Bookshelf: Dean Chalkley

Work / Film

Bookshelf: Dean Chalkley

Dean Chalkley is a photographer and film maker with his lens trained on the iconic, under-ground and over-looked members of a counter-culture. A player as well as witness, Dean’s own experiences and passions are captured in a body of work that speak loudly of a raw, irrefutable love of each scene. His latest, Young Souls, is now on show at the Hotel Pelirocco in Brighton. With that and a number of exciting upcoming events, we asked Dean to select five books for our Bookshelf feature and they are an anecdotal and illuminating lot…

Mods! Richard Barnes

I got Mods! when I was about 14 off another kid at school, I can’t remember how, some kind of swap most probably. Amongst its pages lives a very yellowed cut-out page from the Southend-on-sea Evening Echo paper, the headline says: “MODS RIDE BACK TO GOLDEN DAYS.” Mods! became a style guide to me, a pointer to a way of life. It set out to explain what it was like to be a mod in the early 1960s through photographs illustrations and text. Arguably the best cinematic depiction of youth culture – Franc Roddam’s Quadrophenia – was released in the same year. The book and film were collectively the blueprint for this new mod revival. Perfect timing in the socioeconomic climate of the late 1970s. It was not by chance, either, that these two works emerged in that year. Eel Pie Publishing ltd was owned by Pete Townshend from the band The Who who had written had the original idea for Quadrophinia. Anyway, mods were back! I would constantly read and reread Mods! using it as a reference book, a factual document, and a practical tool. I even used to take it to the hairdressers (and ask John Bullock, our local hairdresser that knew how to do a “French Crop,” to copy the young lads hair from the book.)

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test Tom Wolfe

This book brings back great memories, firstly the warm summer before I bought it and of acid house parties too. Just looking at the cover brings back the smell of paint, I’ll explain why in a moment… Tom Wolfe wrote an account of Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters, documenting their zigzag, psychedelic drug fuelled journey across America. It is detailed and really describes the small rebellious group’s chaotic and amazing journeys; taking in hells angels, Timothy Leary and wild, free spirits (not really hippies, more extensions from the bebop beat generation that were the forefathers/mothers of the later hippy movement.) Well after reading it, I bought a Volkswagen camper and together with my girlfriend Amanda, spent six months of weekends in the street outside my parents house with tins of household paint (the smell!!) “psychedelising” the originally white van. Once it was ready off we went on our adventures around France. As a foot note – Ken Babbs, one of the original Merry Pranksters visited the UK in 1994  to deliver a very strange talk at the Conway Hall. I drove the bus up and saw Ken and, after a great little chat, he climbed inside and wrote FURTHUR on the headlining – that was very special.

Platteland: Images from rural South Africa Roger Ballen

I bought this book whilst doing my degree in Blackpool and it blew me away! Here was a photographer, Roger Ballen, following in the footsteps of the original New York school notables of Diane Arbus, Robert Frank, Lisette Model et al. His collection of photographs really spoke to me as I have always been interested in the periphery – the outsiders if you like – and this book fascinated me. It documents the poor white people in the Central Transvaal, South Africa – an unlikely subject with odd idiosyncratic characters twisted and contorted by life. Roger photographed them in a brutal way and this amplified the intensity of the images. This is a hard book and at these times, the bleak, dirty, rough and gritty portraits gave me fortification whilst considering the career ahead of me. They remind me that portrait photography is not all about flattery, it is about telling a story and saying something about your subject. This can be beautiful or terrifying or a thousand emotions between.

Evidence: 1944-1994 Richard Avedon

Richard Avedon is the king in photography as far as I’m concerned. His vision, work ethic and choice of subject matter all combined to make him the master; a monumental figure and human dynamo. EVIDENCE is a very prized position. Avedon came to the UK to unveil an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery and to deliver a lecture in 1995. Wow! It was amazing seeing him running around the stage, full of nervous energy – it was so brilliant! After the lecture he was signing books so I dutifully queued up like getting a knighthood or something. I was one of the last to go up and meet him (at this point I should mention I had a bad cold – boy, I was feeling rough but I couldn’t miss this lecture) and over I went, opened the book and he began to sign it. Just then an uncontrollable moment happened – out of my cold riddled hooter a big drip fell and slashed onto the book. Oh god!! How embarrassing. He slowly looked up his eyes scanning, “thanks,” I said and scuttled off. Well, what can you do?

The Fine Feathered Friend of my Very Best Friends Bernard Bonhomme and Nicole Claveloux

I love car boot sales, especially in the summer. Walking around in the early morning sun, often a bit chilly and dewy under foot, looking forward to the a bacon sandwich and tomato ketchup as a little treat… The best car boot sales are the ones with no traders, just old people getting rid of stuff. I have found so many great items over the years and I’m not talking about Car Boot Sale Challenge. No I’m talking about cool things like this wonderful book or the time I got a load of Douglas Brother’s prints from the sellers who had taped them to the side of their van or records. Anyway, back to the book – the printing is something else! The colour is so rich, very acid psychedelic with almost Terry Gilliam-esque illustrations – just a stunning little book. It was made for children but you can tell the authors were from the counter-culture. It even has laurel and hardy in it, it’s quite mad and l still love looking at it.