The photography world is currently experiencing an influx of a certain type of photographer. Hundreds of them are emulating a Vice-inspired, Terry Richardson style of work – photographs featuring, on the whole, sweaty scenes from nightclubs and bars, drugs, penises, dirty pants and puke – we could call it the “fucked-up” aesthetic. Included in this is the Ryan McGinley model of photographing daily life, in all its banalities. The style, which can only really be defined as a lack of style, is instantaneously recognisable. The market for such work is growing, with countless magazines, collectives and curators perpetuating the drive. One such notable, and hugely popular website, Tiny Vices, was set up by New York curator Tim Barber.
Bringing this type of imagery into the book publishing realm solidifies its conquest of the industry. The Tiny Vices Vol. 1-5, published by Aperture, does, however, bring more into the mix. The five bodies of work offer a range of approaches and subject matter, perhaps why they were chosen to represent the work that Tiny Vices has to offer, while leaving the real dirt for the internet. The gem of the lot is Robin Schwartz’s Amelia’s World. Amelia, Robin’s daughter, is pictured in each frame with an animal, either cradling or feeding some creature or having one in the background as she plays in her room. Her preoccupied, thoughtful expressions, usually not aimed at the camera, reveal something else at play here, a sort of indifference towards her pets and the camera. In most of the images we see Amelia with her rather disturbing hairless cat, in others posing with deer, elephants, kangaroos and monkeys. Without descriptive caption information, we can only assume that this family have gained some sort of privileged access to zoos and animal sanctuaries. Overall, the small publication is a strange glimpse into the mind of a child and her relationship with nature.
One other volume of note is Allan Macintyre’s Recent Events. The black and white studies in structural landscapes are almost scientific in approach, while the faces emerging from his images of volcanic trees in Hawaii are monstrous and alien. The captions, which are listed in the back, seem to link the work back within the realm of documentary photography, while firmly situated within a more formal landscape tradition – definitely a refreshing inclusion in the series, but feeling like part of another era of photography.
The work of Jamie Warren, in Don’t You Feel Better, brings us back to the type of aesthetic mentioned earlier. Tipped as the next big thing within photography, Warren takes herself as the subject of all her photos, whether it be having just cooked a questionable-looking casserole, in fancy dress with bright-blue face paint, or slyly hidden among a group of plush toys. Her photographs reveal a particular type of lifestyle, dominated by the quest for the bizarre in the banal. The images do lead to a smirk now and again while seeming to mock the narcissism of the Facebook generation. The more abstract work of Jason Nocito, in Loads, concentrates on a dynamic, magazine-y layout – each image demanding concentration. There is pretty much nothing he doesn’t shoot – expect people’s faces, which almost always appear in shadows or turned away from the lens.
The final volume, Kenneth Cappello’s Acid Drop is comprised of photos he had taken during early adolescence of himself and his pals testing out skateboarding tricks on their shared half-pipe.
The five volumes make an attractive set and rely heavily on each other to make their publishing seem substantial. Even if photography starts heading in another direction, to have these as a document of a trend in the industry is in itself a valuable venture.