A Maverick Eye: The Street Photography of John Deakin is, by all means, a vintage photo book at this point since it came out in 2002. And in many of my studies of street photography, I’ve never really encountered his work or his name before. I don’t remember how I inherited this book — perhaps I picked it up while walking around Park Slope, Brooklyn with my then-girlfriend as folks tend to leave stuff on their stoops for people to just take. And as it is, it’s not even necessarily a book that I’d buy.
Right off the bat, I needed to do research on who John Deakin was. Lots of places online speak of his street photography. But his most fascinating work to me is his double exposures. And his work (what you can find of it) for Vogue is far better — though it can also be argued that he worked with a different caliber of talent than people on the streets. As it is, too, his Soho photography isn’t even in this book. All of this doesn’t make it worth the $93, and I’m glad I didn’t pay for it.
The book is 99% perfect in terms of layout and trying to do justice to the photos presented within. There is an introductory text that gives sufficient background on John and the sections within the book. This text, which is a healthy 30 or so pages, is worth reading. But I skimmed through it and found quite a bit of wit and fascinating quotes worth re-reading and sharing with friends and family.
The book only splits prints down the middle of the book fold fewer times than I can count on my hands. And visually speaking, I think that’s wonderful with the real estate space available.
Because it has a more sheen finish, I recommend reading this book in soft light and propped up to soften the reflections. Ideally, I’d do it on a cloudy day with southern light coming in from a window.
John’s photos are fascinating and inspiring in some cases. You can pour over the photos and wonder what he was thinking about in the images. In several others, it’s pretty clear. I’m specifically speaking to the street portraits — which have a timeless beauty to them. Others, such as his cityscapes, leave me wondering why these photographs were chosen to be in the book in the first place. This perplexes me even more as when I did online research, I found a bunch of his work that was positively incredible. But within this book, I feel like we’re only seeing his rejects. In the context of looking at his contact sheets, I think that’s very cool and on point with current trends.
Specifically, the book still leaves me wanting more and not in a good way. John’s photos of Paris are curious as they show off tidbits of the city that you wouldn’t think about or see otherwise. It’s when the book gets to covering the work he did in Rome and London that things become more visually fascinating.
For the time period, these photos are pretty mediocre. But the print quality in and of themselves are very nice to look at aesthetically. Conceptually, several of the photos fall completely flat. And if they were ever presented on a projection screen with someone talking about them, the audience would slowly start to leave or get very bored.
Overall, I don’t think that this photo book does justice to John and the work of his that I’ve found online. Skip this one, if you ever have an opportunity to check it out.