Larry Sultan & David Moore

Larry Sultan , 1985 (left),  David Moore , 1988 (right)

Larry Sultan, 1985 (left), David Moore, 1988 (right)

Larry Sultan & David Moore

Here are two photographs of men reading newspapers taken during a decade of economic highs and lows. On the left, Larry Sultan photographs his father in his Californian home in 1985. On the right, David Moore photographs a man in his Derbyshire council flat in 1988.

Sultan’s father reads the business section with a Sunday afternoon lethargy, perhaps glancing over the week’s share prices before mowing the lawn. Any bad news on the front page of this paper has been obliterated by the warm Californian sunlight.  What’s more visible is an advertisement on the back for discounted photo processing carrying the announcement, ‘Just in time to Save and Share Holiday Memories’. For an image where a newspaper looms so large, it seems remarkably unconcerned with news. Instead, the paper acts as a security blanket, protecting its reader from the outside world and from us, the strangers in his home. 

The size and security of the newspaper in Sultan’s image is contrasted by a much smaller, less comforting tabloid in Moore’s. Here a headline announcing 3400 more job cuts is highlighted by the cold brutality of a flash - another kick in the teeth for the working classes courtesy of the Thatcher government. Although the man looks slightly rotund as he sits on his sofa, there’s no ounce of lethargy here. Instead he grips the paper a little more tightly and holds it closer to his face, perhaps scanning the latest offerings in the job section. 

In the background of Sultan’s image the outside world offers us a sense of freedom. The sublime West is just a sliding door away. No such room to move in Moore’s image. The only hint of nature comes in the form of a sickly patchwork of leaves printed on the drawn curtains behind the reader.

Two photographs of men reading newspapers. Two very different photographs of men reading newspapers.