There's not much to say about the Citroën DS that hasn't already been. After 20 years of production, a million and a half examples putting rubber to the road, and now 40 years of presence on "Best..." lists since the last one rolled off the assembly line, we've run out of words. Counterpoint knows this. As does writer Jon Pressnell--he wrote quite a few of those words himself. So with just enough text to prod the shockingly uninitiated to Google the DS, he invites the rest of us to turn the page and simply enjoy the beauty within.
Once past the intro, we come (literally) face to face with an absolutely stunning car. A beautiful example showing exactly why Citroën named it the Goddess peeks its nose out the shadow of a parking garage to say "Hello". Oli Tennent's studio work with the car does a stellar job of showing its delicate beauty, but it's his on-location shots--such as the opening image--that give a voice to this tribute. The graceful, open mid-century modern automobile is artfully posed and photographed in the midst of the heavy, brutalist architecture of the Wyndham Court flats in Southampton. Where the Déesse is airy, open, and curvaceous, the building responds with solid, imposing concrete and wood arranged in military straight lines. Oli is right to mostly ignore what little glass the windows of the flats offer, there is seemingly no place for them in these masterful images. The obvious, yet welcomed contrast only strengthens the magnetism of his work here.
Counterpoint makes no pretense about Deity being a "book", and rightfully so. The form factor alone announces their intentions loudly, and clearly: this is about the pictures. A few words and some gold foil help catch the attention and serve as an unnecessary introduction, but you don't need to be told that the photos of the car are the true purpose here. There isn't even a bother to bind the book--the pages are simply folded along their long edge and you are to rely on crossovers and common sense to keep everything in order. It is exactly like reading a newspaper, which is fitting considering that the huge publication is about the size of a modest local paper. I have a sneaking suspicion that more than one buyer of Deity has already taken a page or two out, framed it, and hung it up on a wall. Almost certainly, someone has done so with the center fold--which opens up to a brilliant vertical print of the DS in the only picture that shows just how meagre and depressing the Wyndham Court building's windows are. That may be the primary point, but the lack of binding also keeps the sparse design clean and honest. A heavy spine or (heavens forbid) three startlingly ugly staples in the center would have removed some of the work's presence.
There's no use trying to explain why the DS does not look dated today. It's more than styling that's simply so old it's new again. The Citroën's silhouette is strange enough that it's hard to place it firmly in a period of automotive design that has expired. Like the familiar pouncing shape of the Jaguar XJ that we only recently lost, it would not be out of place going up I-75 today still wearing a fresh dealer plate...if we had shown more interest when it was sold here in the States, that is. Beautiful as it was, the DS simply could not win the battle against our archaic regulations and penchant for big horsepower on our wide open, better-paved roads. Still, Citroën continued to push them here for nearly 20 years and sold almost 40,000 to Yanks. And now, in today's more globalized automotive culture, the DS is finally starting to get the cult status here that she never enjoyed when new. 60 years from the day she first said "hello".