In this season of books there are a lot of ‘best’ photobook lists but where are the ‘worst of’ lists? I came across this crazy little gem at a free book exchange here in Kalk, Koeln. It is a photo-story of the life of Frances Farmer the actress from the 1930s who, after being run through the Hollywood mill, eventually ended up committed to a mental institution in Western Washington where she was subjected to inhuman conditions including rape, and shock treatments. Some believe that she could have been one of the greatest actresses of her time.
Ok, maybe its intention wasn’t meant to be a ‘true’ photobook but I think it actually fits the criteria in that it uses photography as its main language.
It was published by Kulleraugen or “Googly-eyes” in March of 1979 and to their credit, its publication preceded the 1982 film Frances.
The photos are by Brigitte Tast and Hans-Jurgern Tast who, in an afterword, mention reading about Farmer in Kenneth Anger’s book Hollywood Babylon. Their photoplay of Farmer’s life was an attempt to reflect on how they felt reading Anger’s account instead of a strict factual account. They admit to playing fast and loose with historical details in regards to Farmer’s early life. The actress playing Frances is Anne Dommel.
Kulleraugen was a media magazine established in 1977 which published a few books on film including titles on Bridget Bardot, John Travolta, and Marion Michael. There are a few copies of this online for around 20-30 euros so I guess only diehard fans will want to splurge. Meanwhile check your local free book exchange or second hand shop.