Double Dactyl photographs copyright of Nickolas Waplington, courtesy of Trolly Books
To begin, this is a self titled book with an interesting twist, and probably elaborating will possibly add some insights into Waplington’s creative body of work. In poetry theory, a dactyl refers to a unit of rhythms that has three syllables, with the emphasis on the first, thus a long-short-short pattern. Which is a poetic description of his name, Nicholas Waplington. nice.
This collection of photographs appear to be a continuation of various themes that Waplington originated in his earlier projects & books. His images are initiated with a view camera, then on to the computer, so I would understand that his photograph images are very purposefully created. As Waplington states in the books introduction, photography is often a game of tricks and ruses, and we can rarely be certain that what we are seeing is being offered without manipulation. Thus a fairt hint that we are dealing with a Post-modernist photographer, but with the beguiling appearances of a Modernist.
In as I have not had the pleasure of meeting Waplington, I think that we start the book with an different kind self portrait of the photographer, The Death of Creativity, 2006. The photographer stands in his studio with his head brutally cut off, but not a blood splattered crime scene, as so often I find on television today. As with many of his photographs, there is a lot of information on the edges of his photographs, and in this case, you can find the potentially unedited photograph, head still intact, as a small print on the back wall. This photograph, like most in the book, is a paradox, riddled with many more questions asked, than questions answered.
The photographic image coupled with the caption create an interesting dialog, and more questions arise as you attempt to deconstruct the content of the image, which is fairly consistent with post-modernist work. For this self decapitating image, is the message about his personal feelings for his own creative abilities or a social comment about how he feels his creative work is encouraged or discouraged?
The pace and flow of Waplington’s photograph images through the book does not seem to create a consistent flow of thoughts, but perhaps mimics a complex life of jumping from one random thought on to another. Thus the description by Tarsia that these are a collectionof photographs rings true. This book is not like many of the photographic monographs which have a consistency around a specific theme, unless you consider randomness a theme. Perhaps in a way, this book is about un-masking of what we would expect of a modernistic photographic book.
There are other things at play in this body of work. Such as angst with the evidence of deteroiating environmental conditions, but nevertheless, there is still beauty to contemplate. As Andrea Tarsia states in the introduction;
The photographs collected n Double Dactyl demonstrate that Waplington’s dualities continue. Some of these images convey a sense of barren desolation, a bleakness made up of washed out colours, forlorn exteriors and empty landscape mostly taken from the middle distance…..And yet, other images in Double Dactyl show an intense engagement in the lives of people and in personal, social and geographical communities.
The photographs are layered with meaning. An urban landscape captioned Looking into the Future, 2005 could be about a large and extended family interacting with the children (the Future generation), stage center. Then upon further inspection we find again on the edges of the photograph, a man peering into the glass door with the overhead signage of FUTURE. I find one meaning for the content and suddenly I realize another potential meaning. These thoughts crash together to form yet another. The resulting photographs appear complex, yet simplistic, but they are all very interesting.
Even the seemilngly casual landscape photographs of happy vacationers have deeper social implications (deconstructed with postcolonial theory). In his image Skegness #1, 2005 , a hand rail becomes a dividing line, one the right are the establishment who are having a leisurely day of vacation holiday. On the other side of the rail, we have appearances of a couple of minority working woman who may be on the way to work. Meanwhile, we have some one at one the edge of the image, gesturing at them, perhaps pointing them out. This photograph is as relevant to the social issues in the United Kingdom as it is to the United States, or for any culture with a minority.
The book is a nice collection of interesting and thought provoking photographic images.
The book measures 8″ x 11 1/4″, contains 56 color photographic plates with captions, including two gate folds, the book is unnumbered. The introduction was written by Andrea Tarsia, The Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK. Similar to other Trolley Books that I have reviewed, this was beautifully printed in Italy by Grafiche Antiga.
Best regards, Douglas Stockdale