This septic isle, this mundane paradise
Continuing in the tradition of the 'Crap Town' books this very wry and funny book captures the essence of the real Britain in a few hundred color photos. Originally on display in the Caravan Gallery, a mustard-colored 1969 home-from-home that tours the country and presents to whoever feels like stepping inside an affectionate look at our endearing shabbiness.
The two authors have scoured the land for some wonderfully offbeat images including little trains, markets, dogs, bins, derelict garages and shops, seaside, burnt out cars, picnics, toilets, food, litter or graffiti. A spread just called Chicken has eleven photos of premises such as Hentucky Fried Chicken, Chicken 'U' Like, Chicken Cottage and Chick 'O' Land. The chapter on Smut shows two street signs, Canal St. and Morgan Street both are missing the first letter of each word.
Scattered throughout the pages are several of the Caravan Gallery parody postcards like AWARD WINNING PORTSMOUTH with four photos including the recently torn down Tricorn Centre, RELAXING BRACKNELL showing four sad looking public benches, GARDENS OF ENGLAND: predictably suburban flagstone and concrete gardens and don't forget the dead conifers.
Wonderful though these photos are I thought it was unfortunate that they were let down by the book's design (so four stars). Magnum photographer Martin Parr in his book 'Think of England' (ISBN 0714839906) took a similar photographic take on the cliché of Englishness but in his book the images work so well because they were presented in the formal format of the photobook. I think Williams and Teasdale's work deserve a much better presentation than the bland layouts and dull typography in 'Welcome to Britain'. It is sort of ironic that these two brilliantly capture the ordinariness of British life only to have it presented in a very ordinary looking book.
2007 UPDATE The Caravan Gallery has issued another book: 'Is Britain Great?' fortunately in a proper photobook format.
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