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CUMMING, Donigan.
The Stage.
(Montreal: Maquam Press, 1991).
£1,000

(241 × 166 mm), pp.[256]. 250 black-and-white photographs, text passages from Cecil B. de Mille’s film The Ten Commandments as remembered by Albert Ross Smith on 30th May 1988. Black-and-white illustrated wrappers, perfect bound; very light toning to covers. Signed by Cumming in black ink to first page. Fine.

First edition, signed copy. The Stage comprises photographs that were originally taken for two earlier projects: ‘Reality and Motive in Documentary Photography’ and ‘The Mirror, The Hammer, and The Stage’. Cumming began making these photographs after asking his local grocery store in Montreal if he could accompany the delivery boys as they made their rounds. On arriving at each customer’s house he proposed that he photograph them and in exchange would give them prints of these photographs. Rather than recording what he found Cumming engaged his subjects, giving directions as to how and with what they pose. ‘Like Arbus, Cumming has been criticized for being both aggressive and cruel, but everyone in The Stage looks willing enough and well aware of what they are letting themselves in for. He does not make his subjects appear demented, just eccentric. In this extraordinary book, everything is done with a sense of humour and good nature on the part of both photographer and photographed’ (The Photobook). OCLC locates a number of copies in Canadian libraries but just 3 elsewhere: Harvard; University of California, Berkeley; Bibliothèque nationale de France. Refs.: Robert Graham, Parachute, no. 34 (March, April, May 1984), pp.19-24; The Photobook: A History vol.II p.117.

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