you probably have to blame calculators, or at least the advent of the little blighters. granted, they probably give such devices away free in lucky bags these days, now that the age of the smartphone is so endemic, but that doesn't excuse calculators from their initial destruction of workmanlike practices. i am, of course, referring to the age-old advice from our schoolteachers to ensure, particularly in the event of an exam, that we show our working. specifically this would refer to mathematics, physics chemistry et al, where the simple production of a final answer could conceivably be completely wrong, despite the process being by and large correct.
such advice could have been specifically applicable to me. i could quite simply have all my ducks perfectly in a row, yet manage to fail miserably at the final hurdle. but if i'd managed to scribble down the correct method of arriving at effectively the wrong answer, there may have been at least a smattering of brownie points on offer. aside from which, such indiscriminate marks on paper surely gave credence to the notion that the answers hadn't quite been a few blind stabs in the dark. (which, in truth, they might have been, if i'm perfectly honest).
i recall a short movie documentary about the work of camille mcmillan, one which impressed me greatly and not only due to the quality of his work. setting himself up on one side of the road, he rather calmly walked in the direction of approaching cycle racers, shooting frame after frame from hip-height.
i have received one or two e-mails of commendation from perhaps over-eager readers of the post regarding one or two of the images that have accompanied articles in these very pixels. while i'd be more than happy to accept such misplaced credit, in truth, the majority of photos used in my reviews are captured via the ten-second timer on the camera. if you saw quite how many of the resultant images feature absolutely nothing at all, you'd realise how few any of those that do appear can be attributed to any photographic skill i might possess. the words accident and design spring readily to mind.
camille mcmillan, however, is a photographer of a whole 'nuther order altogether. if i might refer to the 'shooting-from-the-hip' scenario above, the final photographs were of an order of magnitude above that which pretty much any of us could achieve, even if hasselblad or leica were to hand us everything they make. circus is a superb testament to the work of a photographer who was there at the beginning, when road-cycling transitioned from a niche to that of a larger niche.
in the normal strain of life, well over 200 pages of impressive and often artistically observed imagery would still require time to administer their persuasiveness; it's the very reason why bricks and mortar bookstores will always triumph over browsers and pixels. comfortably ensconced an a faux-leather armchair and accompanied by a designer cup of coffee, those waves of persuasion, colour and tactility can be allowed to field their best work. but circus proffers a secret weapon, that of a campagnolo toolkit emblazoned upon the book's endpapers.
anyone who can resist that form of coercion, is in the wrong department in the first place.
superficially, circus places itself under the category of 'coffee-table' book by dint of its generous size and heft when placed on your lap. this is not something you'd attempt to read in the bath. however, the above named category is one frequently employed to undermine or denigrate a publisher's over-production of a more simplistic undertaking. not so in this case. the expectant reader need only immerse him/herself in the early pages of six-day racing images to realise that for themselves. those set a precedent for all that follows.
but simply to flick through each art quality printed page, filled with admiration for a skill that few of us possess, is to entirely miss the point. for within these pages are a lifetime's work and hard graft, successfully demonstrating the veracity of the book's subtitle 'inside the world of professional bike racing'. as much as it would be incumbent upon yours truly to make a sub-list of what i personally find to be mcmillan's outstanding images, that would imply an intrinsic hierarchy, however subjective. in point of fact, it is their existence as a hard-won body of work that makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts.
not for nothing do the endpapers portray a robust toolkit.
mcmillan's collaboration with velodrome publishing has been the end result of what began as a kickstarter campaign to bring this imagery to the cycling cognoscenti. the cost of producing a book of this quality, however, proved beyond the limit of the substantial funds raised and velodrome publishing are to be warmly applauded for stepping in to bring mcmillan's finest work to our bookshelves.
to slightly misconstrue the opening words of david millar's foreword "When you're in it you don't see it. Everything seems normal because extraordinary started being ordinary...". as cycling obsessives, we have become almost inured to, or expecting of a certain quality of imagery supporting the world's most beautiful sport. it's a cultured attitude that can have us become naively blasé about that which is presented almost on a daily basis. camille mcmillan was (and still is) at the vanguard of contemporary cycle racing photography, along with one or two other notables. in their wake has arrived many an imitator, young and old pretenders purporting to say what they do not have the words to express.
circus restores everything to its original context. "You have to learn how to be part of what's going on and the camera has to be incidental to that."
camille mcmillan's 'circus' is published by velodrome publishing on wednesday 29 june.
tuesday 28 june 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................