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A Closer Look - Nerves

from the book Nerves
The last few years of contributing and working on photo-eye Magazine’s Best Book feature has been both fun and the process exciting. Usually we work so furiously to get the information out to the public that by the time we actually get to look at the books our contributor’s select… we are doing so alongside our readers. I just got the chance to pick up Laetitia Donval’s recent publication Nerves and I agree with Morten Andersen… it was one of the best books published in 2010. Donval is a member of Smoke Collective, but little else can be found when scouring the Internet for information on Donval’s recent publication. It is surprising too, Nerves deserves contemplation and commentary. It is a book that has so far pushed my own notion of the level of intimacy and raw self-exposure that a photographic project can bring to a viewer. The book is intimate, frightening and beautiful…. offering a level of human experience that I never wish to enter, but cannot let go of when pondering the photographs inside.

Donval took the photographs throughout a five-year period while staying at various psychiatric institutions. Divided into three chapters, the book explores the intimacy of a rough living environment. The first chapter introduces the individuals and environments Donval associateed with – often mixing odd characters with an underlying notion of sexuality and implication of a violent consequence. The second chapter is slightly more contemplative – Donval’s photographs became more surreal and the focus often soft. In many ways the second chapter seems to be a separation from the chaos present in the first. The third chapter in this book shifts focus to the reality of Donval’s institutionalized environment. Portraits of the patients in the psychiatric institution and an intimate self-portrait offering insight into isolation and the mentally draining environment leave me with a heavy heart and a lot to ponder. This is a powerful project – one that has been well edited and designed. At times the intimacy is overbearing while at others Donval’s distance from her subjects gives room for breath and contemplation.

from the book Nerves
from the book Nerves
from the book Nerves
from the book Nerves

Selected as a Best Book of 2010 by Morten Andersen.

Purchase a copy of this book here.

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