I first wrote about the above book on 10 February 2016 . I suggest going now to http://www.groupphoto.co.uk/the-book for Andrew Tatham’s own description of it and how it came about. As you will see, it has been praised to the skies by communicators from Jeremy Vine and Melvyn Bragg to William Boyd and Gyles Brandreth.
Now that I have revisited Andrew Tatham’s book many times since I first read it in 2015, I feel qualified to sum up what I find truly great about it and why I think everyone should consider owning a copy.
The whole Group Photograph Project, with its travelling exhibition, animated film, multi-media presentation by Tatham, ethereal tree drawings of the families of the men in the photograph, time-lapse photography of their relatives gathering for a ‘new group photograph’ today, and of course book, is an ARTWORK.
This means that the project is both an aesthetic and a profoundly HUMANE experience. The historical basis of the book is impeccably researched and documented, but the 2000 photographs, and especially the ‘stained glass portraits’ that Tatham has designed for each of the 46 men, comprise a magnificent piece of visual art, whilst the text takes us back into the men’s lives before May 1915 and forwards to their families’ lives today. As Tatham has written, a lot of his aim was ‘to go from that original picture of soldiers and show the fullness of them as human beings’. And he has succeeded: if you are at all interested in people, you will never tire of the life- and family-stories contained in this book and historically focussed on the Battle of Loos… I know people who, as well as reading it straight through, dip into its humanity at random, at odd times, or at Armistice time, for instance.
Altogether, I feel that ‘A Group Photograph’ is the only work of art produced by the 1914-18 commemoration so far that is on a par with Paul Cummins’s and Tom Piper’s installation ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’. Both artworks were refused state subsidy and have been created at their authors’ own substantial financial risk. Both have caught the imagination of the British public and I am certain both will live on.
In the case of the ceramic poppies of Cummins’s and Piper’s creation, the public have connected with it so emotionally that they have wanted to own part of it by buying one of its poppies. One can imagine these poppies being passed down through future generations of these families as ‘living’ markers of this great 2014-18 commemoration. And I see Tatham’s book rather similarly. It lives for me now and I think it will for future generations. My wife and I want to hang a copy in as many branches of our combined families as possible, for their and their descendants’ enjoyment and satisfaction, so have decided to make it our staple Christmas present. We have bought copies taking advantage of Tatham’s special offer of ten for £180 including postage (a saving of £38) . I realise this may be a bit of a ‘spoiler’ for those family members who follow the blog, but all of you, historians, scientists, artists, whatever, are going to be wowed by this book!
To buy the book A Group Photograph, go to the link given in the second line of this post. To buy ten or more copies at the reduced rate, or to book its author’s inspiring talk about the project, email: email@example.com .