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A Closer Look -- Haiiro


Haiiro -- Karianne Bueno
The photo-eye Best Book lists from 2010 and 2011 both featured books by Karianne Bueno. In Asper, selected by Alexa Becker in 2010, Bueno takes the viewer to a small village in Flemish Belgium. Through the idyllic pastoral surroundings, a tone of melancholy seeps in -- as Bueno says, "the oppressive feeling of living in a small rural community is never far away." Bueno's ability to take the viewer to a location but leave us with more of an emotional understanding of a place than a literal sense of location is also a feature of her new book Haiiro. A small volume of 14 images, Haiiro takes us to Japan. It is a travel log of sorts, but abbreviated, giving us an emotional impression of Bueno's visit while leaving the physical vague.

The book is beautifully designed, bound in printed linen boards with an elastic holding the pages, an accordion fold, or leporello, a form that also allows the pages to be unfolded and all images to be viewed at once. This type of binding makes a subtle connection to popular tourist view albums, an allusion that is delicately followed up in somewhat expected photographic subject matter of Japan -- an expansive shot of Tokyo, koi, a Japanese maple, rice fields. These images serve to emphasize the nature of being a tourist, but are cast in a tone that causes them to transcend a simple reading. Haiiro translates to gray or ashen, and all of the images are overcast, not simply in hue but in emotional tone.

from Haiiro by Karianne Bueno
The images are accompanied by a poetic text from Bueno, describing her journey by plane and train to an unnamed Japanese destination, and emphasize the feeling of strangeness implicit in a trip far from home. Her statements about the book describe a 'longing for elsewhere;' indeed there is a sense of heartache in this book, a dull yearning for something, a slightly unsettled interest, as if one cannot disengage with one's emotional state to fully engage in one's physical surroundings. The tight selection of images are each beautiful in their own right and together form meditation on her attempts to connect with a place very different from what she knows.

Paging through Haiiro is like opening a slim volume of poetry, and it reads very much like a visual lyric poem. Motifs repeat throughout the pages -- water most poignantly. Multiple readings feel inevitable. -- Sarah Bradley

Selected as one of the Best Books of 2011 by:
Purchase Haiiro here

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