Week 9 , Clare Gallagher 20.03.20
In week 9 I ordered and received the book ‘The second shift’ after watching Clare Gallagher , Winner of Backlight & Jelgavas Tipografija Book Award & The Guardian’s Top 15 Photography Books of 2019
The book is just over A5 size portrait orientation, and fabric bound in a light teal linen, with a half cover dust jacket, one which is the cropped image of Gallagher’s where her sink had been blocked with vegetable stew for a few days and a bug had fallen into the sink and was trapped in the food.
The first thing I am struck by is how by lighting, colour choices and a soft focus , Gallagher has managed to make this really quite disgusting , vile thing , really quite beautiful. The grey f the water in the sink sits against the tea of the blue cover beautifully and reminds me of the sea, and all the things living in it, but not, oddly in a disgusting way.
I took inspiration from this album cover (FIG 2) and dustjacket for my own album which has a 3/4 height dust jacket, and the front cover of which is an image of oska hoovering (FIG 1). I used this image as it was quite antagonistic, some people assume anyone who home educates their child must be abusing them in some way, neglecting them. Things like cleaning, cooking etc are life skills that come under the umbrella of learning, but when one physically sees a child doing those things out of context, if it is not our child, that can be dividing.
Gallagher has a similar use of light and shadow in her images as I do in mine, and I definitely see similarities in some of the ways we capture our children and our lives. She works with a large format film camera and you can really see this in the depth of the images, with their shadows, it feels like you could just climb or melt into them.
She uses lots of earthy tones through the book, wherether that is meant to remind you of dirt or not I am not sure, but it makes me feel homely, not like the images are messy or dirty.
I also really appreciate the way she has used text throughout the book, making sure it is in there, but utilising smaller pages, so they aren’t the focus, but are almost like our memories, sitting inbetween the big things that happen in our lives. Maybe a metaphor for the fact that the little things, the everyday things in the images are what is really important , that connectivity of family, with the nagging voice as text less prominent, as really, it’s just the ‘fluff’ and isn’t important, no matter what the demons in our heads tell us all about how rubbish a parent we are !
One of my favourite images is of Gallagher’s boys reading Harry Potter, she spoke about this on her guest lecture, their tangle of limbs, the closeness and bond between them, and the connection, but the tension between all the body parts in the book. It is a beautiful image.
Her images seeming to me to bring the tenderness and nostalgia of Sian Davey’s images of her daughter Alice, and combine them with the drama of Elinore Carucci’s images, and their dramatic lighting.
The write up in the guardian says “For all that, Gallagher is a quiet photographer, a creator of intimately observed details that can often approach the dreamlike” (O’hagan 17.12.2019) and this is what I am most drawn to in her images, that in amongst the craziness we know much exist in her house, there is all this quiet peacefulness, that she finds it, and focuses on it, it is like a meditation, and I love that about it. It is unapologetically beautiful.
Gallagher, Claire. The second shift. 2019. Available at https://www.claregallagher.co.uk/the-second-shift-book (Accessed 20.03.20)
O’hagan, Sean. 17.12.2019. Top 15 photography books of 2019. The guardian.Available at https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2019/dec/17/top-15-photography-books-of-2019 (Accessed 26.04.2020)
fig 1, Graham. Rebecca. April 2020. Album cover
Fig 2, Gallagher claire, the second shift.
Fig 3. Gallagher, Claire. The second shift.