“For me, too many photographs are full of chatter and noise and movement," says John Myers, whose new book hones in on apparently unremarkable scenes from British suburbia in the 1970s
John Myers is back with new book called Looking at the Overlooked – a good title for a photographer who specialises in images of the unremarkable, and also himself nearly fell from photographic history. Working in Britain’s post-industrial Midlands from 1973-1981, Myers created an archive of the unspectacular that attracted attention at the time but then lay undisturbed for 30 years until a chance meeting with a curator. A solo show at Birmingham’s Ikon Gallery followed in 2011, kick-starting a comprehensive reappraisal at his work that’s resulted in more solo shows and several publications.
Looking at the Overlooked is published by RBB Photobooks, which also published a collection of Myer’s portraits earlier this year. But where The Portraits focused in on pictures of people, Looking at the Overlooked is a glorious compendium of “the claustrophobia of the suburban landscape in the 1970s”. Focusing in on substations, shops, houses, televisions, and so-called “landscapes without incident” – or as Myers puts it, “boring photographs” – the images are all recorded with a deadpan aesthetic that’s won Myers comparisons to the celebrated New Topographics movement in the US.
It’s not a comparison he’s keen on though, especially as many of his images were taken before the New Topographics show in 1975 – and as he wasn’t aware of the photographers involved with it until many years later. “It was a different time to now, it’s hard to remember just how scarce images were,” Myers told BJP when The Portraits came out. “Now you can get things on screen, in the early 1970s there was only a smattering of images available.
“When I give a talk, I often start by handing out a sheet of paper with a list of interests and influences in 1972-75. The names run across just half a side of A4. There aren’t that many on it, and it includes people I was interested in on the basis of one or two images.”
“I think one of kind of great problems in a lot of photography is that photographers think they’re creating a story,” he added. “For me, too many photographs are full of chatter and noise and movement – newspapers are sold on the basis of noise, the more noise you can generate the better, and photographers go down that route. But what I enjoy is work that is silent. August Sander, Eugene Atget, even Walker Evans, the photographs are silent.”
Looking at the Overlooked by John Myers will be published by RRB Photobooks in January 2019, priced £75; copies can be preordered www.rrbphotobooks.com/pages/john-myers-looking-at-the-overlooked
John Myers will discuss his new publication Looking at the Overlooked at the Martin Parr Foundation, Bristol, UK on 08 January 2019; he will also be signing copies of the book. Tickets cost £8/£6 students www.martinparrfoundation.org/events/john-myers/
Read BJP’s previous interviews with John Myers here: