As the title suggests, this book offers a philosophy for life – prompted by the photographer’s chance meeting with an elderly man in Portsmouth in 1992. The images introduce us to Charles Snelling, who spends his time preserving his love of flowers, music and memories and thus teaching us to enjoy what we have.
Charles is presented as a contemplative man and is pictured in various locations, absorbed in his own solitary activities. Yet in attempting to represent Charlie as fulfilled and content, recurrent images of his solitude reveal and intensify his isolation. Elements within his environment, such as semi-bare cupboards and dusty, plastic dog-heads hanging on his wall, are presented as evidence of his humility but actually reiterate a tired neglect. Carefully selected details display subtle characteristics of Charles’ life and pages of his photo album filled with pictures of his departed wife demonstrate his apparent indulgence in the past … and withdrawal from the present.
Despite an evident bond of trust with the subject (who appears to be perfectly at ease with the camera) and a large portfolio of images, the book fails to explore more than the surface level. The multi-dimensional Charles is absent. We are left to view him as we see the images of his photo albums, like outsiders looking at a collection of memories.