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Jane & Serge: A Family Album Hardcover – December 15, 2013
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About the Author
Andrew Birkin is a writer and film director. He won the Royal Television Society's award for "The Lost Boys," his trilogy of films based on his biography of J. M. Barrie. Later he won a BAFTA award for "Sredni Vashtar" as well as an Oscar nomination, and in 1993 won the Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin Film Festival for "The Cement Garden."
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First, what is included?
1. The book - 176 pages - and not a single word on any page excepting for the title, author, copyright info, and the following: "This album contains, in chronological order, 160 photographs taken between 1963 and 1979 by Andrew Birkin of his sister Jane Birkin, Serge Gainsbourg, and their relatives."
2. A 64 page, 5.5" x 8.5" booklet printed on cheap off-white paper with "Prefaces" by the editor and Jane Birkin; 13 pages of big and charming black and white photos of Jane & brother Andrew (and others) from their childhood; "Jane & Serge" by Andrew Birkin - which consists of 21 pages of Birkin's recollections of growing up with Jane, and of her life with Serge; and finally - a guide that contains brief captions for all of the pictures that appeared in the 176 page book. All text is in English.
3. A folded 36" x 25.5." poster covered with photos that are in the 176 page book.
4. Five 6"x4" nice glossy photos (all of which are also in the 176 page book).
5. A 16 page 8"x6.75" glossy "contact sheet" booklet that contains strips of black & white developed negatives - all of which are very small, most of which are not in the 176 page book. The photos are only on the odd numbered pages of the booklet - the even numbered pages just have a month and a date handwritten on an otherwise blank page.
6. An embroidered blue patch that says "Jane & Serge" (same logo as book cover) roughly 5"x5"; and finally
7. A 7.5"x8" "Sticker Sheet" containing stickers of the aforementioned book logo and of the "Years" drawings that appear in the book to separate individual years of the photos (e.g., 1969, 1970, drawn in peculiar ways).
I have some complaints about this collection which I'll detail below, but it still deserves 5 stars - for two reasons: First and foremost - the photos in the 176 page book; and to a lesser extent (but still great) - Andrew Birkin's 21 page "Essay" that appears in the cheap looking 64 page booklet. First, the photos. These are unlike any photos I've ever seen of Serge or Jane. Looking through the booklet made me realize that most if not every picture I'd seen of Serge or Jane - they were posing for a photo shoot. Or they were performing. Or they were being interviewed. They were all taken either intentionally for public consumption or under circumstances where they knew they were being viewed by the public. The photographs in THIS book are simply not the same. They're family photographs - taken by Jane's brother Andrew (1 year older than Jane). They're photos of Serge and Jane horsing around, goofing off with daughters Kate or Charlotte, enjoying a holiday meal . . . the kinds of photographs that are in all of our photo albums. Real life photos - not photos designed to promote a particular image. To make matters better, photography was a part of Andrew's professional life - and he was clearly a talented photographer. Family photos of Serge and Jane taken by a pro and a part of the family - somebody both Serge and Jane were extremely comfortable with and who could therefore capture them both under circumstances they could really be themselves. Absolutely fantastic!
Second - Andrew Birkin's 21 page "Essay." Andrew has an entertaining writing style - but the beauty of this essay isn't in its prose - but in its revelation of details that help us to understand both Serge and Jane. Stories I've never read or heard before - invaluable observations that, like the photos, only a very close friend or family member could make and convey.
Now for my complaints - I wish they would have included all of the information from the 64 page cheap looking booklet into the 176 page book. In order for you to learn about the photographs in the big book - you have to have the little 64 page booklet in hand also. Why didn't they just include these captions in the book?!?! It's terribly annoying to have to go back and forth between the photographs in the book and the details about the photographs in the booklet. The booklet's guide contains very tiny (.5" x .75") black and white reproductions of the photographs in the booklet to help keep track of which captions go with which pictures, but it's a pain to have to go back and forth. It's not like they didn't have enough room to put the captions on the same pages. This leads into my second main complaint: Each page in the 176 page book is about 8.25" x 10". Each page contains a single 6" x 4" photograph. In other words, lots of blank space on every page. Why couldn't they have enlarged the pictures? I guess they wanted to make it look like a photo album - and photos are often 6" x 4". But lots of people include "captions" in their photo albums . . .
The other tidbits . . . the poster, the stickers, the embroidered patch, the five glossy photos, the "contact sheet" booklet . . . they're all lovely collectibles. But they're trivial compared to the photos in the 176 page book and the info included in the 64 page booklet.
So while this isn't what I would consider "perfect," the pros of this collection far, far, far outweigh the cons -this is a "necessary" collection to have if you're a fan.