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A Closer Look -- Cathedral Cars

from the book Cathedral Cars
The design of Thomas Mailaender's Cathedral Cars is what I'm most intrigued by. It's oversized, printed on heavy card stock and contains only 12 photographs. The horizontal images are full-bleed; stretching across the seamless gutter and at this size, work remarkably well. Here Mailaender focuses his camera on individual cars traveling aboard ship from the port of Marseilles to North Africa. Each car carries its own personality and in many ways these images  also serve as a telling extension of the car owners. It is a beautiful book that uses its design as a way of getting around the simple content.

And while the subject and camera angle are simple, the photographs and printing are exceptional. These cars are staggering to look at and the images are printed with rich detail. Viewing Mailaender's photographs remind me of listening to MGMT, its fun and easy, but it won't change your world-view. And that is not to say that every body of work needs to be transformative. I recently went to the theatre to see The Muppets, it didn't change my life, but I sure did enjoy myself. Pop Art certainly has its place, but for me I just need it in small doses.

from the book Cathedral Cars
from the book Cathedral Cars
One thing Cathedral Cars did for my headspace was remind me of my inner battle with repetitive photography. By repetitive I am referring to portfolios that focus on one object as subject and usually contain slight variations on the same subject matter. It is the type of photography I was often encouraged to pursue in college and I continue to struggle with accepting this criteria for higher education.  There is so much photography that falls into this genre, and to work the photographs really have to be exceptional to hold interest. A perfect example of this would be Bernhard Fuchs' body of work Autos, published as a huge oversized monograph dedicated to European cars, mostly taken on overcast and foggy days. It's so simple and overwhelmingly boring. But no matter how many years that pass since I have seen that work, I still begrudgingly like it.

from the book Cathedral Cars
One stand out factor about this book is how tightly edited the images are. There is a sense when flipping the pages that the artist was aware of the limitations of the subject and decided to give the viewer just enough, which in this case makes for a strong body of work. I like this book. I'm glad it made me think beyond just the subject. Or at the least serve as a platform to discuss -- even if only a little -- my thoughts on the potential for a photography to be overly repetitive in practice. In the book form this work is fun, light and is displayed appropriately. -- Antone Dolezal

Purchase a copy of Cathedral Cars

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