Once upon a time, way back in the 70’s and 80’s, there were no mobile phones nor social media, not even the internet. There was Citizens Band Radio – the first free form of mass communication.
Committed CB Radio users had their own ‘calling cards’, known as ‘eyeball’ cards. These were a form of personal promotion, pseudonyms and artistic illustrations were used as a means of identifying the CB user, expressing their personality as much as providing the recipient with their details.
20 years or so ago, Titlow came across two photograph albums full of eyeball cards at a jumble sale in Leiston. He thought it would be interesting to photograph some of the people involved – although it wasn’t until 2012 that he actually set out on his mission, resulting in the publication of his photobook Eyeball Cards: The Art of British CB Radio Culture.
As Titlow explains, the project was not without its difficulties:
“I found a lot of the people were quite old, quite a lot of people had died. It was quite difficult to get hold of them,” he says. “I started with my friend Simon; his parents were Sugarbeet and Fruit Cake. They let me photograph them. I found a few more people in my town but it was really difficult. Lots of people were in their 70s and 80s who weren’t keen on being photographed.”
Others were reticent because they were fearful of repercussions, because CB Radio was illegal when it first started. He found he might sit and talk with people for hours and learn a lot, but then not be able to convince them to be photographed. “Sometimes I met with an initial kind of ‘Wow, I love it, I remember this, it’s brilliant’ and as soon as I said can I come round and photograph you, meet you, have a chat? they all clammed up,” he says, a little disappointed.
However, Titlow succeeded in creating a record of this past community. A ‘half-and-half affair’ with portraits shown next to some of the eyeball cards. These little squares show the creativity and ingenuity of the CB Radio community.
David Titlow is a former musician turned fashion and advertising photographer. He has been commissioned by the Guardian, Vanity Fair, Esquire, Rolling Stone and Vice magazine, amongst others.
In 2014 Titlow was the winner of the prestigious Taylor Wessing photographic portrait prize.