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Book Review: Uncovered

Thomas Allen coverYou might have seen the work of photographer Thomas Allen floating around the weblogs a few months back — he’s the guy who cuts out and arranges pulpy paperback books from the ’50s in surprising and delightful ways. Now some of his work has been collected in a new monograph, Uncovered: Photographs by Thomas Allen. In his intro, celebrity designer Chip Kidd likens Allen’s work to those old Warner Bros. cartoons in which characters pop out of various books covers and have shenanigans with each other — a totally apt comparison. It might sound gimmicky, but his work is actually gorgeous to look at, with carefully considered compositions and a shallow depth of field which creates beautifully blurred shapes around the edges. The figures pictured in the cover art represent the typical fantasy archetype of that era — lots of busty babes and square-jawed manly men — and putting them in this setting makes them appear even more dreamlike. I also get the sense that Allen simply enjoys the variety of visual textures in these musty paperbacks — not just the covers but the spines and the pages. The more “used” they look, the better, with resulting imagery so sumptuous you could just dive into them.

Surprisingly, Aperture chose to bind Uncovered as a board book, meaning the pages are printed on thickish cardboard. An unconventional format for a non-kiddie book, for sure, but I like how it allows you to easily see a photo spread across two pages without the binding getting in the way. Although sporting a nifty die cut, the cover is blandly designed and gives no indication of the depth of Allen’s work. Also, I wish there were a few more photographs, but the ones they did choose to include are excellent.

Uncovered: Photographs by Thomas Allen is available now from Aperture. Buy at Amazon here.

Thomas Allen spread

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