Sophie Harris-Taylor’s M T W T F S S: Chapter 1. 2010-2015, according to the cover, “is an autobiographical, fragmented, sporadic photo diary.” I was initially hoping for a bit more diary—there are scribbled snippets of what might be diary entries in the front and back, but no other text beyond page numbers, plus a list of titles and some publication info at the end—and so was a bit disappointed at first, but looking again, there’s quite a bit here to enjoy and even inspire.
The cover text gives a great overview of the project, and is worth quoting in its entirety:
M T W T F S S is an autobiographical, fragmented, sporadic photo diary. It is a reflection of myself and those I know and love.
In familiar, often mundane surroundings I seek to capture some element of truth of our lives. For me, these everyday, forgotten nothings are more important and truthful than any other.
These are the moments between the momentous.
“…the moments between the momentous.” Quite a line, and I think Harris-Taylor gets there.
Most of the book appears to be photographs of roommates, friends, and lovers, often caught at moments when they might rather not have a camera pointed at them. I don’t think there’s a smile captured anywhere, grimaces, maybe, and looks of bother and ‘another one? ugh,’ predominate, as do photographs of people’s backs. That, and bare breasts… if bare breasts bother you, this is not the book for you.
The toplessness isn’t prurient or particularly sexy, and it’s most definitely not sexed up. Most is natural seeming, like, “I sleep topless and you just woke me up?” or “hey, let’s go for a quick dip? but, wait, I don’t want to get my bra wet… and here she goes again with the camera: sheesh” type toplessness. That said, forewarned is forearmed and all that.
Harris-Taylor has a BA and MA and lectures in Photography, so she knows her stuff, and M T W T F S S is right in the vernacular genre. I came across Hiromix a few weeks ago, and I see some similarities. There are no self portraits (that I know of) in M T W T F S S, but the use of natural light and seemingly random shots of interiors and landscapes are similar. There’s also a strong fashion bent to some of the work, poses like you might find in one of the more somber Marc Jacobs adverts, but with one of Harris-Taylor’s friends sitting in beautiful window light in a bra, staring blankly off into space, rather than some model in a studio with flashes popping off, staring blankly off into space.
The color is good, and the texture of the paper—something almost like a handmade writing paper, but slicker, with threads and bits of stuff in it—emphasizes and accentuates the graininess of some of the pictures. The paper stock adds to the diary feel of the book, but it’s a bit too slick and thick to be journal or diary paper. The cover almost looks like a soft cover leather journal, but it’s too stiff. The effect is almost diary-looking, but not.
In the same vein, the photographs are said to be diaristic in nature, but looking at the back of the book, the images are arranged to suggest a story, or some passage of time, but they’re not arranged in order by time. I’d have to study it a bit more carefully to verify, but I expect some of the recurring characters were only around for one period of time over the 5 year span.
There’s a ribbon sewn into the binding for a bookmark, but instead of coming out of top of the book, out of the middle of the spine, it’s attached in between two pages, about an inch from the top of the book, and maybe 1/4 of the way into the book, so you can’t really use it to mark your place. It’s more like marking some moment that Ms. Harris-Taylor wants to remember, or wants us to remember. It’s an interesting detail, for sure, and it’s fun to speculate about the meaning behind it.
Overall, the photography is top notch, the concept is interesting, and the layout works, but the diary part of it is a conceit, at best, and really falls apart a bit if you look closely at the design, print quality, and the book itself.
Overall, I’ll give it a 3.7.
You can pick up a copy of M T W T F S S: Chapter 1. 2010-2015 while it lasts. I have number 257 of 500 limited, signed and numbered copies, so pick one up while you can.