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Best Books - A Closer Look: Another Language


Another Language by Marten Lange
Another Language by Marten Lange is yet another beautiful MACK title. More so than many other publishers, MACK seems to intimately understand the importance of the book as object and as a vehicle for the presentation of the work. The simple and heavily textured cloth that wraps the boards of Another Language is reminiscent of the plain covers of mid 20th century volumes that lurked under elaborate dust jackets, and stamped with a line drawing of a whirlpool made from a photograph that appears later in the book. It feels like a mysterious little volume. Rich moss colored end paper somehow signals that this book is about nature. It is; but it is also about photography and how our minds work and interpret, finding ways to discuss, parse and wonder at our universe.

Small black & white images with their subject seated center frame bounce around the pages, some on the right, some the left, others paired. The size and simple presentation make it feel a bit like a guidebook with the text missing, a visual index of natural objects and phenomena. Indeed, Lange set out on his project with a list of things that he wanted to capture, sometimes finding them by chance, while others, like the whirlpool, required a good deal of planning. We see a cave, a snake, a cloud – a pumpkin, the sun in a puddle, a black sheep – a sun pillar, a seal, an aerial view of a lake. All photographed with the weight in center frame, scale becomes forgotten and objects in the small beautiful photographs appear like specimens for study. Connections are made. Some are presented through sequencing – a chunk of amethyst, cracked sun-died mud – but just as the empty pages are only translucent enough to show the outline of the image printed on the reverse, these photographs are never very far away from each other. The elephant’s eye seems to be repeated in a cloud, and also the curl of a leaf – which itself somehow resembles the arc of a dead honeybee, and the twist of the fawn with its nose to its haunch. The images talk to each other through the pages, and one is encouraged to go back and forth, remembering and connecting again and again.

from Another Language by Marten Lange
from Another Language by Marten Lange

Lange’s images are cool and beautiful; often straightforward, but never dull. While his photographic voice is strong, it is never intrusive. The impressive aerial shots or images like that memorable whirlpool somehow seem right at home with the row of ducks or a fossil, and do not take you from the work to speculate on how they were made. The book closes with an image of a sliver moon and then a passage of text from Kosmos by Alexander von Humboldt, a 1845 publication that sought to unify the sciences of the natural world through universal laws. This text ends the book on a perfect note of science, romanticism and the tension between, which is so lovingly captured in these images. It is a delicate and thoughtful book of exploration, one that I nearly missed in the influx of titles after Best Books. Its visual language is compelling, and I’m glad to have spent time with it.

from Another Language by Marten Lange
from Another Language by Marten Lange

A final note: We are fortunate enough to have signed copies, which are particularly lovely with the date stamped on the title page like a library book. --Sarah Bradley

Selected as one of the Best Books of 2012 by:
Adam Bell
Christian Patterson
Shane Lavalette
Sputnik Photos

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