Tag Archives: Matador Publishing

Alexander Gardner


Alexander Gardner –
Visionary Photographer of the American Civil War
By Keith Steiner
Matador – 25.00

How does a camera lie? In this naming of parts, the ways are legion. Most would not question the facts of the doctoring, editing, adjusting of photographs in the modern age of sophisticated airbrushing. The term to ‘photoshop’ is synonymous with contemporary photography in the same manner as to ‘hoover’ is synonymous in domestic management. The alteration of photographs either pre or post exposure is now commonplace, and is not broadly regarded as a breach of ethical standards. The new trope takes its place in a world teeming with smartphone and tablet authored photographs. These photographs engage in stylised composition and promulgate a number of common tropes. Their number renders their imagery indistinct and sometimes invisible.

                                                                                                        (‘The Fallen Man’)

With the advent of fake-news currently marauding the airwaves like an out-of-control tyrant from fake-hell; just as much could readily be applied to photography – could it not?

Along with every schism and trajectory thereof.

Just two, highly in-depth qualities which Keith Steiner address, head on might I add, throughout  Alexander Gardner – Visionary Photographer of the American Civil War.


A rather lavishly put together book, which takes both the reader as well as the fan of the photograph on something of a magical mystery tour that’s deeply embedded within some of the most perplexing confines of politics, psychology and photography.

The above quotation ought to send many a curious mind unto perpetual motion; the final terminus of which, as Steiner reminds us in the chapter ‘Reflections on a Looking Glass: The Tragedy of Lewis Payne: The Enigma of Identity,’ invariably reads: ”At risk are the very notions of personhood, selfhood, integrity, identity and personal agency. Readers may recall the blood freezing discarnate incantation which transfixed Orwell’s Winston Smith in Nineteen-Eighty-Four (1949) at his moment of greatest intimacy, privacy and personal realisation – ”You are dead.”

From the tragic Rose Woods of Gettysburg to the equally tragic destruction of New York’s Twin Towers, this book’s powerful assimilation of photographs (and I do mean powerful within the catafalque like context of poignancy), truly are something to behold.

If not believe.
If not try and eventually come to terms with.

As such, the 165 pages of Alexander Gardner – Visionary Photographer of the American Civil War are unsurprisingly special.

As Elizabeth Rigby (later Lady Eastlake) once said in 1857: ”Photography has become a household word and a household want… is found in the cell of the convict… and on the cold brave breast on the battlefield.”

David Marx


Behind The Scenes In The Vintage Years


Behind The Scenes In The Vintage Years
By Torrens (Arthur Bourne)
Matador – £24.99

Back in the 1920s, there were more motor cyclists than car drivers, records were being broken every month at the Brooklands race track in Surrey, roads were empty and motorbikes constantly broke down.

Behind The Scenes In The Vintage Years is a unique and rather fascinating record of an unrepeatable era in British motorcycling and engineering history. To be sure, it’s a decidedly friendly and inviting book, that’ll admittedly, primarily appeal to a certain elite: that of a most pronounced and similar persuasion to that of Torrens himself.

Its eighteen chapters traverse the history of what it was like to ride hundreds of miles round Britain on reliability trials, and how Arthur Bourne provided weekly guidance for thousands of youngsters on two wheels – young engineers such as Edward Turner and Phil Vincent.

He furthermore writes of Brooklands and TT races on the Isle of Man, along with his experience(s) of the Second World War, where he enabled the airborne forces at Arnhem to be equipped with ‘lightweight’ motorcycles that could be dropped by parachute or flown in by glider! So in all, this is something of a rather rambunctious story that needs to be told really; which, along with assorted black and white newspaper clippings and photographs, provides for an altogether delightful, although at times, enlightening read.

For instance, in the fifteenth chapter (‘Motor Cycles In War’), Bourne writes: ”But for the Nazis telling the Dutch distributors of D.K.W.s that either they got rid of their Jewish directors or they would have no more D.K.W.s., there would not have been one of the 12,000 and more British wartime ‘Flying Fleas.’ I would not have the letter from 3 Div, one of the two assault divisions on the Normandy Beaches, saying ”They (600 of them) are just the thing for the job,” there would have been no Fleas for controlling the landing of supplies on the Beaches. B.S.A.s would not have had their highly successful post-War B.S.A Bantan and there would not have been the gifts from Royal Enfield and James of reconditioned Fleas that enabled the RAC/ACU ‘Training Scheme for Learner Motor Cyclists to get going.”

Arthur Bourne, who used the pseudonym ‘Torrens’ for readers of the best-selling weekly The Motor Cycle, was most definitely in the thick of a garrulous game – of which these 308 pages are a mere glimpse.

David Marx

The Chaos In The Middle East


The Chaos In The Middle East – 20014-2016
By Neville Teller
Matador – £11.99

The chaos can perhaps be traced back to the Tunisian spark in 2010 that kindled the so-called Arab Spring, which then, as uncontrollable as a forest fire, leaped from state to state. At the start it was a rejection by the Arab masses of the repression, human rights abuses, state censorship and other trammels of the dictatorships or absolute monarchies under which most existed […]. Elsewhere, if popular discontent did not result in the overthrow of governments, it certainly produced civil uprisings across the region from Algeria to Saudi Arabia.

Whether or not this book will provide for a more cohesive understanding of what’s currently happening in the Middle East will ultimately remain to be seen; simply because events in that particular region of the world appear to change by the hour.

