Tom Hines is responsible for one of the most jaw-dropping pages in the It’s Nice That Annual, a double page spread of two girls holding an enormous loaf of bread. His portfolio has a certain feel to it that you just can’t put your finger on, something in between witchcraft, suburbia, a kind of dark magic in a world of permanent twilight. Read on to hear truly insightful reviews of the fantastic books that have inspired Tom’s work, and about his switch from book collecting to digital reading.
He says: "Coincidentally, the other day I was talking with Aperture editor Michael Famighetti about how when I first met him, years ago on the streets of Brooklyn, he was just a random guy. I thought little of it. Then, a couple of weeks later, I ended up at a party at his apartment, saw his bookshelf, and realised, this guy is legit, he’s got something going on upstairs. The bookshelf used to be a deep-level presentation of self. We used to go to each other’s homes and learn something about the other through their collections of objects. Books and CDs were most important to me, probably because I was young and didn’t have much else.
“Recently, my wife and I went to our storage facility, unloaded it, and donated all our books to a thrift store, save for a few art books. We realised we could buy all the books many times over for the price we were paying each year in rental fees, and most of the books were available digitally on our eReaders, or were searchable online. I no longer have a persona-defining book collection, but here are a few books I’ve been thinking about lately.”
Guy Bourdin: Inbetween
When I meet photo editors, they bring up my debt to Guy Bourdin. Fair enough. I see it as much more complicated, but I love Bourdin’s work and the tradition by which he approached fashion photography (he was also a cat lover, so there’s a kinship there.) More likely, we’re all in debt to Comte de Lautréamont’s ideas and André Bretton’s championing of them. The so often quoted expression “beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting-table of a sewing-machine and an umbrella!” from Lautréamont’s LES CHANTS DE MALDOROR is the father of us all. By no means am I trying to diminish Bourdin’s work by placing it in context, I’m just trying to show it’s an argument among many similar arguments that inform my own sensibilities. So many of my pictures are commissions for fashion companies, which is probably the more important similarity. The themes in my pictures, and in so many of Bourdin’s, are subtextual. In Between is my current favorite Bourdin book.
Joel Sternfeld: American Prospects
I’ll get to American Prospects in a minute, but first a little personal history. When I was a kid, I found Robert Frank’s The Americans completely beguiling, and not necessarily in the best way. Like every young, literate, American male, I was cool with the Beats. I liked On The Road, liked Howl, liked Naked Lunch, but I was put off by The Americans. I think I thought it was humorless and earnest, probably because I had yet to gain any worldly perspective, and probably because it is a bit earnest. Then I got to New York and had access to a film library for the first time – remember, there was no YouTube in the 90s, I waited 10 years to see certain films I’d read about. Anyway, I get to New York, there’s a screening of Pull My Daisy, and that was a eureka moment for me. It allowed me to see past the canonised, establishment aspects of The Americans, i.e. the Guggenheim/MoMA/Steichen thing, and I could appreciate Frank’s earnestness because I realised his crowd had come from my realm, that the work had been made in a context similar to my own experience. I got a taste for how radical the photo work was through seeing the film.
I remember reading Guillaume Apollinaire for the first time. It was a poem of his. I can’t remember the name of the poem, and the book is long gone. In the poem, Appollinaire uses California and Florida as symbols of exotic earthly outposts. When I read it, I was like, “Are you kidding me, Appollinaire! California! Florida!” But I quickly realised the extremities of America were among the exotic outposts of modernity for a long, long time. That realisation was a puzzle piece.
Now, back to Sternfeld’s American Prospects. I think when I finally got to this body of work, well after I’d digested the more established canon, I’d become self-aware. I think I took American Prospects as some kind of inverted dramatic irony. I felt sure I “got it”, but I wasn’t sure how or why. When I look at the work now, I feel the same, but I’m no longer compelled to place the feeling. I can now take a work of art as a poem, allowing it to be enigmatic or mysterious, without it having to be an enigma or a mystery.
David Bailey: LOCATIONS: THE 1970s ARCHIVE
It’s tempting to dismiss David Bailey as a beautiful playboy. I think Locations is cool because it functions as a diary of a life – it reads as the photographic memoir of an aging beautiful playboy in the 70s – and it’s still great. I don’t know exactly why I find it substantive, but I love it and I flip through it often enough. I guess I’ve come to appreciate style as much as idea.
Helmut Newton: Autobiography
Here’s a guy who grew up in immaculate privilege, and, as a young man, lost everything, including his family, escaped his country into exile, ended up in an Australian prison camp for years because of his nationality, and still managed to become the luminary of eros for generations.
Weegee: Naked City
Weegee was a household name in his time. My grandparents in Mississippi even knew his work. Naked City is photo pulp-non-fiction. This work is so great, so connected to its creator’s sensibilities, it makes me suspicious of all reportage.
Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Modern Century by Peter Galassi (Author) Henri Cartier-Bresson (photographer)
This is the catalog from the MoMA show a short while back. I like the book because it shows the output context of the images as photojournalism. Currently famous pictures weren’t so precious back in the time they were published. Editors would chop them up, use them as propaganda, etc. The photographers had virtually no rights to the pictures. It’s fitting to include a photographer from Magnum agency on this list – we’re regressing into a pre-Magnum age in relation to photographer rights, or the notion of photographer as author. It is what it is.
The Elementary Particles: Michel Houellebecq
This book came to me after my eReader revolution. It doesn’t exist to me in physical form. I remember having anxiety dreams about this book, waking up in the middle of the night, getting my iPhone, and reading myself back to sleep. It’s funny to think, the mini computer, the iPhone, the first item in my life to convince me of the merits of Ray Kurzweil’s artificial intelligence predictions, facilitated my reading this book in bed at odd hours of the night. You’ll have to read it, if you haven’t already, to see what I’m talking about. I don’t want to spoil it.