Like many people my first experience of the work of photographer and designer Nigel Grierson was through his partnership with Vaughan Oliver at 23 Envelope who were responsible for the iconic sleeves at 4AD. Fatea was a fanzine back in the late eighties and there was a steady supply of brown cardboard envelopes that came into the office containing all different sizes of vinyl, but without having to see a name or a logo or a press release, just easing a 4AD record from the envelope was enough to tell you where it had come from, because 4AD had a style and that style was 23 Envelope.
When I discovered that there was going to be a retrospective published, not just of his 4AD days. but also of the breadth of material that Nigel Grierson has produced since, I leapt at the chance to not only reminisce, I'm back into parts of my record collection I haven't visited for years, but also to explore and appreciate, quite simply Grierson is an exceptional creative spirit.
There is an elephant in the room with this book and it would be remiss of me not to mention it. A small number of the plates are spread across two pages, which, inevitably, means that due to the way the book is bound means that there is a valley in the image, which short of dismantling the binding is difficult to overcome, but short of making the book twice the size and therefore, outside of the price range of many people that would otherwise enjoy the book, it is a bit of a catch 22 and in the overall scheme of things, I'm reluctantly happy with the decision.
Part of the reason for that is there is so much to explore and whilst Nigel Grierson has a style, he's not a slave to it. That means that the book contains street photography, black and white as well as more artistically constructed images that create not only a visual extravaganza but one that is thought provoking.
That provocation is there from the start, apart from a title page, you are straight into the pictures, no foreword, no preamble, no words alongside the pictures describing what you are looking, what inspired it, how it was constructed, all you get is the picture telling you it's story in its own words and if it speaks to someone else in a different accent, in a different language, so be it.
There are so many techniques employed throughout the book and as a hobby photographer there were times I found myself staring at wonder at shots where everything was out of focus and yet the message sharp or being inspired to look at something in a different way.
Whilst we've featured photographers in Fatea before they have, until now, been gig photographers and I'm not making chalk and cheese comparisons, this is photography as songwriting in a visual form and quite frankly I'd be a fool not to recommend it.
There are only so many hours in a day and only so many gigs we can get to. We'd really like to expand our national coverage of the live scene as it remains the life blood of music.
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