Book Review: Questions without Answers
The World in Pictures by the Photographers of VII
This book contains over 50 different photographic series from 11 of the major photographers from the agency VII. The book contains 368 pages and is sized slightly larger than A4. Although many of the images are in black and white those that are shot in colour are gloriously presented. The paper seems to vary in weight and in several instances I thought that two pages had stuck together such was the quality. Each of the photographers has their own chapter and the chapters commence with a brightly coloured insert. In addition to the photo work there is an introductory essay by David Friend.
If you were as quick off the mark as I was, you may be able to get hold of a special edition that has been signed by 7 of the photographers – see the photo and imagine my grinning face being very happy at my purchase!
As for the book itself I totally love it. I used to think of the Magnum agency as the best photo agency but after a chat with a photography lecturer at the University of Wales, Newport was introduced to the works of VII. As the book is a compilation piece the variety of images means that there is something in there to please any viewer.
My favourite works from the book are:
Ageing in America by Ed Kashi. This is a powerful series that challenges the common perception of the elderly population. The series opens with an elderly man lifting weights and moves onto a marriage between a couple in their eighties. The series turns darker and covers death and the impact and loneliness it has on surviving friends and relatives. I’m impressed by the bravery of the subjects at letting Kashi into their lives at such a sensitive moment. The use of black and white enhances the emotion of the images and removes the distraction of colour. I would have liked to have seen some of the shots in colour for a more contemporary feel but I can understand why Kashi chose his route.
Lost Lives by John Stanmeyer. This is a series that investigates appalling mental health care in the growing economies in China and Indonesia. I don’t think that the facilities shown can be blamed for the huge overcrowding and squalid conditions and Stanmeyer seems to be pointing the finger at the respective governments. The use of colour in these shots is very bold and the framing and lighting of each image is deliberately stark. Taken in 2003 the conditions feel reminiscent of Victorian Britain and it would be interesting if he went back and recorded if any changes had occurred as a result of his work.
If it’s still in stock you can buy the signed version of the book HERE, the site contains more shots of the pages and further information about VII and the photographers involved.