It is abundantly clear in Julian Germain’s oevre For Every Minute You are Angry, You Lose Sixty Seconds of Happiness that the photographer has spent vast amounts of time with his subject. In fact the series spans 8 years, but interestingly Germain “didn’t see [his] photos of Charlie as a project – it didn’t have a deadline and there was no grand plan for it” (Malone, 2013). Germain met Snelling by chance on the way to a football match and struck up a friendship with him. Snelling’s brightly coloured house (orange and yellow) is what first attracted Germain. He would visit Snelling periodically, sometimes just for tea and a chat and not to photograph at all. Snelling surrounded himself with photographs, mainly of his wife.
Charles Snelling, the subject is very comfortable with the presence of Germain. He is photographed going about his daily life, drinking his coffee, talking a walk in the woods, eating ice cream on the beach and preparing his meals. Some of the actions and settings come across as rather intimate. For me the most intimate images are the photographs of Snelling’s photo album, the photographs of him and his wife who passed away. These images are pivotal to the series as we can see on Germain’s website that the album pages were enlarged larger than life for his exhibition, spanning almost the entire height of the gallery’s wall and dominating the rest of the images which are much smaller.
My favourite image in the series is the one above, where Snelling is preparing his meal. According to Germain’s interview with The Guardian (Malone 2013), Snelling is stirring his gravy. The shallow depth of field creates a sense of intrigue and mystery. The viewer has just enough information to glean what is happening. The colours and tones (teal and oranges) lend a very cinematic feel to the image. The golden tones in the foreground of the placemat, crockery, mustard jar and orange juice create a complementary contrast to the teal tones of the kitchen wall and other blue tones from Charles’ jacket, and the tupperware on the far side of the table. The rising steam from the cut potatoes in the foreground completes the narrative, enticing the viewer to catch a whiff of the aroma.
… he showed me that the most important things in life are free. To me, he kind of symbolized a less complicated world that may possibly have existed once – that didn’t offer so many choices and contradictions.
Germain’s images ooze humility, simplicity and colour. The main take-away that I have from looking at Germain’s project is one should always take the time to build a rapport with the subject and keep returning for follow up sessions, if at all possible. Germain had the luxury of being able to shoot this series over a long period of time and was not under any pressure to make anything of the photographs he took of Snelling. He only decided to put them together in a body of work after Snelling’s death.
The complete set of images in this work can be seen in this short video clip.
Malone, Theresa (2013) Julian Germain’s best photograph: Charlie in his kitchen stirring the gravy [online] The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/oct/02/julian-germain-best-photograph [Accessed 18 September, 2016]
PhotoBookStore.co.uk (2012) Julian Germain – For Every Minute You are Angry, You Lose Sixty Seconds of Happiness Creat. PhotoBookStore.co.uk 12 March 2012. 37 secs. Available at: https://vimeo.com/37733259 (Accessed 18 September, 2016)
The ASX Team (2010) In Conversation with Julian Germain and Penny Skerrett [online] Archive Magazine, National Media Museum, Bradford, 2005. Available at: http://www.americansuburbx.com/2010/09/interview-in-conversation-with-julian.html [Accessed 18 September, 2016]