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Book Review: i


Book Review i By Eamonn Doyle Reviewed by Colin Pantall “The best new street photobook I have seen for a decade.” That’s what Martin Parr says about Eamonn Doyle’s i, a collection of portraits from the streets of Dublin. High praise indeed. Praise that will see the book sold out and being auctioned for unlikely prices on eBay in the next couple of months. The question is does the book deserve it?

i. By Eamonn Doyle.
D1, 2014.
 
i
Reviewed by Colin Pantall

i
By Eamonn Doyle
Out-of-Print
D1, 2014. 74 pp., 30 color illustrations, 13½x9¾". 

“The best new street photobook I have seen for a decade.” That’s what Martin Parr says about Eamonn Doyle’s i, a collection of portraits from the streets of Dublin.

High praise indeed. Praise that will see the book sold out and being auctioned for unlikely prices on eBay in the next couple of months. The question is does the book deserve it?

Well, yes, it probably does. It’s a handsome book with the title i embossed on the cloth-bound cover. Open it up and, after a couple of black end papers, you’re into a series of pictures of backs. The first one is of a woman in a pink coat and a headscarf that may be, but probably isn’t, made by Hermes. She’s shot from above and her whole body fills the frame. Her head is tilted down so she seems to be in thought and the black shadowed edge of the headscarf gives a hint of piety; is she a nun in civilian clothing?

i. By Eamonn Doyle. D1, 2014.

Probably not. But flick forward and there is a nun to link into the headscarf theme. She seems older, her back is bent under the burdens that life has had to offer and she is also looking down. But this time you can see the side of her face. Is she looking down in thought, in prayer or into a bag. We don’t know but the theme of backs bent over is one that runs through the book. Go through the pages and you see scarves and coats and bags and backs. This is a book of curves and textures and the weight of the world on people’s shoulders. Old people’s shoulders.

i. By Eamonn Doyle. D1, 2014.

There’s a woolly fleece, grubby at the ends of the sleeves. The preceding picture shows a woman (is she Asian?) in a creased dress/coat that goes down to the woman’s ankles. The back of this woman’s head seems as ruffled as her dress and the bag she is carrying.

A double page spread shows two men sitting on metal benches. Both have been photographed from above, one from in front and one from behind. They both look poor but there is a story going on here. The man on the left has clean clothes as though he’s just been to an interview or appointment (an interview or appointment that, if it ever existed, didn’t go well), the man on the right wears a jacket that is stained on the shoulder, with flecks of dandruff on the shirt collar. It’s disappointment paired with resignation.

i. By Eamonn Doyle. D1, 2014.

Another double page spread shows the same man walking towards and away from the camera. Again, the hair, the coat and the bend of the shoulders tell a story that combines with the man’s vein lined face. It’s the pavement he looks at when he walks and the world he avoids. There’s a sense of both texture and loneliness here. Doyle is walking an unlikely line between the work of Krass Klement and Bruce Gilden in being both very direct in isolating both the key signs of the disintegration of old age and capturing its quiet sadness.

i. By Eamonn Doyle. D1, 2014.

i is a fascinating book of small stories told through a basic vocabulary of clothing, posture and the direction of the gaze. It’s not that consistent in some ways. The light, the lenses, the angles all vary, but this does not really matter because the visual vocabulary gives the book a coherence it might otherwise lack. And because of this vocabulary, and the repeated representation of the old throughout the book, i hits the street photography sweet spot; that rich or poor, well-dressed or badly-dressed, clean or dirty, the street is a democratic arena where the weight of the world sits equally on everybody’s shoulders.—COLIN PANTALL

This book is now out-of-print.

COLIN PANTALL is a UK-based writer and photographer. He is a contributing writer for the British Journal of Photography and a Senior Lecturer in Photography at the University of Wales, Newport. http://colinpantall.blogspot.com

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