Looking back at the work I’ve been making, most of it revolves around the exploration of loss. Its been a central thread in almost all work made and for my exhibit (which is still on in ICP if you’re in NYC) I made a zine which deals with loss and how we cope with not reaching closure.
Last Seen print edition is now online for free preview on Issuu. There is a newsprint self published edition which I made but I’ve not really gone out there and distributed it other than in the ICP exhibition. There is also a accompanying online interactive part of the project but its still to be tweaked for seamless performance. I’m working on that and will notify when its available.
Making a book about one’s personal experiences is a extremely difficult task. Its quite easy for one to move into cliched spaces or rather visual content which is obliviously unresolved. Personally I’ve dealt with it and am still working to refine my work when it comes to personal stories. Now I never really sought to see Araki as a inspiration for work which is based on personal emotional content, considering his work includes images of bondage and obscenity with intense sexual energy.
But then I went out and bought a copy of “Diary Sentimental Journey” by Araki and I have to say that its possibly one of the most brilliant and emotionally engaged work that I have ever seen.
Hardbound in red linen, cased in a cardboard sleeve with a illustrated girl and text, the book is as mysteriously subtle as can be. There is nothing on the book itself other than a eye embossed on the right top corner. Size wise, its small, comfortable and intimate. Because its Japanese, it opens from left to right, starting with a wedding photograph from Noboyoshi Araki & Aoki Yoko.
I won’t write much about the plot of the narrative because its such a pleasure to be able to see it develop, but there are somethings which can’t be denied a conversation. Firstly its the fragile nature of images. Simple and subtle, they hold you much longer than you might assume. Araki seems to have found within these images much more than just what is visible, an deep longing which is further more enhanced with the brilliant sequencing.
Araki constantly repeats and etches into the readers subconscious ideas which seem just so ephemeral and delicate that if they were said out loud they would vanish into thin air. There are elements into this book which seem exceptionally casual but they play such an important part in the storytelling experience. All in all, the structure of the book is as close to perfection as can be.
Sentimental Journey isn’t a expensive book, I bought mine for 40$ from Japan and I am so much in love with it that I’ve gone through it multiple times and every time I do so, it brings out new thoughts on loss, intimacy and the very balance between the physical and the spiritual. This is one of those books which you need to go out and read if you can’t get a copy of your own. Must have for your library!
PS : A fly made into the pictures twice when photographing the book and I decided for it to just let it be. FYI Araki didn’t intend for it to be there so ignore it if you will please.
There has been a tectonic shift in how we consume journalistic images in the last five years. As the smartphone camera market has emerged, its also made us question the position of photographers in stories and in the current visual culture. Personally believe, age of the mythical heroic photojournalist is over. And this critical thought has in fact been in discussion with many recent books which came out, one example being War Porn by Kehrer Verlag.
But today I’m going to discuss about the very poignant book Infidel by Tim Hetherington which abandons the traditional ideas of being a war photographer and takes a much more personal approach. For those who don’t know the project, Tim Hetherington and reporter Sebastian Junger spent 15 months living with a small unit of US Army deployed on a tiny outpost built in north-eastern Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley. Considered the most active fighting grounds in Afghanistan, the outpost was built to support a nearby larger supply base which was constantly under fire.
Coming back to the book, small journal sized, the faux leather bound Infidel feels almost like a religious artefact in your hands. The images inside are partial gloss prints, with a thick white border. The pages are thick but unlike a fine art photobook, they bend making the entire book a little flexible and a little more personal. 240 pages thick, the book operates in sections, each divided by the style Tim follows.
“You can get bored of taking pictures of fighting,” he says. “I got more interested in the relationship between the soldiers. That’s where the shots of them sleeping came from. If you go to these places you can sometimes get all your media oxygen sucked up by the fighting; we were lucky to have time to explore other things.”
This is the very core of what Infidel is about. Unlike previously released books by war photographers, this work does not just deal with the act of war but acknowledges that most of it is just waiting. And in this waiting period, bonds are built between men who will possibly die for each other.
Tim also challenges the very nature of masculinity projected by the young soldiers, their bravado also unconsciously exhibiting tenderness and friendship in a way which is almost childlike.
