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Book Review: pes/1


Book Review pes/1 By Roger Guaus, Juan Diego Valera and Daniel S. Alvarez Reviewed by Christopher J. Johnson pes/1 is a highly original anthology of Catalonian photographs. Its mission: to take three photographers and put them outside of their comfort zone. All three photographers have the habit of taking close range photographs in common; intimate photographs regardless of a wide array of preferred subject matter. The anthology is made up of three separate books grouped together in a strikingly designed (though somewhat frail) package.
pes/1. Photographs by Roger Guaus, Juan Diego Valera
and Daniel S. Alverez. Standard Books, 2013.
 
pes/1
Reviewed by Christopher J. Johnson

pes/1
Photographs by Roger Guaus, Juan Diego Valera and Daniel S. Alvarez.
Standard Books, 2013. 138 pp., 3 books, 46 pages each, black & white and color illustrations throughout, 6½x8½".


pes/1 is a highly original anthology of Catalonian photographs. Its mission: to take three photographers and put them outside of their comfort zone. All three photographers have the habit of taking close range photographs in common; intimate photographs regardless of a wide array of preferred subject matter. The anthology is made up of three separate books grouped together in a strikingly designed (though somewhat frail) package.

The first of the three books is Roger Guaus’ El Crelent (pes/1_01). Guaus’ assignment, photograph the mountain of Montserrat. Fairly loose criteria for a photographer whose style is to zoom in on the small and out of the way. Montserrat, as one might imagine, is for Guaus a lot to play with. The result is an intimate view of this little known geographical location. The people of Montserrat and their habitat make, through the photographer’s work, an entire world. Guaus shoots his photographs from hip level, making his photographs of interior spaces seem large in scale, the simplest interior takes on an immensity quite different from an eye level shot. What sets Guaus aside from the other photographers in the pes/1 collection is this very aspect; a dimension of almost childlike wonder is purveyed by these photographs. At hip level Montserrat becomes a place on a vaster scale, the equal (seemingly, just seemingly) of a vast metropolis.

pes/1. Photographs by Roger Guaus, Juan Diego Valera and Daniel S. Alverez. Standard Books, 2013.

pes/1_02 titled Bitacora features the work of Juan Diego Valera. Valera’s mission was the simplest of the three photographers: to shoot new work. The photographs contain something ominous, something like a world’s end. His portraiture is awkward; the moment at which the subject says, “hold on just a sec” is the exact moment in which Valera snaps his photo. Posing is out, composure is out and we are left with the transitional instant, the moment that is so easily forgotten wherein faces shift from one thought to the next, one action to the next. There is somehow the sense of tying one’s shoe mid action, the moment that captures neither the unlaced shoe, the action nor its completion. Interspersed with his photographs of people are vultures, wrecked and forgotten cars, security cameras, half opened doors, an octopus tentacle; the menacing and horror stricken, the lurking and carrion voyeur. Valera is a master of both life in motion and life, somehow, waiting to enact.

pes/1. Photographs by Roger Guaus, Juan Diego Valera and Daniel S. Alverez. Standard Books, 2013.

The final book in the pes/1 anthology is Daniel S. Alvarez’s Okuhe (pes/1_03). It is a photographic journal of the intimate through an exploration, largely, of the female form. “Okuhe,” the text informs us, “ is a [word] that means both ‘toward the inside’ and ‘for my wife.’” Alverez’s instructions were to move away from the impersonal and towards the intimate and this work is just that. There is an almost Nabokovian voyeurism to the work, an intimacy that is all cerebral; microscopically close and yet viewed through binoculars by a stranger in an attic window. Interspersed with the female form, streets, vistas and ephemeral trash such as potato chip bags and soda cans make a sort of stalker's catalogue. This all sounds ominous or a little creepy, but the effect is of devotion. The photographer is astonished at his subject and the effect is the intensely personal.

pes/1. Photographs by Roger Guaus, Juan Diego Valera and Daniel S. Alverez. Standard Books, 2013.

The presentation of the whole anthology is beautiful. Each book stands alone as an item, but is even more pleasing when the whole set is present. The only real drawback isn’t in the three books themselves, but in the cardboard sleeve that houses them. It has weak edges and by the time I received my copy it had already worn. That being said, this collection is of a high standard and I especially recommend it to anybody in the market to collect books with a handmade appeal. The text included is informative and also very well formatted so as to complete the books visual design.—CHRISTOPHER J. JOHNSON

CHRISTOPHER J. JOHNSON is originally from Madison Wisconsin. He came to Santa Fe in 2002 and graduated from the College of Santa Fe majoring in English with an emphasis in poetry. He is a freelance writer and reporter.

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