There aren’t many photo books to my knowledge where the content is essentially an homage or love song to the rareness and unavailability of another photobook, but Gareth McConnell’s Looking for Looking for Love is exactly that.
Looking for Love by Tom Wood originally published in 1989 is a book of photographs from the Chelsea Reach nightclub in New Brighton England. In it we are privy to very ordinary young people looking for a good time, perhaps looking for love or at the very least a dimly lit corner for some groping and Tom’s camera tilts and thrusts its way through the crowd in a mix of glorious color and black-and-white. It has become, like many others, a book which people recognize as important within the canon of photobooks and thus the selling value for this little unassuming book skyrocketed. Gareth McConnell considers Looking for Love one of his favorite photobooks of all time. “I first picked it up in the college library in Farnham circa 1992 and my belly rolled over at the greatness of it. I often think I should’ve stuck it up my jumper while I had the chance, as when I finally got round to buying a copy it cost me nearly £300, the original £9.95 label pristine on the back, laughing at me.”
McConnell’s appropriation from the original Looking for Love draws from the endpapers which were composed of dozens of small snapshots - outtakes that overlap and mashed together the dancing, grinning, drinking men who were momentarily stunned by Wood’s flash. McConnell scanned those endpapers and isolated each individual photograph reconstituting it’s autonomous space but with the ragged borders the previous collage overlapping created.
Printed in risograph, the pictures take on an exaggerated saturation and where the dot pattern is enlarged to the point of breaking the image apart. More gaudy color, more 80s Mtv style dayglow fleshtones, the lack of details obscuring what the original photographs tended to reveal – the pristine attention to one’s “look” and dress preparing for a night out which has succumbed to the heat and sweat of the club as the night draws on and pints get spilled onto Polo shirts. The printing creates a superficiality that I am usually weary of, the surface and nothing but. So why does this book appeal?
I think it has something to do with what the pictures describe in the simplest terms. Time and time again, people are looking into a lens and they seem genuinely happy for the presence of a photographer. There is a moment of unity, of understanding, between the individuals and the posing groups in recognizing themselves being photographed. Whether they understand what the intent of the photographer is, or most likely, not, they are accepting of the momentary flash burn. As a photographer in an age where everything is suspect, that can be a rare and welcoming response.