Kelli Bickman, What I Thought I Saw: New York - London (Yatra Publication/11:11Studio, 1996)

This slim, compact volume (just over 90 pages) is home to roughly 40 black and white photographs taken by Kelli Bickman, assistant to Chris Claremont at the time. The collection is prefaced by a charming and witty introduction by Bickman's friend Neil Gaiman, who has the following to say about the photographer, "I keep things for Kelli that I find in the woods: dead animals and old door keys and insects." Telling words indeed. Not that the photographs are overtly bizarre or weird, but some of them are definitely the product of a mind slightly askew. How else to explain an image such as "Candy Cane," which depicts a confection of a very different sort – a nude woman curled over with elbows resting on her knees, with wide ribbons wrapped around her arm and legs, so she looks not unlike a barbershop pole — or candy cane.

Many of the photographs were taken during Bickman's two week stint with Gaiman in London, during the BBC filming of the Neverwhere mini-series, and show a variety of the cast members, primary and extras alike. There are delightful candid and posed portraits of Old Bailey, Lamia, Hunter, Cassandra, Croup and Vandemaar, and the main character, Richard Mayhew. The remaining were taken in New York, of the club scene it would appear (although there is one taken on one of the city's many bridges, capturing the scene of a suicide jumper).

Aside from exhibit titles, the only other text in the book is Bickman's afterword, where she states that photographs – and not words – are her forte. Which likely explains the lack of back story or explanatory text for any of the photos. Unfortunately, while some of her photographs are indeed very eloquent – a gorgeous, subtle silhouette of Hunter holding her spear; "Evolution," featuring an elderly gentleman, face indelibly etched by time's wrinkles, and a tiny capuchin monkey; "Confession," which shows two cast members deep in conversation, one in profile very much resembling an ornately dressed holy man; and the profoundly disturbing "Fashion Victim," with its unflinching examination of a painfully thin nude body; heroin chic indeed – others elicit little more than a cursory once-over (cast members playing cards, extras waiting around to be called, an extreme close-up of a scruffy, pierced young man with a spoon bulging in his mouth). There must have been something about those moments that Bickman felt worth capturing for posterity, but these particular photos are mute, denying Bickman her voice. Several of the New York photos are blurry, as if capturing motion, which may be a valid artistic choice, but looks merely muddled on the printed page.

This book is going to be of interest primarily to fans of Neverwhere, for Bickman's photos capture the cast wonderfully, and for die-hard fans, this book is a nice bit of memorabilia, a glimpse behind the scenes. The remaining photgraphs are a mixed bag, some very visually arresting, others forgotten once the book is closed.

 

[April Gutierrez]

Bickman's photography, including images from this book, can be found online at her personal Web site