If it’s not the cold and callous, murderous barbarity currently talking place in Aleppo, it’s yet another onslaught on the Islamic State. The most recent being the Battle for Mosul by both Iraqi and Kurdish forces.

To be sure, the never-ending calamity of pillage and murder, torture and execution that (unfortunately) continues to remain rife throughout so much of the Middle East, is, if nothing else, a shocking and most shameful stain upon the face of what’s left of humanity.

Plain and shockingly simple – yet it has to be said, The Chaos In The Middle East – 20014-2016 is an altogether brave and succinct attempt at deciphering the whole chaotic, ghastly mess.

The book’s eight chapters, the final of which, traverses a rather too wide, political canvas (‘Saudi Arabia’s New Broom’ to ‘Libya and the anti-Islamist Struggle,’ ‘The non-Arab Middle East’ to ‘Arab-Israeli Peace – A New Approach’) are an admittedly grim assimilation of today’s Middle-East.

A conundrum, which, it has to be said, doesn’t make for particularly uplifting reading.

This is by no means a reflection of Neville Teller’s fine writing, but rather, a reminder of the impossibility of the inexorably fraught and terrible, terrible situation.

Indeed, a veritable endless quagmire of which we are once again reminded a mere four pages from the book’s end: ”What is the point of flogging a dead horse? The Israeli-Palestinian peace carriage has advanced not an inch in the 68 years since the founding of the state of Israel. Its horse had no life in it from the very beginning.”

Cheerful it isn’t, although honest it most certainly is.

David Marx

The Anatomy Of Humbug


The Anatomy Of Humbug – How To Think Differently About Advertising
By Paul Feldwick
Matador – £17.99

In the Prologue of The Anatomy Of Humbug – How To Think Differently About Advertising, author Paul Feldwick reiterates the idea that ”’the world has changed and the old rules no longer apply’ has been a popular one for a long time in marketing and advertising circles […]., although most authors of this sort of thing do, usually, have a new discovery or radical new world view, which just happens to fit the brave new world we’re about to enter” (‘The Year Zero Narrative’).

An interesting viewpoint perhaps, but since when has advertising – and those who work within it – ever embraced anything that relates to, let alone fits anything remotely resembling a ”brave new world?”

Either way, this book’s fifteen chapters and 163 pages (excluding a Foreword by Jeremy Bullmore CBE, a Prologue, Epilogue, Appendices & Bibliography), draws from an array of insights, ranging from the nineteenth century showman P.T. Barnum to the twentieth century communications theorist Paul Watzlawick – not to mention such influential admen as Bernbach, Reeves and Oglivy.

Throughout, Feldwick argues that the advertising industry will only be able to deal with increasingly rapid change in the media landscape, if it both understands its past and is able to criticise its most entrenched habits of thought. Quoting Lannon and Baskin in chapter eight’s ‘Camay Is A Bit Catty,’ for instance, he writes: ”People choose their brands as they choose their friends. You choose friends not usually because of specific skills or physical attributes (though of course these come into it) but simply because you like them as people. It is the total person you choose, not a compendium of virtues and vices.”

In and of itself, this is very true; and like much of The Anatomy Of Humbug, accounts for a compliant menagerie of reasons as to why this book is so very readable (and I never ever expected to utter such words that relate to a book on advertising). There again, as Judie Lannon, the Editor of Market Leader has said: ”A genuinely original book, unlike anything ever written about advertising. Feldwick writes with clarity and wit: his book should be required reading for anyone in the business of communication.”

To be sure, Feldwick’s somewhat radical new view of how advertising works sheds a glimmer of hope that not all admen wear horrible, white nylon shirts, and come replete with a personality akin to that of leukemia. He deftly ”picks apart the historical roots of our common (and often contradictory) beliefs about advertising, in order to create space for a more flexible, creative and effective approach to this fascinating and complex field of human communication.”

David Marx

Salute The Word


Salute The Word
By Professor M.R. Ali
Matador – £9.99

Salute the Word isn’t at all – from a literary perspective at least – what it purports to be. And with such a quasi-powerful, all encompassing title, I was at least expecting to be somewhat touched, if not moved.

But when a poem comes replete with such an appalling, cumbersome title as ‘The Cucumber Epic’ – I absolutely kid thee not – then all (wrongly assumed) foregone assumptions are to be belittled beyond belief.

Were there to have been even the slightest hint of alliteration such as that of the last three words (belittled beyond belief), then this book might have been marginally acceptable. As is, its so tempestuously frustrating, and dare I say it, inadvertently jocular, I wasn’t sure whether to take it to the limit, take it on the chin or (remotely) take it seriously.

Might I add that this was acutely substantiated by the following:

That is why I preferred
To be called gherkin the pickle
So that I could tickle
The daughter of the fickle
And when I saw mother hen
Then I could giggle.
With acidity,
I gained respectability

Not that I’ve anything against cucumbers mind, but please…

To be fair, Professor M.R. Ali’s love of poetry began in Kerbala, Iraq, the place of his birth; so a lot of what he has written may well have been lost in translation. But surely not all of what he has written?

I’ve read and very much appreciated numerous works of international poetry, but this unfortunately, has to be one fo the weakest collections I’ve ever come across. Which just leaves me to say that Ali really isn’t doing himself any favours.

He ought to either find a far better translator, find something harrowing or tender or real to write about, or salute a lot more of his own imagination.

David Marx