portrait of this blog's author - by Stephen Blackman 2008

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Essence of Britishness, Through the Eyes of an Under-Recognized Portrait Photographer

the work of John Myers

I wasn't sure whether I knew the work of John Myers but it reminds me of the work of fellow art student back in the day, as they say, of fine art photographer Tom Wood. 

The New Yorker magazine did a spread
The Essence of Britishness, Through the Eyes of an Under-Recognized Portrait PhotographerIn the spring of 1972, a British photographer named John Myers, then in his late twenties, started taking portraits of his neighbors in and around the town of Stourbridge, in England’s West Midlands. He worked principally with a five-by-four-inch Gandolfi plate camera. His subjects were ordinary men, women, and children, usually portrayed alone, though sometimes grouped together. Very few were smiling, and none looked at the camera with an aspect more optimistic than that of mild resignation. For this viewer, who grew up in nineteen-seventies England, there is a recognizable quality of Britishness to Myers’s pictures, whether or not it is explicitly signalled. The image chosen to open the book, “David in Knight’s Armour,” from 1974, shows a small boy dressed in Crusader’s regalia and brandishing a plastic sword, a lion rampant on his breastplate. In one image, a leather-clad motorcyclist has decorated his bike with a small Union Jack; in another, a proud car salesman displays the British flag above the desk in his office. But the Englishness is evident, too, in the irremediably damp crevices in the brickwork of buildings or between the paving stones of sidewalks, and in the hunched shoulders of Myers’s subjects, many of whom look to be feeling a little chilly, physically and emotionally. In their formal poses, they seem as conscious of their status as the objects of an artist’s gaze as any Renaissance Pope or Regency monarch.

New Yorker - John Myers by Rebecca Mead

“Terry and Linda in their Flat,” 1973

“Richard Smith,” 1973

“Michelle,” 1974

“Robert,” 1973.

“Young Girl,” 1973

“Paul and Richard,” 1973.

“David in Knight’s Armour,” 1974.

“Motorcyclist and Combination,” 1973.
"Green Lane, Lye" - 1973
Rebecca Mead joined The New Yorker as a staff writer in 1997. She is the author of “My Life in Middlemarch.”

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