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Under Appreciated Portraits (Until Now) of England’s Under Appreciated

John Myers’s subjects were the ordinary, often under appreciated residents of Stourbridge, England, where he lived. Taken in living rooms, workplaces and backyards within walking distance of his home between 1972-1979, the portraits are often unsettling and understated. Myers used a 5 x4 Gandolfi plate camera to make the black & white portraits, which are the subject of a new book simply titled The Portraits. The book, published by RRB PhotoBooks, includes many previously unpublished photographs and is the first complete collection of Myer’s portraiture.

Myers studied Fine Art at Newcastle University in the 1960s. “His sculptor’s eye brings a spatial awareness to each of his images,” writes the publisher in the press release. “Each subject is carefully placed in regards to the other objects in the frame – standing or seated they are usually shown full figure and a majority gaze directly, and unselfconsciously at the camera.”

The images contain many visual clues rooting them in the 1970s – the oversized houseplants, the corduroy and the prevalence of domestic smoking. “Myers was driven by his admiration for the work of August Sander, Diane Arbus, Eugene Atget and Walker Evans – these influences are evident in his deadpan environmental portraits,” explains the release. The portraits are driven by aesthetics rather than the social and political agenda of many his 1970s contemporaries.

Although a selection of these photographs were first published in 1974, it is only recently that Myers’s work has received renewed critical attention. Since exhibiting at IKON Gallery in Birmingham in 2012, his work has been the subject of numerous exhibitions and books. Best known for his photography, Myers is also an accomplished painter and was senior lecturer in fine art at Stourbridge College of Art from 1969 to 1989 and senior lecturer in painting, and head of the MA in painting, at the University of Wolverhampton from 1989 to 2001.

The Portraits
by John Myers
RRB PhotoBooks
April 2018

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