The first non-audio project from VAGUE ABSOLUTES is a small book of polaroids by our friend Tom Bonauro.
Long before earning commercial and critical accolades for his work with Emigre magazine, Levi’s, Gus Van Sant, and Todd Oldham, Bay Area graphic designer Tom Bonauro could be observed in the night clubs of California’s new wave and fledgling punk scenes during the late 1970s and early 1980s, clubs such as San Francisco’s Fab Mab, and the Masque in Los Angeles. Apart from mere spectatorial roles, Tom contributed his avante garde eye for design to layout spreads and adverts for underground periodicals like Boulevards and Another Room, and album artwork for visionary local bands like Minimal Man and The Hoovers. This small book compiles 27 polaroids captured by the artist during that wonderfully-seedy era of West Coast decadence and audacious self-expression.
Our take: Vague Absolutes is a division of Warthog Speak Records focusing on small-run editions of items of niche interest, and this is their first non-record project. This is a beautiful little art book collecting 27 Polaroid photographs taken by Tom Bonauro in the late 70s and early 80s. While the book doesn’t include much info—its stark, minimal design places the emphasis squarely on the photos themselves—you’ll recognize several famous faces like Darby Crash, Joan Jett, Tomata Du Plenty, Penelope Houston, and Patti Smith. More important than who the photos depict, though, is how they’re depicted. These snapshots aren’t publicity shots, but candid photos of friends hanging out. They capture a surprising amount of historical detail given the technical limitations of Polaroids, but I find myself paying more attention to how beautiful the photos themselves are. This is a slim volume, and it’s expensive, but it’s beautifully executed, feeling more like something you’d pick up in a museum gift shop than a rough-hewn punk zine.