Several years ago we announced the discovery of a number of copies of Brian Griffin’s extremely rare classic photobook ‘Open’, which featured in Martin Parr and Gerry Badger’s The Photobook: A History, vol. 2.
We had thought that these were all sold out but during lockdown we discovered a small number of copies of both the standard edition and the collector's edition hidden at the back in our local storage. We are making them available at the same price as we first launched them when they were rediscovered.
Published in 1986 in an edition of only 350 copies, Brian found himself too occupied with other projects to be able to focus on selling all the print run and put the balance into temporary store. Some twenty five years later he rediscovered them!
As Parr and Badger note, “Griffin came to prominence in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the generation of Chris Killip, Graham Smith, and John Davies amongst others. However, he positioned himself at a remove from the prevailing social documentary ideology of British photography at that time. In the early 1970s,
He was ‘discovered’ by Roland Schenk, art editor of the magazine, Management Today, and began a highly successful career taking corporate portraits… Yet his style was always slightly subversive, its surreal qualities gently ‘biting the hand that fed him’….”
Quirky portraits, enigmatic still lifes and landscapes in a similar vein, all appear in Open, which was self-published along with a number of other photobooks by Griffin under the imprint Black Pudding. These were projects of self-expression as well as being ‘calling cards’.
“Open was made after the death of his father and of his close friend, the graphic designer Barney Bubbles. It serves as a memorial. You have to open the book to get to heaven, but opening it – cutting the tape and folded pages – destroys it. The book is a metaphor for life, the further we get into it, the more knowledge we gain, but the closer we are to the final end and its closure. Like all Griffin’s books, it has higher production values than the usual self-published photobooks of the period and is presented like a Japanese book, where packaging is everything. Such a concept also has a special commercial advantage, because serious book collectors are honour-bound to buy two copies – one to open and read, the other to remain closed and inviolate.”
(The Photobook: A History, vol. 2: Phaidon Press, 2004)