To celebrate the acquisition of the Tom Phillips archive, the Bodleian Library has asked the artist to assemble and design a series of books drawing on his themed collection of over 50,000 photographic postcards. These encompass the first half of the twentieth century, a period in which, thanks to the ever cheaper medium of photography, 'ordinary' people could afford to own their portraits. The first two titles in the series will be available November 2010.
Readers, with a foreword by David Lodge, shows people reading, or pretending to read a wide range of material from The Bible to Film Fun, at home, while holidaying on the beach, or in the photographer's studio.
Women in Hats, with a foreword by Philip Treacy, explores the world of millinery from outrageous Edwardian creations to the inventive austerities of the Second World War.
Each book contains 200 images and the covers feature a thematically designed painting especially created for each title from Tom Phillips signature work, A Humument.
Richard Morphet, curator and postcard expert, writes "These books will fascinate anyone interested in humanity or in the contrivances of image-making. Retrieving notionally commonplace portrait photos c.1900-1950 and grouping them by reference to supposedly merely accessory motifs they contain, Phillips reveals the ordinary as almost wondrous, its posed citizens as participants in mysterious rituals or cults. Whether bizarre, absurd, pretentious, sad or hilarious, these lost sitters are, however, presented by Phillips with the warm sympathy and open-mindedness that, reaffirming human dignity, is a hallmark of his art as a whole."
Martin Parr, photographer and postcard collector writes "Tom Phillips has one of the greatest postcard collections in the world - the ultimate archive of British citizens from the turn of the century."
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