Reserved Mr. Memory

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Self-published photobook by Patrick Murphy

Reserved Mr. Memory — a photobook by Patrick Murphy, American photographer living in Vilnius, Lithuania.

From the text:
“These photos were made in the South over a period of 50 years, the oldest of them when I was barely a teenager, the most recent, less than two years ago. Half were taken in northeast Mississippi. The rest were taken in other states where I lived or traveled.”

Subject matter includes portraits, landscapes, religion, fishing, music, signs, and folk art.
Besides Mississippi, other locations pictured include Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia, Missouri, Florida, and West Virginia.
Fifty-nine of the 61 color photos were made on film (35mm, 6×6 cm, and 4.5×6 cm); two are digital.

 

Read the mini-interview with Patrick Murphy.

Patrick about the book

In my videotaped interview with the Lithuanian photography project “Portfolio Perziuros” [Portfolio Review], I mentioned that there is a paradox about time involved in photography: The photos in my book were made over a period of literally 50 years, from when I was a kid with my first SLR, until rather recently (a couple of the photos, which are digital), but, if you consider that the average exposure of a photo is 1/60 sec. or shorter, then the 62 photos in my book represent only 1 second of my life. “Which is it, 50 years or 1 second? It’s both.”

About the photo that gives the book its name, Reserved Mr. Memory

There is a short narrative about that photo in the text at the back. At the time I took the photo, I was quite surprised to think that anyone could have the surname “Memory,” which I had never heard before (or since). It looked like a parking place for someone with that name. But I never knew who that person was, and over the years, I forgot everything else about that parking lot in Montgomery, Ala.

So I was surprised when an art critic friend of mine in New York, after looking at my book, said something about how I had cleverly worked in a reference to Alfred Hitchcock. I had no idea what he was talking about. It turns out that there is an early Alfred Hitchcock film (which I have never seen) in which there is a character who performs feats of memory on stage under the name “Mr. Memory.” Perhaps the person who put up that sign in the parking lot was referring to the film (makes you wonder–maybe someone who worked in a business nearby had an amazing memory and that sign was some kind of inside joke?), but I had never heard of the Hitchcock film until after the book was published.

Details

Some of my photos include visual “puns” or meanings in colloquial English that don’t translate well. For example, photo no. 52 shows a county courthouse. Most non-native speakers of English won’t understand it. The word “courthouse” has had two letters removed, thus becoming “outhouse” (an outdoor toilet without running water). When I saw that scene, I vividly imagined local teenage guys staging a daring raid on this official building at night (probably after drinking a few beers) to turn it into an “outhouse.”

There are also some photos in the book of things that are now controversial or which would no longer be seen at all.

Photo no. 34 has a Confederate flag (Southern side in the U.S. Civil War) in front of a house trailer (the kind of housing that many poor Southerners live in), and as you probably know, that flag is more than controversial in the U.S. now. There’s also a Confederate flag beach towel on a boy in photo no. 48. Many people might not notice it, but it’s there.

Photo no. 45 is now a historical artefact: the advertising for a well-known kind of New Orleans candy, pralines, relies on a figure of a stereotypical black “mammy” — you will never see anything like that in the U.S. again. I suppose some people in the U.S. now think that all evidence of such past racial stereotyping should be erased and forgotten instead of displayed. On the other hand, it’s part of the historical record.

These are complicated issues with no easy answer. In the text at the back, I very briefly mention the parallel between the removal of Confederate statues and monuments in the U.S. and Soviet ones in Lithuania.

144 pages, 26.5 cm x 27.5 cm x 2 cm, weight 1.1 kg.
Published in Vilnius, Lithuania in 2019.
Hardbound with cloth cover and paper dust cover.
One black and white and 61 color photos and author’s text. Afterword by William Ferris.

Paper: FocusArt Natural, 150 g/m2; and Scandia 2000 Natural, 150g/m2
ISBN 978-609-475-300-8
Designed by Jurgis Griškevicius
Prepress work: Arvydas Maknys
Printed by UAB Balto print, Lithuania

Shipped with Priority Registered Mail.

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