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photo-eye Book Reviews: Von Ferne and Magico

Von Ferne and Magico
Photographs by Andreas Trogisch. Published by Peperoni Books, 2010.
Von Ferne and Magico
Reviewed by Colin Pantall
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Andreas Trogisch Von Ferne and Magico
Photographs by Andreas Trogisch
Peperoni Books, 2010. Softcover. 36 pp., black & white illustrations throughout, 9-1/2x12".

Von Ferne is the first of an eventual six volumes of black and white photographs by Andreas Trogisch, a German graphic designer and photographer. Von Ferne means From Afar and consists of 30 pictures of black and white pictures taken in Eastern Europe in the 1980s.

The first thing you notice is the design. It is lovely - White Album clean with only the photographer's name and the book title on the white paper front cover. Open the book and the pictures start. There are 30 of them, one to each numbered page, but no text or page breaks of any kind.

Von Ferne, by Andreas Trogisch. Published by Peperoni Books, 2010.
A picture of a child, a priest and a dog is followed by a decrepit road, a rickety fence and a piece of graffiti that is reminiscent of both an eye and a vagina. A man walks the street, a telephone pole casts a hard shadow on a roadside wall and another man gets off his bicycle in a sunlit corner of a sunlit street.

Von Ferne, by Andreas Trogisch. Published by Peperoni Books, 2010.
The street ephemera carry echoes of Evans, Frank, Cartier-Bresson, Gossage, Adams, Friedlander and Moriyama, but the tone is softened towards the end of the book. Here Mitteleuropa comes to the fore. Trees, weeds and a comfortably upholstered armchair add a somnolent air, while the children's playground and the very black cat suggest a life beyond the frame. It is all very mysterious, perhaps too mysterious, a European tour in 30 styles of black and white. If that's the case, then the book is quite an achievement, a street version of Jens Liebchen's DL 07 Stereotypes of War. But I might be completely wrong on that and the book could be something completely different.

The second book, Magico is as beautiful in design as its partner-book but instead of 31 pictures there are 28 with two blank pages at the back.

Magico, by Andreas Trogisch. Published by Peperoni Books, 2010.
The motifs of street debris dominate the book, but this time there is a more global feel to the pictures. Stairways, mannequins, harsh shadows of tufted palms and a breeze block wall make up the visual vocabulary and texture of the early part of the book. A man in a Stetson closes his hands around something on a night-dark street, a pair of severed pigeon wings line a tram rail, evidence of roadkill recently past, and ladders, more mannequins and a final shadow of the photographer complete the picture.

Magico, by Andreas Trogisch. Published by Peperoni Books, 2010.
Magico is more disjointed than Von Ferne, there is less sense of place and the stream-of-consciousness-street-photography that Trogisch selects is somehow harder. Trogisch's travels take him to places with skewed perspectives and an uninhabited  land, where tracks, shadows and traces are the only evidence of humans passing through. It's an unnatural world of dark shadows and harsh light, US, German, French and Japanese sensibilities rolled into one overarching package. What it means is anyone's guess. It is up to the viewer to decide as, pictures aside, Trogisch is not going to give us any clues. It looks good and is stylish. Perhaps that is enough?


purchase Von Ferne

purchase Magico





Colin Pantall is a UK-based writer, photographer and teacher - he is currently a visiting lecturer in Documentary Photography at the University of Wales. His work has been exhibited in London, Amsterdam, Manchester and Rome and his Sofa Portraits will be published as a handmade book early next year. Further thoughts of Colin Pantall can be found on his blog, which was listed as one of Wired.com’s favourites earlier this year.

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