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Book Review: In Still Air


Book Review In Still Air By Dana Stölzgen Reviewed by Christopher J Johnson Dana Stoltzgen's work examines the intimate. She captures both what is close and what is familiar; her favorite subject — the human body. In her latest book, In Still Air, she examines the body by photographing three women: a young girl, a woman in her 30s and an older woman, juxtaposed with three notable objects: portals (doors and windows), beds and flowers.

In Still Air. By Dana Stölzgen.
Peperoni, 2014.
 
In Still Air
Reviewed by Christopher J. Johnson

In Still Air
Photographs by Dana Stölzgen
Peperoni Books, 2014. In English. 160 pp., color and black & white illustrations, 7½x11".  


Dana Stoltzgen's work examines the intimate. She captures both what is close and what is familiar; her favorite subject — the human body. In her latest book, In Still Air, she examines the body by photographing three women: a young girl, a woman in her 30s and an older woman, juxtaposed with three notable objects: portals (doors and windows), beds and flowers. These objects are lyrical metaphors of passage; they both anchor time and show its flow.

And yet each image is a still point in the turning world. Stoltzgen's work is evocative silence — the flowers are still-lifes and the faces of her portraiture are reflective rather than descriptive of any mood like sadness or worry or happiness. The doors remind us that we make a passage through space everyday and the windows that the sun comes and goes. The beds are the largest marker of time passing as we spend a third of our lives asleep, aging in mystery from ourselves. And the flowers remind us, as they shift from vibrant to dried, of the fragility of bodies.

In Still Air. By Dana Stölzgen. Peperoni, 2014.

Fragility is really a funny thing. When we use it simply as a word it brings to mind the idea of something delicate, generally something small and intricate, we think of things that we take into the hand gently and with silence, solemnity and a little awe, often a fixed state of being. Seldom do we think of fragility as accrual, a patina given as an object or person moves through space and time. It is this more deep and more wise view of fragility that In Still Air attempts to examine; the fragility of us, as we age and live.

In Still Air. By Dana Stölzgen. Peperoni, 2014.
In Still Air. By Dana Stölzgen. Peperoni, 2014.

There is a notable eeriness to the work. Action, in this case time passing, is expressed through these four symbols: flowers, portals, beds and the body, but they are presented in a dumbshow. In Still Air, the more you engage with it, is like a play where each scene is presented completely motionless and without words; the curtain comes down and lifts and the scene is changed, but again motionless – a tableaux vivant.

In Still Air. By Dana Stölzgen. Peperoni, 2014.

But this is the very kernel of In Still Air, I think; we're always in the present and seemingly fixed – insensate of our passage through time. It is this sense that Stoltzgen really captures brilliantly; that fortitude of the moment, our constant awareness of the now which is blind to our past, blind to our centipede-like trail that extends behind us through time. Time brings us into maturity and further age, it makes us fragile — it makes us beautiful.—CHRISTOPHER J. JOHNSON

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CHRISTOPHER J. JOHNSON lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is a writer for the Meow Wolf art collective and book reviewer for CFile. His first book of poetry, &luckier, will be released by the University of Colorado in 2016.

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