Memento Mori: The Flats at Quarry Hill by Peter Mitchell
It's strange to think that the original first edition of Memento Mori has been out-of-print for almost 29 years. When it was published in 1990, the dust from Quarry Hill had already been settling for over a decade, and now almost 40 years have passed since one of the great utopian housing projects ceased to be. Peter's book is one of the great photobooks, and a largely overlooked work of ingenuity, passion and pathos.
When Peter Mitchell turned his camera on Quarry Hill in the late 1970s, the building was in terminal health and being slowly put down. A monumental edifice that had towered over this part of the city (the shop sits on the site of the estate), and that at one point housed 3000 people was captured in its death throes by a photographer who felt the need to document its demise - and we're glad he did.
The book is full of Peter's powerful images, but is also a marvel of design in its own right - archive photographs documenting the building of the flats, the inhabitants, newspaper cuttings of the day and other ephemera sit beside images of its demolishment. Past sits next to present, hope next to failure, utopia next to ... progress.
This reprint of this wonderful facsimile edition has been a long time coming, and the wait has been well worth it. The new edition has been beautifully published and is faithful to the layout of the original. Heavier stock paper has been used and photographic reproductions are stunning. There is also a new afterword by the author, full of his witty and wondrous prose ("The Microbes of Time gnaw away the innards, another war comes and goes, life gets hard and the novelty wears off.")
A book to make you cry for what we have lost, a book to make you wonder what the hell went wrong, but most of all a book about the power photography has to make us feel.