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Thursday, 22 October 2015
The Best Photographers are Stupid? Kind of.
Grass by Michele Tagliaferri is a book that combines the theme of the elemental with the fundamentals of thematic/geometric and colour sequencing. At the moment, I feel slightly saturated with the poetic and metaphysical so it's probably not the best time for me to review it. That being said, it is a lovely book, beautifully printed and hitting all the major elemental themes.
There's earth, air, fire and water in there, and there's human flesh - all pasty and malleable, more dead than alive. In that sense, there's a link to the marble torsos that appear through the book.
The book starts with clouds and soon moves on to rocks and water and horse hair. A stockinged leg leads to more horse, this time in the shape of a horse's head, an eddy of water finds an echo in a disco ball, a jellyfish, and an eyeball.
The end of the book is darker in tone - sidelit faces in a sea of black, drips of water, flashes of flame - before we return to the lightness of the sky and the clouds. There are pictures that shouldn't be in there, that mismatch and lead one in a direction I didn't want to go, but overall the feeling is strangely calming. It's a light book but with serious intent.
In this lovely interview, Tagliaferri talks about his influences, and in particular that of Jason Fulford. Fulford's sequencing is apparent in Grass, which is quite a lovely book with a beautiful flow and a sense of natural mystery that connects earth to image and back again, and may owe something to Tagliaferri's affection for the poems of Walt Whitman.
Sometimes in photography, there's a tendency to be too serious about things, to have conversations in what Bill Nichols calls 'the discourse of sobriety'. This is the kind of discourse where pictures become bogged down in language filled with jargon that is inappropriate to the subject. It's a complicated language that is complicated because 'complicated' is somehow supposed to be good. But it's joyless. Photography and the way it works is direct, quite simple and accessible. It's kind of stupid in the same that the best photographers are kind of stupid. Stupid in a good way. So the way we photograph or talk about photography should have that accessibility and that simplicity too. We don't need to overcomplicate things. You see, you feel, you connect. That's how photography works.
And that is also what Tagliaferri does here. He brings something beautiful and direct to Grass. It's grounded in the poetic and the metaphysical, one of many books published in the poetic and the natural world where clouds, and seas and rocks and fire all play a part. But it's also very simple, part of that photographic seeking of where we come from, where we belong and, ultimately, where we are going.
Buy the book here.