The book moves in and out constantly, falling into tense moments and then releasing the reader into lighter spaces. As a reader you move into portraits of the young men, landscapes, illustrations of the men’s tattoos, dogs with bullet shells for collars and the soldiers wrestling playfully. But under all this is a constant stress of anticipation, waiting for sirens.
For me Infidel is not only about the brotherhood of the soldiers and their personal lives un-glorified but also about how we interpret war now as a sadistic entertainment, looking for it, hoping for specific images in a heroic war photographers story.
Tim also masters the rhythm in the book, the sequencing of the images is just brilliant. Its so wonderful to see the way it comes together, always being true to its subjects and the weight of the situation but also never betraying the photographers personal viewpoint.
Infidel is a great book to have and definitely worth your library. Its easily available on Amazon & Photo Eye. Also if you’re interested in looking at the images, Magnum Photos has a set available for the public to see!
The images from Sally Mann have always managed to evoke a emotional response from the audience, almost always strongly in one direction or the other.
Mann has been in news recently with NY Times publishing two articles about her first major work “Immediate Family” and about her experiences to follow after that body of work. Also with the release of her memoir “Hold Still”, she comes closer to helping the audience really understand the conflicts which exist inside of her not only as a mother and a artist but how she constantly deals with ideas of impermanence, despair and humanity.
I recently got my own copy of “Immediate Family” and looking through it raises the questions of how do we draw a line between a innocent gaze and perversion, also the question that should we really question the work produced on the basis of not what it aspires to emote but where it crosses the barriers of established fears.
Mann also has a documentary out discussing her latest work along with her journey as an artist which is available online, called “What Remains”.
There has been much developing here now that finally winter is over. Coming from India I imagined I would be the last person to get sick of the cold but wearing layers of clothes does get really frustrating real quick.
Other than that, winter has been photogenic and makes me appreciate the light of summer so much more. Also snow is a tricky thing to work with because it reflects light in a completely different way.
I’ve really started seeing light so very differently. Its amazing how much it can change from location to location and we don’t necessarily pay attention to it.
Lastly, I just got my hands on some amazing new books. Finally have an Alec Soth in my collection (From Here To There), Infidel by Tim Hetherington and the brilliant American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar by Taryn Simon. Reviews on all of them soon on Constellation Cafe.
Oh before I forget, Constellation Cafe has a instagram account now for your daily dose of inspiration from photography and other visual culture sources. Follow on @constellationcafe.
Nazraeli Press is definitely one of my most favourite publishers. And I wouldn’t have expected any lesser from them when it came to Todd Hido’s beautiful book “Between The Two”.
Now for those who don’t know much about Todd’s work, he’s a brilliant photographer based in San Francisco and when I first saw his work it just completely shook me up. If I wanted to describe it, I would say he lies somewhere in between fiction and documentary, his images creating intensely speculative ideas which lead your imagination into the most powerful spaces.
I just recently got my hands on his book “Between The Two”. Hardbound and huge, the design is highly experiential. Published after his hugely successful “House Hunting”, “Outskirts” & “Nymph Daughters” this book tries to combine all of them in one singular flow with multiple voices.
Printed on semi gloss paper, the book presents images in a hypnotic rhythm. Hido admits that a lot of his work is inspired by his ever growing archive and the cultural background he comes from. Needless to say his work has a very intimate emotional quality.
As you flip through the pages, you see abandoned empty houses, nude women and unknown buildings standing silently at night. On their own the images are beautiful but together they form something really astounding.
What is really engaging about Hido’s vision is the way he leads you to believe that all these images are really saying something very specific when in fact all they do is let you translate them in any way you like. As you page through, you start building ideas, your mind fills up the silence and blanks which are left open by the artist.
Coming back to the book, a brand new copy is somewhere about 75$ but you can find it a little cheaper on Amazon.
This is a great book to have and its really inspiring to see how Todd uses images to communicate with each other. If I could change something, I would have added more landscapes, interiours and house pictures and reduced the nudes. Other than that, if you do have a opportunity to add this to your library, I would definitely recommend it.
For those who are interested, there is a beautiful interview by him on ahorn magazine’s website. He also recently spoke at SVA and the video is open for public.
