Beauty & Fashion

“It’s Just What It Is”—A Glimpse Into Photographer Nigel Shafran’s Workbooks 1984-2024

Workbooks would suggest that for Shafran (non-commercial) work and life are intermingled. That’s not to say that he’s acting as a recorder or documentarian, but that in seeing his pictures we are seeing the world through his eyes. As he notes, “Everything that goes in you, either consciously or unconsciously, maybe has some effect.”

The press release puts forward that Shafran keeps his notebook diaries, in part, as preparatory studies for future work. Co-edited with Linda van Deursen, Workbooks presents a selection of pages from those diaries. Shafran points out they are four times removed from reality, being printouts of photos pasted in a book that he photographed (the pages are not scanned) and then printed.

Save for a blurb on the cover flap, Workbooks is textless, but only in the sense that there are no interpretive or explanatory essays or statements. Shafran’s notes, which vary from quotes to grocery lists to budgets, are present throughout and become part of the overall analog collage aesthetic.

The 1980s pages are particularly moving; there is an urgency in this section, and an undomesticated day-to-dayness that speaks of the freedom of youth. “I think the early work is much more energetic, naive, thoughtless,” Shafran concedes, but he is no Benjamin Button. Indeed as his current work for Vogue demonstrates, he retains a sense of playfulness. Workbooks confirms that the photographer still finds wonder in all sorts of unexpected places.

Workbooks by Nigel Shafran is published by Loose Joints.

Workbooks 1984-2024 by Nigel Shafran

Photo: © Nigel Shafran 2024 / Courtesy Loose Joints

Workbooks 1984-2024 by Nigel Shafran

Photo: © Nigel Shafran 2024 / Courtesy Loose Joints

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