Diary of an Amateur Photographer

Graham Rawle


Book, 15,3 x 12,8 cm, 128 p, language: English, publisher: Pan MacMillan (UK), Penguin Studio (USA), ISBN: 978-0330354868.
Materials: ink, paper

Collection: Collection M HKA, Antwerp (Inv. no. B 2026/513).

Literary synopsis

The Diary begins when Michael Whittingham joins his local camera club and is instructed to keep a journal of his photographic achievements. Michael’s discover of a photograph of an unknown murdered man from 1959 plunges him into an investigation that takes him back to the seedy world of 50s pinup magazines—a world that has surprising connections to his troubled childhood. The more he discovers, the more he loses his already tenuous grip on reality. Michael’s diary soon becomes an intricate casebook of evidence as he collects items that will lead him to the final truth. Photographs, handwritten letters, postcards, pages torn from magazines—all created by Rawle—are among the things that simultaneously tell the story and illustrate the book. The gathered clues take the reader on a journey through Michael’s mind as he uncovers a murder that took place more than thirty years ago. Uniquely packaged as the journal itself, Diary of an Amateur Photographer lays bare the dark side of suburbia and is a testament to Graham Rawle’s extravagant and eccentric talent.

Relation of the novel to the artist’s practice

Prose fiction nearly always conforms to the conventions of book publishing and printing. The page from one book looks very like another. The proportion of books that challenge or explore these conventions is still relatively small and such books are often regarded as unreadable, difficult or gimmicky. With a background as a visual artist, it seemed to Graham Rawle that in creating a work of fiction, all kinds of extra information could be carried on the page, creating additional, sometimes unconscious, narrative layers – a kind of visual subtext. When he wrote Diary of an Amateur Photographer, his idea was to create a book that looked and felt like the original journal of the protagonist, so the entire book is created by hand as he would have done it. Gathered ‘evidence’ is stuck to the page and the words are manually typed onto old scraps of paper. Rawle wanted to provide another layer whereby the reader learns more about Michael’s character and psychological state – sensing his physical presence on the page in the way his typewriter keys strike the paper, the choices he makes in the delivery of his story and in the increasingly erratic page layout as his investigation spirals out of control. Interestingly, physically assembling the pages in this way also enabled Graham Rawle as a writer to get inside his character, to understand how his mind worked, which helped to shape the story.

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