Edited by V. Sherson, D. Cook, A. Wilkinson
Ramp Press/Wintec, NZ$48 | Reviewed by Andy Palmer

Baches of Raglan is the type of book I am surprised more educational institutions don’t attempt. Published by Ramp Press, Wintec’s in-house publishing label, the book is a collaboration between photography, journalism, and design students and tutors at the Waikato Institute of Technology.

As a project it not only gives students some valuable real-world work experience – producing work for publication and all that is involved in that process – but it also provides the institution with a piece of subtle marketing. Unlike most other student-related publications I’ve seen, Baches of Raglan doesn’t push the student angle, rather it seems to proclaim itself as an interesting book which just happens to include work by students.

As you’d probably deduce from the title, Baches of Raglan is about Raglan (township and wider area) and its baches. The fact that it’s a collaboration between photographers, journalists, and designers should imply that it contains photographs, some factual writing, and well, that it has some kind of design.

On the design side, it’s not exactly exciting or pushing boundaries but it is perfectly functional. There is a nice touch, albeit a fairly common one these days, in printing the introduction on different paper stock. But, in reality, most books these days play it straight, so this is not really an issue.

Beryl Fletcher’s short breezy introduction, The Shape Shifters, offers a brief history of Raglan, its baches, and bach life. It is easy reading, but a good lead in to the body of the book. This being 23 stories of bach owners old and new, permanent dwellers and holiday-homers, accompanied by photographs of the owners and their dwelling.

The text consists of snippets of conversation which help to paint a picture of the bach, its history, and its owners/dwellers. Although the interviews were conducted by a number of people there’s a consistency of style with this presentation; where the subject speaks for itself and the journalist becomes the editor.

There is also a remarkable consistency in the photography. Again, the images were made by a number of people, though they could have been taken by one person. This gives flow to the book but, because it’s my main area of interest, I would have liked to have seen a bit more of the various photographers’ individuality come through. Photography co-ordinator David Cook’s last book, Lake Of Coal, contained a wonderful mix of photographic styles from Cook himself, while coherently telling the all important story. Compared to that, this feels safe and homogenised.

For each story there is, generally, a photo of the owner/dweller and interior, exterior, and a close up shot or two of the bach. The text is fairly minimal but the quotes are well chosen, giving us a warm introduction to the characters. The baches are well chosen too, covering a wide variety of design (interior and exterior) and people (young, elderly, families, singles). The stories are interesting, although often the text only left me wanting to know more. Another wee quibble is that it could have used a map for those of us less familiar with the area.

Baches of Raglan is a fine book, of which the contributors should be proud. I’d like to think that it might encourage other institutions to think outside the square and attempt similar projects. I’m also keen to see what Wintec comes up with next.