Having purchased the book ‘Soccer in Wonderland’ by Julian Germain, I enjoyed the magazine style philosophy which encompasses a range of unrelated stories brought together under the theme of football through the eyes of the fans. The book explores a range of perspectives and in addition to collections of old photographs, Sebbuteo figures and old football stickers, solid colour backgrounds in various colours to represent different teams with one spread in the style of 1970s wallpaper. All serve to create an experience of consumption that creates a sense nostalgic adventure as the reader/view is unsure of where they are going to be taken next on the journey. I found this approach really interesting and sets Germain’s work aside from other more conventional approaches to photograph books. I find find his curation of this book outstanding.
It has been a few days since I first picked up the book and in that time I have been thinking about the work whilst pontificating on how to write about such a disjointed, random and hugely enjoyable piece of work. In recent weeks I have also been reading on the subject and philosophy of poetry whilst trying to decode the similarities between poetry and photography. One could argue that in Germain’s approach to the creation of this book is almost poetic, the ideas of Riffaterre in Culler (1981,p 89) assert:
‘Reading a poem is a quest for unity, and unity is achieved or perceived only when the reader abandons the apparent referential or representational meaning of the discourse and grasps the unifying feature of factor that the various signs of the poem express by indirection’.
When consuming a book of photographic work, my expectations were to find a type of linear narrative of some description. Without knowing what type of narrative, or where that narrative would take the individual, the expectation was to find something that makes sense to an audience. This expectation may conform to what Riffaterre describes as ‘a quest for unity’ . My expectations would definitely conform to a type of quest for union, resolution or understandability when consuming the Germain book. This may be due to a position of being a media teacher with a moderate level of subject literacy. Dictated by curriculums and learning outcomes as I am approaching 10 years into my career. However, this reading has had a personal impact on an ideological level and unlocked doors or ways to compose a body of work beyond the obvious.
The disjuncture in this book and the recent contextualisation of such an approach may be summarised by Riffaterre when he refers to ‘abandoning representational meaning… grasps the unifying factors’. The unifying feature of the book being the signs which create the compartmentalised view of a football fan reflecting on their experience of the game in a broad sense. Whether that be bedroom wallpaper, diving headers or old photographs.
In making this initial connection I feel that I have achieved a personal milestone as it may represent that I am beginning to think at the level of a successful MA student. I have tried very hard to cope with the demands of this course I feel that this development is the biggest reward so far.
Culler, J (1982) Culler, The Persuit of Signs, Routledge, London.
Germain, J (1994) Booth-Clibborn Editions, London.