The following are in no particular order of preference, but might be in the order they fell through my letterbox.
Scattered Waters, Thomas Joshua Cooper. Published by Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh. 96 pages, hardback, RRP £30.
Here's a photography book for photographers, it speaks the language of photography quietly and elegantly. It's a remarkably unshowy, contemplative work, which, while not exactly referencing other photographers manages to speak in their tongue, in tone, rhythm and in the pure joy of the surface of the silver print. Okay, it's a book, so they aren't silver prints at all, but it seems to retain many of their qualities.
There's nothing clever or original about the concept - following rivers from source to sea - yet it would be a lesser book without it; it is the gel that binds it together much like the binding of the spine. Perhaps it's a little stale, safe, comfortable? He doesn't attempt to redefine the language of photography, but to utilise it as poetry. There are worse sins. And maybe, just maybe it’s better for avoiding such ’youthful’ concerns.
The question I'd ask is how many others can pull this off so successfully? I fear my reply might be few if they allow themselves to be defined by their tools rather than expressing themselves through them. This is the complacency of photography today, which Cooper does much to promote in his controlled public image. It seems odd for a professor of photography to have so little to actually say, at least in public. The emphasis on analogue tradition seems designed to appeal to ’photo world’, while saying nothing about creativity itself.
Having said that, the pictures do speak of more; there are so many distinct representations of the forms of the water as it evolves along its journey. A visual hymn to the river, with a visual integrity many of us would do well to follow. Its apparent simplicity is also, perhaps, its poetry. That musicality of the hymn is mirrored in the rhythms, the gentle tonality and the wash of the waves. Because if there’s a secondary, underlying concept, it is a visual mimicry of the sounds of the river. It's that which raises it up above so many wannabes. As ever, it is ideas and their expression which breathe new life into old language.