Filmmaker Tomas Leach shares some of his favourite books

3 February 2016

British filmmaker Tomas Leach’s ability to tell the stories we didn’t realise needed telling means his work interweaves rich narratives with considered character studies. Back in 2012, his moving documentary on photographer Saul Leiter, In No Great Hurry: 13 Life Lessons with Saul Leiter, saw Tomas pursue and persuade the photographer to share the wisdom he’d been hiding for decades.

In his next feature film, Tomas joined treasure hunters in the Rocky Mountains as they searched for the rumoured bounty buried there years ago. The deep involvement in his projects means his research is extensive and in terms of books Tomas is attracted to the way a story has been presented. From a beautifully constructed photobook to a meandering tome of essays, Tomas prefaced his Bookshelf picks with: “I don’t know how the sweet Jesus you are supposed to just choose five books that influence you but here are some…” And with that, read on!

Eliot Weinberger: Karmic Traces

Eliot Weinberger manages to make books of essays somehow magical. They are a sort of blend of poetry, non-fiction, ramblings, re-tellings of ancient stories and criticism. Karmic Traces starts in Iceland with the incredible sentence: “Iceland has created the most perfect society on earth, one from which the rest of the world has nothing to learn” and ends with a massive rambling essay which seems like only a string of short factual paragraphs but ends up being a powerful look at violence and racism.

Jo Metson Scott: The Grey Line

This book is so fully formed and personal. The lay out is perfectly fitting for the images. The handwritten text and the way pages fold out makes it feel like fragments of stories coming together to make a bigger whole. I love the cover too – it’s almost like each copy is a one-off scrapbook.

Aaron Huey: Mitakuye Oyasin

I found this book while shooting my current film and I can’t stop looking at it. It’s all shot in the Indian Reservations of South Dakota. The use of light and colour is beautiful and it’s really moving. The heart behind every single image make it really special.

Mikhael Subotsky: Beaufort West

I saw this image of the guy in a Spiderman mask alongside a seemingly endless fence of plastic bags one day and wanted to know more about Mikhael’s work. This is the book that it came from and it’s just full of striking images. It’s one of the better photography books from the last ten years I think.

Mary-Lou Jennings (editor): Humphrey Jennings: Film Maker, Painter, Poet

I had to write to the BFI when I was at art college to get hold of a copy of this book. Humphrey Jennings made these lyrical sorts of documentary films in and around WW2. Fires Were Started is the story of the Auxillary Fire Service and it’s a masterpiece. Whereas Listen to Britain manages to be patriotic with subtlety and charm. Humphrey Jennings died falling off a cliff, which I keep remembering every time I go on a location scout.

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About the Author

Rebecca Fulleylove

Rebecca Fulleylove is a freelance writer and editor specialising in art, design and culture. She is also senior writer at Creative Review, having previously worked at Elephant, Google Arts & Culture, and It’s Nice That.

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