“I don’t have the impression that I photographed you a great deal. I certainly photographed you less than I wanted to. Besides, I don’t know why I photograph you. Maybe because I can’t caress you, but I never even asked to caress you.”
“The idea makes me shudder.”
“You see, its easier to ask to take your picture than to ask to caress you. I photograph you as if I were stocking up on you, in anticipation of your absence. These pictures are like pledges, or bonds, for my desire: I don’t even know if I’ll ever print them, but if one day, because I am in love, your absence becomes unbearable to me, I know that I’ll be able to turn to this little roll of film and develop your image, and caress you, but without making you shudder, or casting a spell on you. They say that if you want to make someone who is stubborn fall in love with you, all you have to do is surreptitiously put an apple stuck with clover under their bed and let it rot there. A photograph works the same way, like a spell I might cast on you. By taking your photograph, I can attach myself to you, make you a part of my life, assimilate you. And you can’t do anything about it.”
Translated from French, Ghost Image by Hervé Guibert
Happy New Year!! 2014 has been a brilliant last year and so much yet to come. This post is mostly going to be a recap of the last year and a hint on the amazing things to come soon this year.
Firstly this has been a great year in terms of just getting to understand how to see photography. I spent the last three months moving through the idea of straight documentary to how to seek abstraction in the same space to make it so much more than I could possibly explain.
Its also been a great technical learning experience both with how to manage film and digital. I have to say I have new found respect for what digital can do and am looking to shoot a lot more with my Canon DSLR.
I also got the chance to mingle with Large Format 4×5 cameras and see 8×10 in action and it just amazes me how much you can get out of a negative.
So keep checking up on the blog. Subscribe (if you haven’t already) and you can follow Constellation Cafe on Facebook too! Also because we’re starting a new year, let me know if you have any requests for specific topics of interest.
2014 has been a really interesting year for photography with some great work coming out. I’ve been specially busy watching and reading some great content online, so sharing it here for your Xmas / New Year free time.
First is a panel discussion with Michael Mack, Dewi Lewis, Thijs groot Wassink and Stephen Gil moderated by Martin Parr as part of Photobook Bristol 2014. A great talk, must watch specially for photographers looking to publish soon.
Secondly if you haven’t been reading writings related to photography, here is a documentary to jump start your interest. John Berger is the author of the highly influential writings titled “Ways of Seeing” which was also adapted by BBC for a four part documentary.
Lastly, SVA on Youtube is sharing some brilliant talks, I’m linking you guys to a talk on Instagram and social media’s influence on today’s photography but almost all of their talks are worth listening to.
If you’ve been following Constellation Cafe, you know I’ve been pretty excited about sharing notes on Toni Amengual’s new book “Pain”. Toni has usually been shy about his exposure to the online world and the work promotion, specially in the English speaking world. So here is some more on his book along with his comments on how we perceive and engage with it.
Before we continue, Toni already has a brilliant in depth interview online which I recommend reading. (Its in Spanish but Google Translator does a good job)
I spoke to Toni about the process on how he created these images and he spoke about not initially having a clear intention but experiencing it more like a game where he was documenting his surroundings.
I also spoke to him about the design of the book and how it engages the emotion in a more physical form. This is what he had to say :
As I told you, as it started as an exercise it wasn’t meant to be a serious project which is what I have on my website. The book format allows me to do other things. About the design, it was done by Astrid Stavro and Pablo Martin from Atlas Studio. I present them my work, my ideas and intentions and they understood it perfectly. They made the perfect container for such a work. They have a great responsibility on the success of the book. I have been asked about the problem that it is more a design book than a photobook. I don’t like the photobook definition. It´ s a book, and as all books it is designed. With the peculiarity that working with visual codes (that´s how I do understand photography) I can also use design to express the message. And that´ s what we did. At the end of the book in the credits there are the special thanks to many people, that are the persons that helped me to develop the piece. I couldn’t have done it alone, despite I sign the book because I coordinate all the work. I think that we, photographers and everybody, should start thinking more as teams than individuals. That´ s also a change that I am feeling politically in my country. So that’s also another layer that there is in the book.