GOD'S FOX — DON MONTGOMERY — Words by Austin Collings
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Meet Charles Gordon Montgomery: ex-boilerman at Prestwich 'Mental' Hospital, hard liver with a hard-liver and the best British photographer you've never heard of.
"I liked art books as a kid but I always felt let down by the words that accompanied the images. I hope God's Fox redresses that bygone injustice," says author Austin Collings, who has been unearthing this marvellous and momentous archive of photographs for over five years, combing through lofts and bin bags.
Coloured by wonder and laced with a sly but also affectionate humour, this is part personal portrait and part study of a particular time and attitude in British history. An 'art book' in Pariah's own idiosyncratic pulp style.
Making fun is easy. Making contact is something much harder.
Praise for God's Fox:
"Powerfully human postcards from a cancelled class, seen through a prematurely vanished eye, God's Fox is lousy with electrifying words and images from unimaginable times. Unmissable."
Alan Moore, author of Watchmen and From Hell
"Doomed pictures of the asylum, doomed pictures of ourselves, the comfort of madness, the reaching arms, the forlorn sleep of babes on green lawns. 'Children of the mist'. All is never quiet down in the engine room. The busted noses, the blackened eyes, the Prestwich wallpaper. A hand-cranked, one-shot rifle—you got one chance, then you're dead. Lonely youth, missing teeth, the brutal bricks, nicotine heroes, decayed heroes. It's hilarious, but it's not funny anymore. The Orange Fox tips slyly through the debris. "I want to show you nothing." Because you have already shown us too much? Cheap film never lies. The sober intoxication of Charles Gordon Montgomery's camera eye is ruthless as a razor. The words of Austin Collings are an inscrutable augury—the labyrinth of Daedalus turned inside out."
Tav Falco, musician and artist
"Become blessed in these poignant words and portraits of our radiant kin, sharpened in negative against a poverty of recognition. Angels in the wrench of the real, standing prouder than we. A book to be cherished or nailed to the heads of those who refuse to see."
Brian Catling, artist and author of The Vorrh Trilogy
"Hauntingly beautiful. The perfect blend of comedy and tragedy. What a treat!"
Diane Morgan, comedian, actress & screenwriter: Weekly Wipe and Motherland
"Cats, cakes, hats, fags, the vortex of delusion, abandonment and insanity. The first thing I think of looking at this collection of Charles Gordon Montgomery’s is the 1970s work of William Eggleston, that son of Memphis who, too, was derided for producing what was deemed to be such crude and unartful work. Like Eggleston, though, CGM reveals himself to possess a way of seeing that is singularly his own. In these relentlessly bleak and bereft photographs I see the work of someone with an abundance of empathy, time to kill, imbuing those who are unfortunate to live in this world a caustic, childlike and sly dignity, even if they may not know it. Who knows, maybe it’s they who are having the last laugh? A sincerely beautiful and complete body of work from a time and place where you could have any colour you liked, as long as it was brown."
Chris Floyd, photographer
"God’s Fox is an amazement: an unnerving, funny, moving and oblivion-defying document. Charles Gordon Montgomery’s photographs of the warehoused cast-offs of Prestwich Hospital and the bruised, spirited denizens of the surrounding pubs are a revelation, and Austin Collings’ lyrical catalogue essay, with all its gritty sparkle, is a beautiful match for the visual work."
Sam Lipsyte, author of The Ask, Home Land and Hark
"God's Fox beautifully encapsulates the faded glamour and intrinsic meddle that were inherent in my early fascination of all things from this part of the world, an exotic mix of otherness and every day that is rarely so perfectly captured. Montgomery's shots of Nico are an excellent example of his unique ability to catch this mercurial quality in the millisecond of a shutter flash."
Jennifer Otter-Bickerdike, author of You are Beautiful and You are Alone
"Thank god Don saw what most of us would have missed, and more than that he bothered to record it. Equally, thank god that Austin saw in Don and Don's photos what most of us would have missed again. It sounds glib, but it's not: the book's a reminder that every life is extraordinary."
Andrew Hankinson, author of You Could do Something Amazing with Your Life [You are Raoul Moat]
Austin Collings takes me places with his writing. They are rarely places I have spent much or any time thinking about, or if I had, that I'd want to spend much time in. But I go nonetheless. When you see a black Mitre holdall standing in water, what choice have you got? Surely only the clinically insane would not wonder how it got there—or where it's going. In the story and images of Don Montgomery, Collings' journey heads down forgotten corridors that squeak and smell of disinfectant but, as always, reward further investigation.
Dan Davies, author of In Plain Sight: The Life & Lies of Jimmy Savile
"From Prestwich Hospital to the local pub, this remarkable photography collection maps a singular world that includes luminaries like Nico and Mark E. Smith. Austin Collings’ visionary prose tunnels deep into these beguiling and unnerving images, amplifying their meanings without blunting their mystery. He prowls alongside Charles Gordon Montgomery down endless hallways, encountering a crew who pose with defiant self assurance, eager to show off their freshly minted black eyes. God’s Fox is a book that breathes like few others."
Jeff Jackson, author of Mira Corpora and Destroy All Monsters
"Totally raw, bleak & incredibly powerful imagery of a forgotten time by a sadly unremembered artist."
Gerard Johnson, director of Tony, Hyena and Muscle
Accreditation & Specification:
Digitisation: Jonny Walsh
Photo Edit: Jonny Walsh
Sequencing: Austin Collings & Jonny Walsh
Cover Design: Adam Griffiths
Layout: Andrew Tennant & Jonny Walsh
Typesetting: Andrew Tennant
Print: Offset Litho
Cover Pantone: 803 C
Paper: Mondi (Aus), Lecta (Italy) & Novatech (Ger)
Format: Paperback (190x125mm) Perfect Bound & Shrink Wrapped
Published: 20th September 2021
Trade: PARIAH PRESS
Categories: Photography, Social History
Edition of 500
Whitechapel Gallery Bookshop, London
Donlon Books, London
Village Books, Leeds and Manchester
Rare Mags, Stockport
Also Found At:
Tokyo Art Book Fair '21
Milan Art Book Fair '21
Dublin Art Book Fair '21
Miss Read Berlin Art Book Fair '22
The White Hotel, Salford 16.09.21
Psalon-1, London 29.09.21