Harvey Benge – ‘One Day’

In November of 2009, Harvey Benge struck up a conversation with Gerry Badger about print on demand publishing and the opportunities to produce a photobook, start to finish, in one day. The idea gestated for awhile, as Benge talked with other photographers and thought about it some more, and by May 2010, at the Kassel Photobook Festival, he had gathered together 9 other photographers and settled on a date to all shoot together, wherever they were.

One Day is the result.

The day they selected was Monday, June 21, 2010, the summer solstice. Jessica Backhaus, Gerry Badger, Harvey Benge, John Gossage, Todd Hido, Rob Hornstra, Rinko Kawauchi, Eva Maria Ocherbauer, Martin Parr, and Alec Soth all agreed to participate, and One Day, a collection of 10 books, housed in a slipcase, arrived in November.

On Monday, June 21, 2010, I had been back in Texas for just over a year. I started my first (and only, so far) real job in April 2010, and by June was comfortable with the work and proving to be an asset to the team, but I didn’t start photographing seriously until I September, when I got hired on full time and bought my first iPhone (the 4) as a sort of congratulation to myself. Would that I had started photographing seriously before… I might have some pictures to show of my own.

Oh well. Let the Pros have their fun, I guess.

Jessica Backhaus spent her day in Neukölln, Berlin, photographing restaurant tables, apartment exteriors, and other snips of daily life along with a handful of Muslim women that, presumably, live and work in Neukölln. Some of the pictures are disorienting, but most are straight ahead contemporary portraits and things Backhaus saw.

Gerry Badger spent the day at home, or in people’s homes. There’s an art studio, a garden shed-cum-darkroom, and other scenes from around the house. The English Football team colors appear many times—The 2010 FIFA World Cup started on 11 June—and I presume the Weltmeister Blues referenced in the title of Badger’s book reference either a particular loss (or win) on June 21 (Brazil defeated Ivory Coast, Chile defeated Switzerland, Spain defeated Honduras), or the malaise of waiting around for England’s match to start (they defeated Slovenia on June 23, and lost to Germany in the Final round). I suspect it’s more the waiting around for something to happen, as it seems like Badger just paced around the house all day.

Harvey Benge spent a day near his home in Auckland: took in the laundry, sent his daughter off to school, read the paper, went to a used bookstore and for coffee, played some pinball, walked around some, etc. Many of these could almost be a weekend day out of my life: though the scenes and people are unfamiliar, the general sense of movement seems similar to what I might photograph, if I shot a roll in one day.

John Gossage’s “Waking in Warhol’s Bed” was shot in Baltimore and Washington, as he traveled through the day with his usual eye for light and the beauty of the mundane. I’m still not convinced by Gossage, really, and I’ve spent a good amount of time with his more recent pomodori a grappolo. His “seeing” is incredible, or so I’ve heard, but I still just don’t get it. The light is beautiful, and sometimes his compositions are interesting, but there’s almost nothing to draw me in or hold my interest. I guess I should keep trying, as many photographers I respect (and who know much more about it than I) just adore Gossage.

Todd Hido spent the day in Oakland and Modesto with Khrystyna, his regular model/muse. Together, they tell a rather heavy-handed story of a young woman “on the fringe,” as one reviewer put it. She wakes up, lounges around for awhile, then gets dressed. She’s at first comfortable, if a little bit guarded, but later looks quite distressed. The story is broken up by a photograph of some adds for models and/or dates, and then the woman goes out for the night, where she’s seen in a sort of party outfit with some garish makeup, and, after what appears to be some romantic encounters and a mysterious photograph of a semi truck with the front windows curtained,  ends up crying and disheveled, with a bloody knee, struggling to pull up her pantyhose.  (Interestingly, a few of these pictures wind up in Hido’s Intimate Distance and on Landscapes, Interiors, and the Nude.)

Rob Hornstra visits a couple of men in Utrecht, photographing them, their houses and belongings, and the walk between their houses. His photographs capture the personalities and environments brilliantly.

Rinko Kawauchi’s Fundamental Cycles documents a train journey from Shiga to Tokyo. She admires some trees and dew-covered leaves on her way to the train, then daydreams about butterflies and flowers for a few minutes before turning her attention to scenes outside the windows: tunnels, countrysides, villages, passing trains, all blurred by the speeding train. At the end of the journey, she once again turns her attention to trees and the nighttime landscape.

Eva Maria Ocherbauer shot her A Midsummer Day’s Dream in Felgentreu, Germany. Some of her images appear to be manipulated, with animal vertebra, and something that looks like a Donkey costume inserted into some of the photographs of woods and weeds. I think there’s a story there, but I don’t really get it.

Martin Parr spent a day at home in Bristol. Each picture is captioned with the activity and time the photograph was made. He brushed his teeth at 6:12, made a cup of tea at 6:16, took the dog for a walk at 6:33, etc. At 10:56 some photobooks arrived, and his wife seems as pleased to see more books arriving as mine does… He worked for a few hours, then fed the dog, showed off a new suit, cooked dinner for friends (salmon, wrapped in foil, and cooked in the dishwasher with no soap… I’ll have to try that one day), washed up, had another cup of tea (peppermint this time), and ended the day with a sleeping pill at 11:32pm. Nice day, I guess, but the photographs are a bit off the cuff and snapshotty, much less composed than some of his other work.

Alec Soth shot Gus the Great with a new Fuji Instax camera around the house in Minneapolis, focusing mostly on his son Gus, and scenes from the viewpoint of Gus. The scans are impressive and large, but they’re clearly Instax, with the blown highlights going to black, and the wonderful way that film renders things that are too close for the limited focus range of the Instax cameras.

Together, the individual volumes in One Day are a little bit uneven. All the photographers seem to work in a similar style, more or less, and while most seem to tell a story of the day or try to construct a loose narrative, I’m not sure all of them succeed. Hido is an overwrought exception, though I really love his work in general, and Hornstra’s walk from one friend’s house to another’s is exceptional. The others mostly leave me flat, and Parr just phoned it in, more or less.

The book covers and slipcase are made cheap-looking chipboard, but they all seems fairly well put together, and the books are nicely printed and bound. But at ~$200 list, it seems a bit expensive for what it is, and only really for hardcore photobook collectors, I think. Sure, the concept is interesting enough, but the results are a bit paltry.

Concept
Content
Design

Overall, One Day gets 3.3 stars.

That jungle site still has a few copies available new for ~$70 off list, and they’re readily available for $100 used (I got mine with a 50% off coupon from HPB, and I guess that was a good-enough deal, maybe). So if you’re a fan of one or more of the included photographers and strive to collect all their printed works, One Day should be in your library. Otherwise, maybe give it a miss.

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