I recently asked staff at Dashwood Books, New York's premiere photography bookstore, to recommend something Dutch. The Netherlands has a way with the photo book, from the various "found photo" projects Erik Kessels cranks out in series like In Almost Every Picture and Useful Photography; or the formal elegance and inner life that Rineke Dijkstra captures in her portraits of adolescents. So it was a pleasant surprise to be handed the work of G. P. Fieret, who is nothing like his more celebrated countrymen. Born in The Hague, his work has begun to be exhibited more in the States, particularly at Chelsea's Deborah Bell gallery, whom I must thank for selling me a copy of this out of print tome (I'll write about the recently published second volume in this series next week.)
A photographer is a voyeur by definition, and Fieret is unapologetic about his love of looking. But unlike Czech photographer Miroslav Tichy, to whom his work bears a superficial resemblance, Fieret thoroughly engages with his subjects, be they a little girl taking er baby doll for a stroll or one of the women who pose for his striking, dynamic nudes. His eye and sense of compisiton is dynamic and original, but his aesthetic doesn't stop in-camera. His darkroom work is a fascinating mess, so much so that the decay seems accidental — when I first saw his images I thought I was looking at a collection of musty, damaged flea market prints. But Fieret was trained in graphic arts, so his "mistakes" are very deliberate, and full of energy. His prints bring to mind Daido Moriyama, with textures and blur factor frequently reminiscent of the Japanese artist’s raw grainy work, but taken to a still grungier level with liberal use of splotches and even solarization.
Finally, there's the Fieret brand. What lends the title to this volume, is a peculiar technique born not simply of aesthetic daring but of paranoia: nearly all of the artist’s prints are signed and stamped, “Copyright G. P. Fieret,” in order to discourage theft. These aren't the subtle or not so subtle watermarks you see in the online protfolios of protective photographers today, but a bold design strategy, single circular stamps flagging white spaces and in one case plastered across the forehead of a smiling model.
The artist's photographic prints, when reproduced, may look very much like xerox copies; but G.P. Fieret is an original.