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Book Review: Untitled


Book Review Untitled: (I've taken too many photos / I've never taken a photo) By Anouk Kruithof Reviewed by Colin Pantall How do you edit your pictures? How do you decide what goes into your photobook or exhibition? You can layout your piles of prints and flick them back and forth between piles of yeses, nos, and maybes like a twitching picture monkey.

Untitled. By Anouk Kruithof and Harrison Medina.
Stress Press, 2014.
 
Untitled: (I've taken too many photos / I've never taken a photo)
Reviewed by Colin Pantall

Untitled: (I’ve taken too many photos / I’ve never taken a photo)
Photographs by Anouk Kruithof. Edited by Harrison Medina.
Stress Press, 2014. 112 pp., color illustrations, 8¼x11".


How do you edit your pictures? How do you decide what goes into your photobook or exhibition? You can layout your piles of prints and flick them back and forth between piles of yeses, nos, and maybes like a twitching picture monkey. Or maybe you can seek advice from experts and, with their conflicting suggestions firmly in hand, end up twisting yourself into multiple layers of indecision about exactly what it is you’re trying to do with your pictures.

The alternative is to get someone in to do your dirty work for you and remove the decision making altogether. And why not do it with a twist; don’t get someone who is expert in editing, sequencing and design, but someone who is as unfamiliar with visual language as it is possible to find. Do that, and you might end up with a book or exhibition that is more to do with the curating of pictures than the pictures themselves. That’s what Anouk Kruithof did for her latest book, Untitled (I’ve taken too many photos/I’ve never taken a photo).

Untitled. By Anouk Kruithof and Harrison Medina. Stress Press, 2014.

Kruithof (she’s the one who’s taken too many photos) found her visually bereft editor by putting a flyer up on the streets of Brooklyn; “Did you never make a photo before in your life?” – she asked. Harrison Medina (he’s the one who’s never taken a photo) replied and so the project was born. Untitled is the documentation of this project. It comes in newspaper form and consists of transcribed notes of the conversation that took place during the editing process, fragments of the pictures selected (distorted with glass, mirrors and lights) and an overview of the 300 pictures which Medina had select from.

Medina’s brief was to select 75 of these 300 pictures and give them a size; small (6), medium (7) or big (8), with Kruithof probing for explanations along the way. One conversation goes like this:

HM: This is a 6. I don’t know if I should keep it in though. I should keep it because of that window opening up there in the left corner. Without that, it would be a prison, but that part is a sign of fresh air, a sign of relief. It makes you breather… openness.
AK: You have a very detailed eye.
HM: You know, they did an experiment: They painted a whole room blue and invited a bunch of people. The room suddenly felt colder because of the colour. The(y) painted another room purple, and people felt bored. Another one they painted white, and people felt ill, because it reminded them of a hospital. So it is all about the colours.

Untitled. By Anouk Kruithof and Harrison Medina. Stress Press, 2014.
Untitled. By Anouk Kruithof and Harrison Medina. Stress Press, 2014.

Medina is more aware of how images work than his lack of photo-taking experience would have us believe. He talks about professionalism in photography, about art and mood and intention. We hear about the hardships of his life so he has a character that he begins to attach to the images; "This is one of my favourites because it is me in that picture. I am that donkey, and a lot of people can relate to this donkey and feel like he feels. He thinks, I am not getting paid human dollars. I don’t have a family, and what if I want to venture out? Meet a donkey wife, make donkey kids, become a donkey grandfather. This donkey is stuck in a position he can’t escape from, just like me, so let’s make it an 8."

Untitled. By Anouk Kruithof and Harrison Medina. Stress Press, 2014.

The pictures Medina selected were shown in an exhibition in France. Hung face down from the vaulted ceiling of a Norman church, visitors were given mirrors to look at them, a questioning of the basic principles of hanging that made the viewing process harder work (and so more interactive and engaging) than the usual hop, skip and jump past the pictures-lined-up-on-a-wall routine.

A similar thing happens in the book. The pictures are made difficult to view. They are either shown distorted or in miniature form on an accompanying contact sheet. If you really want to see them, then you have to match the conversation to the images.

In that respect, Untitled is not so much a photobook as a meditation on how we see, select and show pictures, a smart and playful interrogation of what we take for granted in the land of the Photobook.—COLIN PANTALL


COLIN PANTALL is a UK-based writer and photographer. He is a contributing writer for the British Journal of Photography and a Senior Lecturer in Photography at the University of Wales, Newport. http://colinpantall.blogspot.com

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