This Week In Photography Books – Chris Killip

by Jonathan Blaustein

Your Dad works in the ship yards. Your brother too. And your Dad’s brother, for good measure. There’s no such thing as the Internet. It’s cold often, and gray more often still. School is there just to carry you over until it’s time to get a job at the ship yard too.

Life is dreary. You get that job, when the time is right, and after work one day you like the look of the lass at the end of the bar. You offer to light her cigarette, thinking you’re suave, till you notice the guy to her left. He’s already struck the match, and they both laugh. Fairly confident of yourself, you tip your fisherman’s cap, nod, and turn back to watch the football match on the screen above. She’ll marry you yet.

I know you’re none of these things. More likely, you’re reading this over morning coffee. Or during a quick break from color correction. Or perhaps before you hit the Metro on the way to a shoot.

But if you were me, and spent some time over the last few days with “arbeit/work,” the new monograph by Chris Killip, you’d probably get where I’m coming from. The book was released by Steidl and Edition Folkwang, in conjunction with an exhibition of the artist’s work. And it’s one moody piece of business.

As you might have gathered from my momentary hallucination, I like the book. Not surprising. At some point, and I’m not sure when, I morphed into an Anglophile. (That’s not true. I do know when. It was the second time my wife made me watch the Colin Firth/ Jennifer Ehle version of “Pride and Prejudice.” That Mr. Darcy is so dreamy.)

Where was I? The book. It’s divided into sections, each focusing on a segment of one of Mr. Killip’s interlocking projects. They were shot predominantly in the North of England, in the 70’s and 80’s. Evocative stuff, this.

The photographs are entirely in Black and White, and feature a gruff textural sensibility that matches the cultural landscape. Graffiti, coal mounds, drifting garbage, massive waves crashing here and there. Excuse me whilst I grab a sweater.

I loved the woman hanging out her door, a massive tanker ship just outside her field of view. And the father, downtrodden and hot, holding his daughter on his lap, wedged into a corner of the sidewalk. Punks having a laugh, neck tattoos and beer cans, fishermen and grandmas. Another favorite: a suit-wearing old dude, along with his lady, lounging on a blanket, surrounded by trash.

Bottom Line: Terrific B&W images of UK bleak beauty

To purchase “arbeit/work” visit Photo-Eye

Full Disclosure: Books are provided by Photo-Eye in exchange for links back for purchase.

Books are found in the bookstore and submissions are not accepted.


Jonathan Blaustein

There Are 9 Comments On This Article.

  1. These are some of the best photos of this genre I’ve seen. It’s like a greatest hits album in that there’s not one lesser photo in the bunch, all are magnificent. There is variety and consistence, close-ups and at infinity, with subjects aware and unaware of the photographer, and all are executed with equal aplomb. Definitely a prime candidate for my inspiration bookshelf. Or as Wayne said to the Fender Strat in Wayne’s World, “It will be mine. Oh yes. It will be mine. ” APE is batting 1,000 today!

  2. These images are fantastic and their dramatic impact is nothing short of monumental. Steidl is an excellent publisher, and this is one more great book they produced – and it is on my must-compulsively-buy list.

    Additional info:

    “Arbeit / Work” is the book version of a retrospective exhibition of 126 images from 1969 – 2005, curated by Ute Eskildsen, and shown at the Folkwang Museum, Essen from February 3 – April 15, 2012.

    The images were shot mostly, as mentioned, in northern England, but also on the Isle of Man and in Ireland.

    (source: Chris Killip’s website)

  3. Bleak and beautiful, wonderfully executed and his use of light is just the icing on the cake. I’m really loving the printing.
    Another great book that I’ll be buying. One problem though. “This Week In Photography Books” is causing me to spend a bunch of money on Photo-Eye.

  4. I had to put the kibosh on photo book collecting (dangerous hobby) but this might bring me back out of retirement. These images are inspiring to say the least.

  5. Classic.

    Such a breath of fresh air after a run here of what have seemed to me to be self-absorbed “arty” books – kinda brainy, not much soul. Chris Killip’s work has real blood flowing through its veins. He unabashedly honors what’s come before – mainly R. Frank. In fact, come to think of it, this book is a LOT like The Americans. But he sure could do worse… I still have The Americans in my head every single time I press the shutter release.

    Thanks for sharing, Jonathan.

  6. Great set of images and B+W always looks more gritty but the subjects and composition are spot on too to get the feeling of the images. Definitely a book I will be purchasing.