Category Archives: Julian Germain

Research: Julian Germain

For every second you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.

I met Charles Albert Lucien Snelling on a Saturday in April 1992. He lived in a typical two up two down terraced house amongst many other two up two down terraced houses…It was yellow and orange. In that respect it was totally different from every other house on the street. Charlie was a simple, gentle , man . He loved flowers and the name of flowers. He loved colour and surrounded himself with colour. He loved his wife. Without ever trying or intending to , he showed me that the most important things in life cost nothing at all. He was my antidote to modern living
Julian Germain

An encounter with a stranger led to an 8 year project for Julian Germain. The stranger was Charles Snelling , an unassuming elderly widower and Germain recorded the minutiae of his introspective daily routine. What is wonderful about this project is that it was not initially intended as such , frequently Germain simply sat and enjoyed the older man’s company. Germain described his relationship with Snelling as cathartic , “he was so set aside from the rat race of the modern world” (Guardian , 2013).It was not until after Snelling’s death in 2000 that he considered the possibility of what the images might communicate. In 2005 a book and exhibition For every second you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness ( the title came from a piece of paper with these words written on in Snelling’s home) featured Germain’s images alongside Snelling’s personal photo albums and pictures. He describes the images in Snelling’s albums and the photographs of his wife on the wall as “ intimate” showing an “open simple appreciation of each other” (2012 ,youtube) Germain wanted to “monumentalise” (2012 ,youtube) them and show the importance of vernacular photography.

The majority of the images were taken using a medium format camera with a tripod and are carefully and thoughtfully composed . The images of Snelling , his home , and possessions , form an evocative and beautifully photographed narrative, the detailed images reveal the simple existence his subject led. Consumerism had no place in Snelling’s life , an image of an old-fashioned battered whistling kettle steaming on top of an equally ancient looking cooker confirms this. Germain’s photograph of a simple everyday object suggests so much.

I particularly like Germain’s use of colour , which I feel is signifiant as Snelling loved colour. The youtube video is interesting , its an hour long but I found it highly informative . Germain discusses the complication of converting the world into black and white , and questions “ why would you photograph in black and white when the world is in colour?” ( 2012 , youtube) A valid point , and quite pertinent as I am thinking at the moment about whether to present my second assignment in colour or B&W.Colour can be used to convey a mood or suggest a feeling.

Warm vibrant shades surround Snelling reflecting his genial personality , his love of flowers and colour. An optimistic portrait of an elderly gentleman in his final years , frequently a very lonely time for the old.

An image of Snelling driving . The soft harmonious muted tones on a rainy day have so many connotations. He appears deep in thought, is he happy , contemplative , or simply concentrating on the task of driving? Alone but also independent , his hands grip the wheel as he stares ahead at the road and perhaps ponders the future? Quite a different portrait from the previous one.

The soft blues and browns suggest contentment , a calm and inner peace. Something that many people never find but Snelling , with his simple lifestyle , found. The dogs in the picture are Germain’s , his close association with the old man enabled him to take really intimate pictures that would have been much more difficult otherwise and less absorbing.

Proof that no matter how local, unremarkable , or commonplace a subject may seem there is always the possibility to create a sincere and significant body of work.

References / Bibliograph

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Accessed 19/3/2015