern Italy, snapshots of his family and friends as well as depictions of the wonders of modern travel: aeroplanes, ships, hot-air balloons and motor cars. This is a small modest book with all the intimacy of a family album. An album which maybe sheds some light on how one of the greatest photographers of the twentieth century got started, influenced by the enthusiasm and zest for photography of his Dad.

Questions to my Father: a tribute to Werner Bischof by Marco Bischof.
TR820 .B57 2004

Werner Bischof died in May 1954 (aged 38) when his jeep plunged over a ravine in the Andes on assignment. Fifty years later (2004) his son Marco gathered together 70 previously unpublished photographs by Werner Bischof for this volume. Marco, now a documentary filmmaker, was only four years old when his father died, did not know his father and accessed his father purely through his archives (photographs, letters, diaries, etc.) that was managed by his mother. “It was in this way that I got to know my father, took my hand in his and showed me the world as he saw it: defining my relationship with people and places; he bequeathed to me a world view” – Marco Bischof.

Stuff I Gotta Remember Not to Forget – Darin Mickey
TR681.F34 .M53 2007
Ken Mickey is a salesman who sells storage space in converted caves and abandoned mines throughout Kansas. Darin Mickey started documenting and photographing the life of his father Ken in 2001. Darin depicts Ken as he watches television, drives, makes cold calls, hangs out with his friends, hangs out with the Masons and drinks his scotch. Again this another photobook where Fathers are great figures of fun – there is something comical about them, especially as they age, right?  Darin Mickey may well be a smarty pants and a busy body interfering with his fathers life with his camera, but this is also a truly tender depiction of an ordinary suburban Midwestern Dad who is just going about his life.

Daddy and I – Zhnag O.
TR681.F33 .Z43 2007
This is a catalogue that was published on the occasion of the exhibition by Zhang O “Daddy and I” from 2007 held at the Pekin Fine Arts in Beijing – a show of portraits of young Chinese girls and their adoptive American fathers. As you may know, totalitarian Chinese society is dispensing with its girl children at an astounding rate. For every 100 girls registered at birth, there are now 118 little boys – in other words, nearly one seventh of Chinese girl babies simply go missing. The lucky unwanted Chinese girls are adopted by American parents “seeking demure, cute, studious and several other stereotypes” and “as these girls grow older they mature into another set of stereotypes – exotic, repressed, sexually compliant”.  The portrait images of the young Chinese girls with their American Daddies are complemented with a section at that back of the catalogue titled “Horizon” depicting portraits of young rural Chinese girls sitting down on the grass. These are the young girl children in their natural environs. These are the girls with homes and families in their villages. The girls who through random fortune were kept at home in China. It is interesting to see the differences in their styles and clothing as compared with their ‘westernized’ cousins.

Re: …Y…donde estan los libros? (Re: …So…Where are the books?) : Fragment of a conversation with my father using our personal libraries by Alejandra Ugarte-Bedwell.
R TR179.5.U331 .R49 2010
This artists’ book by ICP MFA Bard graduate Alejandra Ugarte-Bedwell was produced in conjunction with a class taught by our very own Stephanie Shuman Librarian Deirdre Donohue. It is a single duratone paper sheet printed on both sides (a poster size 64 x 96 cm) with a detailed conversation between the artist and her father about books. The dialogue is intriguing and sensitive. As an object it is quite beautiful.

My Daddy is a policeman – Elizabeth Ann Doll, [photographs by] Ron Scalera.
TR820.5 .D65 1973
One of the oddest of offerings from the ‘father’ selection is ‘My Daddy is A Policeman’ from the juvenile literature category which is essentially a photo essay about a child who has a cop as a parent. The book proceeds in all the usual formulaic ways that these photo essays from the early 1970s tend to do. The book begins with an endorsement from the president of the International Conference of Police Association who tells us that “Once you’ve read it, you’ll see a policeman as an individual – part of a family of people like yourself” and then proceeds with colour images of a little girl with her cop father: trying on his hat, kissing him goodnight, having breakfast together, washing the car, going to the zoo, etc. But then the narrative quickly darkens when you turn the page and see a photo of a body face-down on wet asphalt with the line, “I hope my Daddy remembered to wear his raincoat.” The juxtaposition of the image and the text might perhaps be confusing for a child reader but an adult quickly comprehends. It is the father, the policeman and he’s been shot dead! The last image the girl is shown with a tear running down her cheek and the text reads “My Daddy was a policeman”. Not sure that this is suitable bed time reading, to be honest with you, but there is dare I say something darkly comical about the book to our more contemporary and jaded tastes.

This is Rome : a pilgrimage in words and pictures / conducted by Fulton J. Sheen ; photographed by Yousuf Karsh, [and] described by H. V. Morton ; with an introduction by Bishop Sheen.
TR790.I8 .K37 1960
Ever wanted “to see Rome through the eyes of a boy”? This is a book about Rome where a “Father” – a priestly one – leads a young boy around the Holy city on a tour. Here we get to see the boy in all the famous Vatican City and Roman locations looking suitably impressed with Father looking on approvingly. My favourite image is the boy riding pillion on the back of Father’s scooter. The book is beautifully photographed by Karsh for the Bishop’s book. (Trivia fact on Yousuf Karsh: Did you know that in 1963 he was the photographer on location in South Africa for the movie Zulu?).

N.B.
The call numbers for some of the above books might be of interest to you (if you are a real library nerd) in that TR681.F28, TR681.F33 and TR681.F34 were all featured in the above post. Unfortunately TR681.F32 did not feature.
TR681.F28                                       Portrait photography, Photography of Families
TR681.F33                                       Portrait photography,      Fathers & daughters
TR681.F34                                       Portrait photography, Fathers & sons
TR681.F32                                       Portrait photography, Father & child

About matthew carson

Librarian & Archivist at the International Center of Photography
This entry was posted in artists' books, Unpacking the collection and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Father

  1. Robert Stevens says:

    Thanks Matt, what about Mitch Epstein’s book about his father and his business? and maybe Larry Sultan’s book – but it about his parents.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s