In my last post on the Venice Carnival I included a photograph I’d taken of a masked man in a bookshop perusing a book on the Hebrew language. This got me thinking about other images I’ve taken of people reading as well as the representation of books and reading matter in family photographs in my possession. I remembered a portrait I’d taken of my late maternal grandfather, Mordechai, known as Saba, Hebrew for grandfather. This was an everyday sight, his chilling out after a hard day’s work, sitting on his rocking chair on his balcony in Tel Aviv and reading the daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth:
Looking through old photos from before I was born I found another informal photograph of family members reading newspapers. Here are Matt and Pauline reading their papers in the back garden in Stamford Hill, circa early 1950s:
However the tendency was that reading matter was used as props in formal studio portraiture. Below, my father in 1930:
Another relative – my father’s cousin Haji-Ben who was based in Milan – with an open book as prop. His direct gaze and and grown-up cross legged position contribute to the quasi adult composure of the portrait:
And below another studio portrait of my aunt Hannah, this time hand-coloured, with a large open picture book as prop. I can’t make out the illustration, but it seems like a grand scale documentary image, not what I’d expect from the context!
A posed photograph of me in my bedroom when i was about 3 or 4, taken by my father. This was part of a series of photos he took of me in my room; one at my dressing table, another chatting on a toy phone. I find it interesting that the bookshelf in my room is filled with his old Penguin paperbacks, possibly deemed unsuitable for display in any other part of the house?
When my own children were born I took lots of photographs documenting their everyday experiences and family life; I was interested in capturing moments that I considered significant. The photograph below was taken in 1990 after a particularly sleepless night; Rafi finally asleep on his father’s right thigh and an open book in Josh’s left hand:
And one from the mid 90s of Josh reading one of his old Tintin books to the boys:
Dan occupying himself reading the Zelda manual on our regular Sunday morning brunch outings to Bar Italia in Soho
Some more from Bar Italia – my mother used to say that I always had a book on me everywhere I went. Nowadays it tends to be a Kindle, but here’s proof that it was a habit that continued into adulthood. A portrait of me framed on the mirrored wall, part of a semi-permanent wall display of “regulars” at Bar Italia. I don’t remember the name of the photographer but I remember posing for her back in 2009. Here I am taking a photo of the portrait of me with my book, sitting at the bar counter:
The photo below was taken outside Bar Italia; I like it because if you look carefully you can see a luminous image of a man with long white hair – looking like a biblical representation of God in sunglasses. It happens to be the Brazilian musical Hermeto Pascoal, who is rather amazing, and definitely a jazz master if not a god!
Travelling further afield, here’s another café reader, taken the other week in a February sun-drenched Campo Santo Stefano in Venice:
And at this Tel Aviv café back in 2014, a Hebrew newspaper is used to block out the bright February sun:
On the first day of my first trip to Japan in 2006 I was excited to snap a detail of my Manga-reading fellow passenger on the Tokyo Metro:
I took that trip with my younger son Dan who was 13 at the time. The photo below was taken one night by Dan – I’m reading a book by Haruki Murakami, in my new Japanese glasses:
I like the parallel activity of these bespectacled book browsers in a Parisian gallery shop:
Next up are a couple of images taken on London Underground. I loved the intimacy of this elderly couple sharing their art magazine:
This dapper gentleman in a corduroy suit and coordinating tan accessories was reading a book called The Tao of Physics:
Next a couple of diary-like images, the first documenting my ora dell’aperitivo ritual, complete with Campari, pistachio nuts and tapas like snacks and obscure Kyrgyz-translated book:
And on a relaxed Saturday morning my husband Stephen gets some tips on power from GQ magazine: