So to help with our research and planning for assignment 1, we were told to bring in a photo book that had some relation to the topic we were studying. The reason for this was so that we could get an idea as what our books could look at, but to also give us some tips for presentation as well.
So the book I chose was Is this place great or what by Brian Ulrich. Like the title says, the book is focused on supermarkets. But from the cover it is only the cover picture that tells you this, as the book is covered in a blue feltish material. And when you open the book, the cover inside is designed to look like it is receipts; this further boosts the idea of the book is based on supermarkets, but also highlights a more hidden theme of consumerism.
So just from the inside cover we are already immersed with this theme, dragging us right into it. And when we move into the books, it is interesting to see that actually the book is split into 3 different parts, but even though they are all on the same theme they are completely different.
The first part focuses more on the generic idea of a supermarket (In America though, where the book is published) on showing multiple rows of aisles, customers and so on. This is to show the typical supermarkets that we are used to seeing (although for someone from the UK, an American supermarket is almost alien to us.) Yet we are shown the complacent life style shoppers have, with everything available to buy; you may question this, but when guns are shown to be bought then it seems impossible.
The second section is a complete contrast to the first. Ulrich focuses more on the thrift shops that shoppers go to, due to how some people have major money issues and cannot afford some of the prices for items that are bumped up solely for a name of a brand.
Yet also we are shown the hard life workers have as well. Because as consumers we only tend to focus on buying the items we need without giving a second thought to the workers, so seeing the other side of things is an eye opener for us.
For me, I gained some more respect for the workers for the effort they out in to make sure everything is ok for us consumers.
The last section I feel is the most powerful, and it is from this that I have taken the most inspiration from. In his last section called Dark Stores, he has taken pictures of abandoned shops that have now closed down, yet have not been knocked down or replaced by something else.
It’s interesting because with the theme of his book being on retail, it’s interesting to see the darker side of things. This part of the series was created when the recession was coming into full power, with consumerism fully affected. This caused many stores to close down due to a lack of sales.
This was a great book to look at, as it was a great way for me to get an idea about what photo books are like, in the way they are bound, covered and produced. As so far, without my images, it has been hard to get an idea about what my book could be like.
But it was also good to look at to think about the sequencing of either pictures or splitting the book into various parts. As you have to carefully think about every single thing in order to just make the book right and flow well. As one picture could work well in the place you put it, but then it could all change when you add in another book too.
In Ulrich’s book, I personally don’t think the actual pictures themselves are placed into a specific order (not one that I could spot that is.) However it is the order of the sections that is carefully places; with Ulrich spending multiple years on just one section alone, it is obvious he has put obvious thought into the layout of the book.
So to see these derelict stores is quite staggering yet sad at the same time, as going to shops is part of our lives. So in relation to my idea, I have begun to think about if Coventry Market itself has been affected by bad times with recession, but also with the amount of supermarkets and shops in the area. It is so much easier for the customer to go to these shops due to the easier access and delivery, so would the market be affected by these things?