Tuesday 15 January 2008

Ben Stockley in the York Hall Russian Baths

Another case here of the same image being used for two different book covers. It is, however, a very effective image used in two different ways (one of them not so so effective). Here are the books in question...

The first, John Beckman's The Winter Zoo, is a sinisterly erotic story of an American hiding from his life in Poland. The second is a thriller from Tess Gerritsen, which I have not read. I really wanted to like her work, based on her entertaining and informative (about publishing and writing) blog, but then I tried to read her Gravity. It opens with a group of astronauts in crisis on a shuttle out of control. "If this turns out all to be a run in a flight simulator, being cynically used to ratchet up the tension for the book's opening, then I'm giving up on this," I thought (or words to that effect). So, it turned out that it was a run in a flight simulator, being cynically used to ratchet up the tension for the book's opening.

Anyway, to the covers. Notice how the cropping makes a difference. In the first image, the model's direct gaze is mildly disconcerting, turning what should be a voyeuristic image into something more equivocal. In the second, the lack of eyes, coupled with the lighting and the marble slab (divorced from the context of the bathhouse) immediately suggests a body in the morgue.

The photo is from a photographer named Ben Stockley, who has a number of his images available for commercial use through Getty Images (see the selection here). The original photo is shown here...

It's from a series of photographs Stockley took at the York Hall Russian Baths, about which more here, which also says that "at the turn of the last century, philanthropists built a number of public baths and washhouses in densely populated areas of the East End of London, where the majority of housing lacked decent washing facilities ... the East End had the greatest concentration of Turkish Baths in the capital and York Hall is still going strong today."

Some others from the series of photographs (all from the Getty collection) are shown here.

Stockley's pictures are intriguing, as you'll see if you visit the collections linked to above, and seem well suited to use as cover images. I would not be surprised to see more of them used so in the near future.

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