…Much faster than the post from Australia to the UK, for example. Two months after buying via Abebooks, and probably four after putting the book on my watch list, my copy of Trent Parke’s “Dream/Life” finally arrived yesterday. Frankly, it would have been worth it if I’d had to wait over twice that long.
Parke’s photography has been a marvel to me since I first came across it in a feature on Magnum photographers in B&W Photography. His understanding of light and ability to extract the maximum drama from it in a print is unparalleled in any work I’ve seen. “Dream/Life” is his first collection of b/w street work shot in Sydney, and almost every page is stunning (ok, some are merely great). Apart from expertly working the harsh Australian sunlight - or even rainstorms - he also possesses a keen sense of humour, irony and occasionally bathos, and that extends to the juxtaposition of images in the book. “Christ is coming,” announces a sandwich board in the street and on the next page, there he is, walking down the road with his crown of thorns casting sharp, broken shadows across the sunshine obscuring his face. A child is driven past on one page, followed by Death, in the form of another child with a mask on their way to a halloween party, riding behind a woman driver on the next. These are the tip of the iceberg. Highly recommended if you like classic b/w street work with a modern twist - if I didn’t already have so many other photo books on my wishlist, I’d be scouring Abe for a copy of Parke’s “Minutes to Midnight” now too.
Disclaimer: on a thread at photo.net, some opined of Parke’s work that “I don’t think these are particularly interesting photographs, nor are they taking documentary photography into the 21st century,” and so forth. I must admit, I haven’t seen a vast array of equivalent work to compare with, so this may be true. On the other hand, it may be sour grapes from some mongrel with posting rights - I can’t say. It’s true that one can’t imagine HCB blocking Parke’s entry to Magnum in the way that he tried with Martin Parr. There again, much as I admire Parr’s craft and approach, I’d rather sit down with a book like this. If you are always seeking “the shock of the new” then sure, perhaps this isn’t for you. (Incidentally, Dream/Life is the work that brought him to the attention of Magnum, and he went on to receive a W. Eugene Smith Award for “Minutes to Midnight” in 2003.)