Robin Maddock / God Forgotten Face / with an introduction by Martin Parr
Introduction by Martin Parr:
Robin Maddock is fast gaining a reputation as a new photographer to watch, and this, his second book, God Forgotten Face is ostensibly about Plymouth, a city in the very West of England.
This is not a book that the local tourist board will be using to promote the city though, as he features an array of strange people, urban details and images of night activity that inform us about the real city rather than the usual PR gloss. They do all add up to a most engaging take on the city and Maddock’s relationship with this.
The final rub, is that the book is dedicated both for and against Bianca, his now former girlfriend, and it is this contradiction that seems to best summarise the method of application he has cunningly developed through this book.
- Martin Parr
Robin Maddock’s Statement:
With this project I wanted to make a quite open work about England today, so I moved to Plymouth where my father’s family is from. The place always scared me a bit when visiting from Singapore as a child when I grew up. Maybe I sensed the ongoing trauma it has after being bombed flat during the war. So in a way it was this fear of the wild west which attracted me. Plymouth embodied our confidence in the Elizabethan age, so I felt it to be a good place to think about our confidence and direction now in the era of declining of western power.
Though surrounded by amazing natural beauty in its landscapes, like many provincial English cities, Plymouth is virtually an art-free town. I think of all those fountains built into it in the 50s and the fact that they are all turned off. To the Romans, fountains were seen as the sources of inspiration. That’s the kind of question I wanted to think about when picturing us now in the UK, particularly as part of this great history of Plymouth, what do we believe in now?
Isolation shaped this project in two ways. Firstly, I started out by thinking about the way being so far from removed from the centre of media power and image creation affects a place and its people. Later, more tellingly, I found that as a Londoner of 15 years, I was now a clear outsider here myself. I had my own creeping personal isolation to deal with.
In my two years there, what felt most clear to me was people’s stoicism against the hardness of the imposed post-war planning. (I’m sure Owen Hatherley who did a great essay for God Forgotten Face would disagree, being a Modernist puritan!). Relying on a few pints, Plymouth Argyle and some West Country humour to get by, ‘Janners’ triumph by loving their town. In spite of the age-old brutality typical of naval towns, relatively poor since the retreat of the navy, there is an admirable dark humour and generosity here. This was certainly a discovery that changed the work at both the shooting stage and in the editing/sequencing of the work with Gigi at Trolley Books.
In God Forgotten Face I tried to make an honest account of a time as well as a place, as Plymouth’s now more part of my story, too. Yet of course I hope people might still recognise themselves, in their town, in 2011.
- Robin Maddock
Robin Maddock’s most recent book, God Forgotten Face with text by Owen Hatherley is published by Trolley Books. A solo exhibition of new work from Plymouth will open at T.J. Boulting Gallery, London, on 2 May 2012.