Monday, 29 October 2012
Cutting Open Ben Krewinkel's Possible Life
I finally cut open Ben Krewinkel's A Possible Life: Conversations with Gualbert, a book in which the pages are folded over so one side of the story is visible (the documenation of Gualbert's life) and the other is invisible - unless you cut the pages open . I did it in a seminar at Newport with a bunch of lovely documentary photography students. First I cut, and I butchered a couple of pages, then another student took over, and he butchered the book as well. Then someone suggested I use a decent letter-opener rather than a Stanley knife. So I took the book home and butchered it some more with a letter opener.
Even without opening the book, the general opinion was "I want one of those" with one dissenting "Anyone can do that."
So I took the book home and finished the job there. As with David Alan Harvey's Based on a True Story, there is a truly interactive element to Krewinkel's work, an element of theatre, of investigating and probing into something that lies hidden. The pictures don't matter in some ways. But as you cut, you see them, slowly revealing a different world to the life of Gualbert, the man depicted in the book. It's not an especially cheery world; it's rather lonely and isolated. Gualbert seems out of sorts in the picture, neither here nor there, a depressed character caught in a nightmare where people think he's something he's not. His family think he's something he's not, the Dutch government think he's something he's not, the people around him think he's something he's not.
Anyway, the book, which I think is wonderful, got me thinking about stories and books about refugees and migration, more of which later.
Read my review of the book for Photo-Eye here.