Miranda Gavin | Photobook Review #1

#1 Photobook Review:
ON by Eamonn Doyle

Miranda Gavin @ Photofusion

Welcome to the first of my photo publication reviews, which will be a mix of video, images shot on my iPhone, and a short text—it makes sense in our multimedia era to take a varied approach to the reviewing of books.

I have selected three publications from The Photographers’ Gallery bookshop of those put aside for me to look at, each with differing price points; one of £50 or under, one of £20 or under, and one of £10 or under. They are arranged in order of preference, starting with my favourite book of the three. In reviews, I will probably select two books—£50 and under and £20 and under—however, sometimes it may just be one, depending on what grabs me.

What struck me after I looked at my choice of photo books to take home and digest is that all of them have no text, bar the minimum relating to print edition, publisher, date of publication, copyright and ISBN. I’ve been around a lot of words recently, reading and writing texts, and perhaps this is a reaction to the last month.

ON by Eamonn Doyle is a bold, confident book that demands to be touched, opened, and then lingered upon. From the outset, the viewer has the choice of three primary-colour covers in red, green and blue, printed with colour foils and deboss, and bearing the same Matisse-like cover design. This choice suggests the RGB rendering of computer screens, as opposed to the CMYK of print photography, but as with every aspect of this book, there is no clearly defined meaning. At first I deliberated between red and green, but opted for the latter colour with its cut out curvilinear design in silver with three black shapes that imply an electric light bulb (is this a reference to the title, ON, I wondered?), the lower part of a leg and the pupil of an eye.

Miranda Gavin Photobook Review

The back cover is similarly free of writing, bar the title ON. Indeed, the only written text pertains to publishing details and is to be found on the spine of the publication where this limited edition book, number 049 G / 999, is recorded. I can only conclude that 333 copies have been printed in green, 333 in red, and 333 in blue. Doyle is a man who, it appears, takes note of numbers and the sequencing of 333, 666, and 999, could itself be analysed, but not here. The inside front and back covers are given over to commanding double-page black-and-white images that catapult the viewer straight into Doyle’s world and on a ground-up journey through the streets of a strange multifaceted city.

In the absence of captions, the various locations can be identified in some photographs by the presence of written signs; an incomplete neon word (ublin), drink containers (Burger King), and in other images by signs in Russian and other Central and East European languages. This further destabilises the viewer, who is never certain, though the mix of locations, types and ages of people is so varied, that it suggests a number of countries, or a fabricated multi-cultural city. With the use of dramatic shadows and anonymous figures, there is more than a hint of film noir, or equally, using a literary reference there is a sense of alienation as conjured up by Kafka. Doyle’s street subjects are captured en route to unknown destinations. The figures inhabiting the frame become monumental in the way they dominate space. Sometimes the human form is truncated and fragmented, which, coupled with recurrent diagonal and triangular motifs, creates a dynamism that is offset by the odd photograph that captures flight and freedom, such as a pigeon shot from below, untied to land. Additionally, there is a surrealist twist to the photographs, as with the Magritte-like image of the top of a bowler hat set against an expansive sky.

Bursts of green are overlaid upon a few black-and-white images throughout the book, depending upon the colour of the cover, producing a filter-like effect as they impact upon the usually white borders of the photographs, thus adding a further dimension to the depth and breadth of the work. Priced at £50 (€70), this is a beautiful book measuring 14 inch x 11.5 inch with gorgeous tri-tone printing and a marked attention to detail and design throughout that more than makes up for its higher cost. I have no doubt that ON will become highly collectable. Sadly, I will have to part with it as all the books in my reviews will be returned and added to the Members’ photo book library at Photofusion. Happily, for the reader, you will have an opportunity to enjoy this book.

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Photobook Details
ON Photobook
Photos by Eamonn Doyle
Limited edition #049 G/999

Limited edition of 999
Three different covers printed with colour foils and deboss.
333 of each cover
14 inch x 11.5 inch [38.5cm x 28.5cm]
104 pages. 51 Black & White tritone printed images printed on Lessebo design naturel 150 gm paper
Published by DI Dublin, Ireland, 2015
Design by PONY Ltd
Print by MM Artbook Printing & Repo, Luxembourg
Binding by Van Warden, Netherlands
ISBN 978-0-9928487-1-2
© Eamonn Doyle & DI