JOHN COMINO-JAMES: A Question of England


Observer Photography Book of the Month, Sean O'Hagan


"… a 'gentle visual exploration' but also immensely sensitive and perceptive." - Jonathan Dimbleby

As a small boy, John Comino-James stood in school cap and Sunday suit to have his snapshot taken under flags put up for Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation. The resultant photograph resonates with an England long since disappeared, yet still fertile in the imagination. 

That sense of how that England has changed is the focus in John Comino-James’ new book as he explores our everyday landscape of sign and symbol, from roadside verge to traffic-free shopping centre, to high-rise cityscapes. Art is in action ahead, and with a friendly corporate Hello, we are offered No Deposit Deals on Half Price Dreams. We are thanked for shopping, and offered free cash withdrawals. A Money Shop is at hand and woodlands are for sale – just visit the website. If we drop litter CCTV may catch us, and we are warned that if we leave something valuable on show in our car we can expect it to be stolen. Reminders of the valour and necessity, the sacrifices, the folly and the tragedy of war are never far away. Earthquakes may strike, stores may close but we can still buy artisan ice-cream. But if opportunity is the moment you have been looking for, where is salvation to be found if not in moments of direct relationship with others?

Born in Somerset, John Comino-James lives near Thame in Oxfordshire. He has published six previous photography books: Nearly Every Tuesday, which documented Thame’s weekly street market; Fairground Attraction, which explored the way of life of travelling showmen; A Few Streets, a Few People, an intimate portrait of the people and surroundings of the Cayo Hueso barrio in Havana, Cuba; In a Very English Town, which acknowledges qualities that typify Thame as an English market town; Fortunate Steps, photographs made in Havana’s historic Calzada del Diez de Octubre; and, most recently, Havana, Intimations of Departure. His work has been exhibited in Thame, Oxford, London and Havana.

£30.00 clothbound hardback
136 pages, 128 duotone photographs
214mm x 290mm
ISBN: 978-1-907893-60-5

Fortunate Steps
Havana: Intimations of Departure
In A Very English Town
Fairground Attraction
A Few Streets, A Few People