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Just a Word.... Photographs by Julian Ward
Introduction by Peter Turner.
Published by Espial, P. O. Box 1931, Wellington. 68 pages, 28 duotone plates.
Edition of 500. Softcover $49.00
Following the success of his first self-published book, Face Value (1993), Julian Ward has produced Just a Word... This, in 28 photographs, showcases predominantly recent work produced between 1991 and 1996. In content it covers similar ground to Face Value, so can be seen as a continuation of his first book, rather than breaking new ground.
The photographer says little about himself - in words - just `Julian Ward (b.1948) lives and works in Wellington as a video producer’ but Peter Turner provides a delightfully perceptive reminder that the same careful looking that makes for exemplary photographs will reward the receptive viewer.
Ward’s title, for example, comes from the fine print on the warning sign on a Whakatane jetty from which half a dozen children are seen to be leaping, `Safety. Just a word before you launch....’ (page 9). The shutter-frozen rhythmic forms of these lively silhouetted kids are subtly echoed by distant trees. `Wellington, 1995' (page 19) - also of children - has its rhythm and pulse from seven kids dressed as playing cards. We are not told what the occasion was, but can enjoy the oddity of the moment which is also enjoyed by a grinning policewoman guarding the children from passing traffic. There’s humour also in `Wellington 1995' (page 26) when a man contemplates mid-act how he is going to get a new carpet into an old car.
The cover photograph, `Otaki 1996', also raises Wardly questions about basics; “When is a fence not a fence?” *
Face Value was a hard act to follow, and leads to high expectations in every aspect of production, from picture editing to binding. The production of Just a Word... is of a high standard. Many plates have a smoother, softer tonal quality that is closer to the silver print than laser scanning, with its propensity to sharpen up the fuzziest detail with sharp crisp dots, usually gives. But some images, I think, have suffered from the loss of tonal separation in the shadow areas. The reproductions on pages 5, 11, 13 and 21, for example, are fine in their own right, but they have lost what I call “internal contrast” in the shadows (Zones III and IV for those who know the Zone System) as distinct from the overall contrast of an image. Dark but nevertheless distinct forms and detail in the foregrounds, where we expect them most, have been lost, and with them, some of the vitality of the images themselves.
For me, the photographs on pages 2, 3, 6, 8, 11, 13, 14, 15, 24 and 26 are among Julian Ward’s strongest images in this worthy successor to Face Value. JBT
*The answer to this riddle, of course, is “When it’s a Ward winning photograph!”