Book Review by John Shade
Published by: Creative Monochrome
Jim Bennett has been a major figure in Photography circles in Ireland for many years. Those who have taken the traditional route through Art Education in the Northern Ireland i.e. Foundation Art & Design at the University of Ulster, or the Ulster Polytechnic, will doubtless have been guided by Jim in their embryonic stages of photographic development. Jim has photographed and subsequently exhibited many dramatic images of his native land. In more recent years he has spent prolonged periods turning his camera on the Islands of Greece and Spain. Avid travellers will have seen much of this work in various tourist brochures and travel publications. Until now Jim has waited patiently for the right time to publish a retrospective of his work.
Island Camera is a comprehensive monograph packed full of Jim's distinctive black and white photographs. Areas as diverse as portraiture, landscape, documentary and architecture - combine to show his multifarious talents. The book is held together rather tenuously by employing the notion that all the photographs have been made on islands. It is not however a travelogue, the images transcend the usual expedition publications, rather this is a catalogue of a photographer's visual achievements in the past twenty five years.
Published to appeal to a broad audience, the most likely patrons will be dedicated pictorialists. Perusing the pages of Island Camera, I found myself searching for personal favourites that I have seen exhibited over the years, before recognising that it must have been an unenviable task selecting the 80 images that fill the book.
The photographs are presented in pairs on opposing pages and compare or contrast similarities of subject matter in different cultural or geographic locations. Those who consistently bundle everything but the enlarger into their camera bag before going on holiday should take stock of what can be found in the myriad of assorted pictures displayed in Island Camera. Perhaps if you are as committed as Jim Bennett has been in perfecting a personal language of visual communication, you too might eventually see your prints and book on display in the window of Waterstones.
Island Camera was published by Creative Monochrome, 1992.