Chris Steele-Perkins. Magnum Photographer



The echo has a nostalgie de la boue that history cannot convey; Proust was a master of the reverberating sounds of the past, ill-defined and resonant. Chris Steele-Perkins has selected here, from the fragments of a working photographer's life and the archive of a single year - 2001, and the new millenium - images that unashamedly evoke his memories of that year, sentimental, odd, striking and intensely personal.

Photographers create in an instant an image that is indelible - until the print fades. Memory, wilful and indiscriminate, cannot compete. But in Echoes Chris Steele-Perkins has somehow combined the two by selecting images he created throughout a single year that recall his misting glimpses of 2001. They are not his normal milieu, the stunning images of Africa and further abroad for which he is renowned. They are something new.

Here are the Surrey hills, New York, Japan, family, Africa, home, solipsistic aide-memoires he has arranged in a chronology that combine to make, for him, a Pandora's box of his recollections of that year. No matter that they are at once intimate and unengaged. After all, photographers are human beings with the flickering sight of a raptor's eye, scanning the horizon and the nest.

Echoes - Intro

New Year’s Eve of 2001 was crisp and bright.

Walking through the Surrey countryside with my wife, my two sons and a couple of friends, David and Annie. The landscape belong to us as we crunched over frosted leaves and mud, misting breath into the cold air, crossing small stone and wooden bridges where streams carried away the twigs the boys dropped in; past brambles and an abandoned factory. Voices disappearing into the woods and across the empty fields. A low winter sun.

I took some photographs as I always do on such outings. Photos of us, the landscape, plants and buildings. We climbed up to a church on the Pilgrims’ Way as the light began to fall away, and reached our cars as the dark closed in. Back to a warm house, food by candle light, drink, TV, children washed and sleeping, my wife’s embrace in a comfortable bed. The last remarkable, unremarkable day before the New Millennium.

I thought about the photos I take; the mementoes I bring back from distant parts of the world and odd corners of the nearby; the life I lead wandering around with my cameras, sucking images from the flux around me, both as my work and as my compulsion; collecting these traces of time with my little black box. How, with every choice I make of omission and selection, the way every picture is made; how every photograph I take holds a part of me.

The year reeled out at breakneck speed. The events that define our History flared and fused. The children grew. The garden changed. I travelled, worked, loved, grieved, moving here and there, across the disrupted rhythms of nature, across the continents, finger on the shutter-pulse of mine. This was the year my mother died; body consumed by flames; ashes cast amongst the ivy and the grass of a small church in Northampton.

Days shortened. Winter gathered in. Another year was taken. The fragments from that time were gathered up and are laid out here: a broken reconstruction, a silent echo of the year I left behind.

The New Year’s morning of 2002 was lovely, crisp and bright. I argued and made up with my wife. Walking through the Kent countryside with Miyako, my two sons and a couple of friends, David and Annie; mistletoe in the oaks, sticky clay underfoot, oldman’s beard catching the low winter light, we raised our hands in greeting to our long shadows, to the past year, to the new. I took some photos.

  • Hardcover 128 pp
  • Dimensions: 1.8 x 15.6 x 19.9 cm
  • Publisher: Trolley Books, Illustrated edition, March 2004.
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