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The Best of David Hamilton (Book Review)

The Best of David Hamilton

We recently picked up a second hand copy of The Best of David Hamilton by Denise Couttes for a meagre $10 at a local antique dealer. The dust cover is jaded as one would expect from a publish date in 1977, but the book itself is pristine. This was his fifth book under the genre “erotic romanticism” – a genre sometimes criticised for existing somewhere between sexualisation of youth and a seedy grey-area of child soft porn. I’m with the vast majority in my opinion that this is good photographic art from a man who has invested many decades in pursuit of his work.

I wrote about David Hamilton in a recent post titled On the Sexualisation of Children and Teenagers where the discussion included three other notable photographers – Sally Mann, Jock Sturges and Bill Henson. It’s too easy for somebody not educated in their palate for good pictures to bring demons into this discussion. Simply, a great deal of what we bring to pictures comes from within ourselves as the viewer. I’m not sold on the idea that society needs to address art as though it was pornography. In the same vein that I won’t be protesting for all the penis spouting fountains to be removed from public parks. Context is everything.

David Hamilton, born in 1933, first appeared with photographs in 1969 in a German magazine, TWEN. These were four nude photographs of naked girls inspired by Leonard Cohen’s poem “Suzanne”. The three soft focused colour nudes and a single black and white nude incorporated themes of “rattan chairs, potted plants, a mirror, a lace shawl covering the hair, flowered hats, etc… Suzanne before her mirror, Suzanne in a languid slumber after love… innocence and sensuality” writes Denise Couttes, author of The Best of David Hamilton.

In this book, I absolutely love some of the black and white photography that becomes almost sensual in texture. A picture of two Scandinavian girls with flowery hats. Two nude girls, a dream-like quality, grainy and textured. A small boat by the shoreline. A girl with sheep and a large black dog. These are the pictures that resonate with me most of all among the beautiful low contrast colour images that make the bulk of his work. I also enjoyed looking through his work with the ballet. Simple, elegant and beautiful pictures.

In a successful photographic career David Hamilton has published 27 photography books with sales figures into the millions of copies, five portfolios, numerous magazine articles and made five feature films. He also exhibited at museums and galleries. In 2007 he published a book of fictional short stories titled Erotic Tales.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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