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Book Review: One No One and One Hundred Thousand


Book Review One No One and One Hundred Thousand By Nicholas Albrecht Reviewed by George Slade Read, or seen, any good ghost stories recently? How about wraiths? When did you last see a wraith, a shape-shifter, or a succubus? Out by the Salton Sea, I hear, they proliferate. Poltergeists and various apparitions are out there too. Maybe they’re just mirages. But can you photograph a mirage?

One No One and One Hundred Thousand.
By Nicholas Albrecht. Schilt Publishing, 2014.
 
One No One and One Hundred Thousand
Reviewed by George Slade

One No One and One Hundred Thousand
Photographs by Nicholas Albrecht
Schilt Publishing, 2014. 96 pp., illustrated throughout, 7½x9½".


Read, or seen, any good ghost stories recently? How about wraiths? When did you last see a wraith, a shape-shifter, or a succubus? Out by the Salton Sea, I hear, they proliferate. Poltergeists and various apparitions are out there too. Maybe they’re just mirages. But can you photograph a mirage?

Nicholas Albrecht has summoned the power to record these evanescent, magical entities. Take in the portraits on pages 29, 32/35 (both depicting the same man), 39, 47, 60, and 82; tell me those aren’t manifestations of spirits. In the case of this book, with its enigmatic title and drifting visual sequence, I am grateful for the writing that accompanies the photographic sequence. Attributed to John Marlovitz (who may be a chimera, since he doesn’t appear on the copyright page and is elusive on Google), it’s a short story set in that increasingly desertified region, the Salton Sea. The story’s characters and settings amplify and echo those in the photographs.

One No One and One Hundred ThousandBy Nicholas Albrecht. Schilt Publishing, 2014.

The landscape is immediately captured in both the first photograph and Marlovitz’ first sentence on the next page. A fire-scarred chunk of tree crosses the foreground, while a dense scrim of saplings almost obscures a modest, relatively modern building set up on a rising hill. The text:

He saw a house with nothing else around it for miles. It was a normal looking house, but it was being swallowed up by the landscape. A landscape that was made larger, and eerier, because of its total monotony. It was as if the house was shrinking, receding from him, yet he was being pulled toward it. As the space grew around the house it sucked him in.

Yes, exactly. The text references dead dogs by the highway, people who “communicated through cigarettes,” and a beauty pageant in which the contestants seem to be fading into dust. All of these appear in the photographs, though neither text nor photographs seem to dominate; they each evoke mystery in their own terms.

One No One and One Hundred ThousandBy Nicholas Albrecht. Schilt Publishing, 2014.
One No One and One Hundred ThousandBy Nicholas Albrecht. Schilt Publishing, 2014.

Can you trust the Angels — yes, capital A — that lead you “further off the road”? When they say, “You know what we would do to you in different circumstances?” see if your spine tingles like mine did. Suddenly, all bets are off; what you think you know might be leading you astray. For instance, the first picture following the text is a not-unfamiliar, long-shot portrait of a youngish girl standing in what might be near-dusk desert light. Okay, so? Check out the trench at her feet — a shallow grave. Everything changes when filtered through the supernatural.

One No One and One Hundred ThousandBy Nicholas Albrecht. Schilt Publishing, 2014.

What can you trust here? Viewer discretion is advised. For photography to operate, there must be something material in front of the lens, although increasingly what was in front of the lens transforms in darkened back rooms, courtesy of spells, incantations, and other forms of software. Experiencing this book means deciding how much disbelief you care to suspend, how much you value appearances. But if you decide to abandon the search for the familiar, you may ultimately see more than you imagined. Albrecht’s photography sidesteps its first-degree signification duties.

One No One and One Hundred ThousandBy Nicholas Albrecht. Schilt Publishing, 2014.

Oh, and those flies on the cover, and page 41? Don’t bother to shoo them away. They’re not really there. Are they?—GEORGE SLADE

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GEORGE SLADE, a longtime contributor to photo-eye, is a photography writer, curator, historian and consultant. He can be found online at http://rephotographica-slade.blogspot.com/


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