John B Turner’s PHOTOGRAPHY Blog

Newly created is this photography blogspot by  John B Turner. After recently retiring as a lecturer in photography at the Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland, New Zealand (1971-2011), John is now living in Beijing and continuing his work as a photographer, writer, curator, historian and co-editor of PhotoForum NZ. Below is one of  his first blog articles:

A dialogue with Dave Heath

Forty four years ago, in 1969, I read a review of Dave Heath’s book, A Dialogue with Solitude (1965), in Aperture magazine. To see Dave’s book I requested a copy from the New Zealand National Library Service, which promptly acquired it. That is how we got to see books that would never reach a local library, let alone a book store, in those days. In the sense of how the term has recently been popularised by Martin Parr and Gerry Badger, for example, A Dialogue with Solitude is a classic photobook. It is poetic and deeply personal, while dealing with universal themes. And it is an emotional coaster ride through highly crafted black and white images exceptionally well printed to imitate in ink the full tonal scale of his silver prints. Few photography books had reached its level of perfection. I tried to buy a copy of A Dialogue with Solitude but already it was out of print. (1)

Dave Heath: Vengeful Sister (1956), from A Dialogue with Solitude

Dave Heath: Kansas City, Missouri, 1967

Through the kind help of Grace M Mayer, Curator of Photography at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, I got Dave’s address and wrote to him in Philadelphia, telling him what his book meant to me. I asked him how much he sold his prints for? And also asked if he would, perhaps, consider a print swap with me, so I didn’t have to apply to the Government for an import licence. (Foreign currency was strictly controlled then, to prevent the spiralling overseas debt that has become commonplace today.)

Dave chose two prints – mounted and signed – and I sent him a series of eight unmounted “8×10″‘s from my ‘Beer Garden Wall’ series which I had been working on with the poet, Patricia Godsiff, to make a book. One that never eventuated.(1)

Dave insured his prints for $US35 each, so in October 1969 I had to pay $NZ8 customs duty on delivery. He chose for me what became known as his 1956 ‘Vengeful Sister’ image from A Dialogue with Solitude, and a new 1967 picture of a woman in a Kansas City street. for me. They were beautiful prints, so different tonally and emotionally, like night and day. I got them framed to hang on our living room wall in Paparangi, where they joined  two John Daley prints and some signed Paul Strand gravures from his then recent book, Tir A Mhurain. I couldn’t afford much, but I was starting my own collection with work that I loved and was challenged by. Read the full article here



One thought on “John B Turner’s PHOTOGRAPHY Blog

  1. Thanks for posting this Jan. I have always been interested in the secret, non-verbal links that lurk in the photographer’s mind, so it was revealing to hear Dave Heath’s explanation after the blog was published. He pointed out that for him, ‘Vengeful Sister’ represented the bullying he got from his half sister, and the woman in Kansas, for him was a representation of the mother who abandoned him. They are among the key reasons why he printed his images that way and why his work is so emotionally charged.


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