Monday, 21 November 2011
Of Falling and Floating and Printing in China
I have always loved Elijah Gowin's Falling pictures. He sent me his new book Of Falling and Floating the other day. It's published by Elijah's own press, Tin Roof Press
and is a wonderful exploration of various dark themes that add up to an apocalyptic perspective of the post-911 world. This view ties in with the birth of Elijah's own children, adding a layer of fear to his life, a concern for the future and for the legacy we bequeath our children that was not there before.
The first major themes is that of baptism, or birth - Gowin takes pictures from the internet and then combines and alters them so they look like distorted 'polaroid transfers' or instamatic prints. So people are baptised, there is water, people kneel and heads are held. It looks sinister, it looks like people are being tortured or shot, like people are dying. This effect is compounded by some other things happening at sea - a burning ship, a plume of orange smoke, clusters of people swimming. Perhaps they're swimming for safety or shore.
The falling pictures are strange combination pictures where the colours and scale are all wrong, where joyful tumbles turn into plummets of death, where the evocations of Rodchenko and Siskind merge with those of the 911 Falling Man. People fall onto land, into Stephen Gill undergrowth, and into water. They fall flat and face first, sideways, upside down, braced for landing, ready to die.
The final scene is shots of sunlight from a camera pointed into the sun. There is no happy effect here, no 60s swing into psychodelia or McGinley tilt towards the happy and light.
Instead it's a Japanese sun, an atomic sun, a harbinger of a slow and lingering death amidst the parched earth and dead sea of all that Falling and Floating. Gowin says that there is an optimism in the pictures, but if there is the consolation in our falling is that we sometimes do it with a sense of rhythm and a sense of grace. .
See and buy the book here.
Tin Roof Press is one of any number of small publishers that have risen up in the last few years. I'm currently writing a piece on this for the January edition of the BJP - and what a pleasure it is to talk to so many open and committed souls.
Truth is there is no single coherent reason for this phenomenon, but Tin Roof is on one side of the new-publishers spectrum. See Elijah explain being on press in China here - On Press with Tin Roof Press.
Printing "Of Falling and Floating" from Elijah Gowin on Vimeo. And here he is at Offprint Paris (a gathering of wonderful small European publishers).