by Rudi Thoemmes
I had been warned that getting Krass Clement to Photobook Bristol would be difficult. It was. It took dozens of emails over several months of delicate negotiations and plotting with Anne, his partner. Krass does not have an email account, like another well-known recluse from Leeds (though at times I suspected that it was him rather than Anne who answered).
Anne warned me that Krass does not like giving talks, so we decided that he could be “in conversation” with someone. Names were suggested and rejected. In the end we settled on one of Krass’s biggest fans, Martin Parr, who seemed to be acceptable.
By this stage Anne and I had become good email pals and I asked whether it might be possible for Krass to stay on for a few days after the Festival to get to know Bristol. My intention was to discuss a possible future project with him based here. Unfortunately, Anne was adamant that if he knew that I was booking the tickets for five or six days rather than two, she couldn’t guarantee that Krass would get on that plane. He would refuse to come. She had also reassured me that if he did make it he would be absolutely fine, so in the end we decided that we wouldn’t tell him until just before the trip that he was staying on for a few days.
My nervousness at the airport pick-up vanished within about 20 seconds of meeting him. Anne was right, of course. He was lovely and the perfect guest.
The talk was the most memorable of all the Photobook Bristol events for those fortunate enough to be present (and he got the better of Martin too, not an easy feat, and done with grace and humour). An even more stunning performance was to follow on the dance-floor in the evening. Mik Artistik has seen a lot of wild dancing in his gigs over the years but he still remembers “that Danish bloke” as being rather special. He really was.
I did mention very casually that I was keen for him to do something on BS3 (a postcode which refers to the part of Bristol where we have the Festival) but in the end no serious discussion about a possible book took place. Instead there was a lot of other serious discussion especially about the looming Brexit vote. Krass was preoccupied, even anxious about the possibility of Great Britain leaving the EU. I was not quite sure which way I was going to vote, and he kept on begging me to vote to stay in. His most memorable and probably most plausible argument was that we couldn’t possibly leave everyone else to deal with the Germans on their own without Britain.
A few weeks later he informed me that he had a first pdf of his Bristol book ready, and would I like to see it, and was I still interested in publishing it ? In typical Krass-style he had done it in just a few days, and would now spend several months or years on the editing and sequencing of his images. There were further versions over the coming two years. He thought it was one of his most difficult, complex and important works ever, and “not easy to understand”. For the most part he stayed well clear of the north of the “Cut”, where the more affluent part of the City lies (and which recently made an appearance in John Gossage’s new book from a visit to Bristol many years ago).
Images from Krass Clement - Across the Cut