Review: Knock Three Times by Chris Coekin


Book Reviews, Photobooks

In the foreword to Chris Coekin’s Knock Three Times, David Campany calls Chris’ work “archeology of the present”, and I can’t think of a better phrase. In fact it could be applied to a lot of contemporary photography. The term archeology implies that someone is unearthing something, and while actual archeologists dig up yesterday’s people rubble and trash to then infer something about those people, photographers do it with what’s hidden in plain view. Of course, ‘hidden in plain view’ sounds like such a terrible cliché, but isn’t it also quite appropriate for what many people see but not notice?

Knock Three Times shows us the interior and guests of a working men’s club somewhere in England, over an extended period of time. A working men’s club is, well, what it says: A club where “working men” (and women) meet to socialize and to have a drink. But there’s more to the socializing than just the drinks and the chit chat, as you can easily see from the photos - even if you don’t know anything about a working men’s club - and you’ll have to look at the photography to see what it is.

Chris added scans of old photos, of postcards and letters to his photos, with - for me - the most memorable addition being a copy of his father’s “redundancy letter”, which looks like a mass-xeroxed letter, with the name of the recipient and the signature written by hand, and one memorable sentence “Please be advised that as from today’s date we have made you redundant.” - a just slightly more elaborate, yet equally rude version of “You’re fired!” That next to a letter Chris’ grandfather received when retiring after 49 years of employment. Times are changing, and these letters tie the project in with the larger environment, and with a working men’s club becoming a club for working and not working, unemployed men.

Knock Three Times is a book that you have to come back to, to discover more and to slowly find more of its meaning, especially if you’re from a country where “class” is no political concept or where talk of “class” is thought of as being either quaint or radical. In the best sense, Knock Three Times is archeology of the present: A glimpse into a world in our midst that many of us are simply unaware of.