William S. Burroughs
£30 / 160pp
“… photographers will tell you that often their best shots are accidents… writers will tell you the same.” – William S. Burroughs, 1978
On the whole, the photography art world has bided its time to lavish attention upon William S. Burroughs, struggling as institutions sometimes do to shake off the associations of the artist’s primary medium and to evaluate their “secondary” work on its own merit. Published to coincide with the show at The Photographers’ Gallery earlier in the year, Taking Shots is a timely overview of an artist who transcended many boundaries through not only his writing, but also his photography, surrealist collage, assemblages and cut ups. The book attempts to simply open up the work, rather than define it, and the curators admit to only having access to a small percentage of Burroughs’s total photographic oeuvre, with most of his archive having either been lost or destroyed. It would be interesting to know what the modest Burroughs himself would have made of his recent exposure. As David Brittain writes, in the aftermath of Szarkowski’s New Documents show in 1967, it would have been “very unlikely that Burroughs considered his snapshots to be photographic art”.
Reviewed by James D. Clark
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