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Book of the Week: A Pick by Sarah Bradley

Book of the Week Book of the Week: A Pick by Sarah Bradley Sarah Bradley selects On A Good Day by Al Vandenberg as Book of the Week.
On A Good DayBy Al VandenbergStanley/Barker, 2016.
Sarah Bradley selects On A Good Day by Al Vandenberg from Stanley/Barker as Book of the Week.

"At first glance On A Good Day by Al Vandenberg may not seem that unique. It’s street photography from London focused mostly on youth and shot in the 70s and 80s. And yeah, perhaps the 'wait 50 years' rule that Blake Andrews mentioned in his review of Look into My Eyes by Kevin Bubriski applies to some degree. The clothes and hair are certainly fun to look at, but this book is carried by something subtler.

The design is clean and straightforward with just the right amount of attention to detail with rounded corners and the occasional image printed on a shorter page, which helps keep the pace lively. The printing is fantastic with gorgeous deep blacks. There’s nothing flashy going on here. Vandenberg’s subjects are shot against walls and storefronts that create a uniform yet varied backdrop. The storefronts are particularly interesting for their details, and the book presents the images almost as if we are viewing a continuous street scene. Young, often smiling faces look back at us, stylish and lively, yet somehow also ordinary. Even when Lemmy shows up looking every bit Lemmy but so so young, he kind of just looks like everyone else. And I mean that in the best way — they all seem special, notable, memorable. Some kids express attitude, but no one poses with excessive seriousness, often falling into casual arrangements reflective of relationships or state of mind. And regardless of what else might be detected in those gestures — shyness or cockiness or awkwardness — they all seem happy to be photographed. Many smile and laugh a little bit as if flattered, while all stand with the slightly startled confidence gifted by an unexpected compliment. In his afterword, Martin Barnes describes Vandenberg’s approach to making these images: 'I photograph on a good day, when I feel good and the subject feels good.'

There are exceptional portraits made by catching someone unaware — it is something else all together to make the act of photography an interaction, an active exchange where the photographer looks and the subjects look back, something passing between them. So, you’ve seen images like this before, but really you haven’t because these photographs were made by Al Vandenberg on good days, and on good days Vandenberg’s subjects would reflect something of him — openness maybe, positivity, joy — back at the lens."—Sarah Bradley

Purchase Book

On A Good DayBy Al VandenbergStanley/Barker, 2016.
On A Good DayBy Al VandenbergStanley/Barker, 2016.

photo by Brandon Soder

Sarah Bradley is a writer, sculptor and the Editor of photo-eye Blog. She recently worked with Meow Wolf on the exhibition The House of Eternal Return.

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