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Book Review: Goddess


Book Review Goddess By Caleb Cain Marcus Reviewed by Tom Leininger Goddess is a book about space, something Caleb Cain Marcus has been exploring for years. The Silent Aftermath of Space considered New York City at night, A Portrait of Ice presented glaciers in color and now Cain Marcus translates the space around the Ganges River in India. Goddess is not a documentary of the river that plays a pivotal role in Indian life, Goddess is about the space around the river shrouded in the mist.

Goddess. By Caleb Cain Marcus. 
Damiani, 2015.
 
Goddess
Reviewed by Tom Leininger

Goddess
Photographs by Caleb Cain Marcus. Text by Richard Ford.
Damiani, Bologna, Italy, 2015. In English. 108 pp., 48 color illustrations, 9¾x11½".


Goddess is a book about space, something Caleb Cain Marcus has been exploring for years. The Silent Aftermath of Space considered New York City at night, A Portrait of Ice presented glaciers in color and now Cain Marcus translates the space around the Ganges River in India. Goddess is not a documentary of the river that plays a pivotal role in Indian life, Goddess is about the space around the river shrouded in the mist. Cain Marcus has created a book that offers a fresh view of a country that has been represented widely.

Cain Marcus uses color and perspective to separate himself from the documentary style, which is a strength of this book. The colors have been clearly pushed beyond their normal representations and the photographs speak to the artist’s intentions and his willingness to go beyond realistic interpretations of place, land, water and sky. Not all of the pictures are bright though. The first few images of a richly green but mist-covered landscape give way to the orange dirt of the river. When the river presents itself, the bright colors come alive. The mist, which started as a heavy shroud, is ever present, adding to the sense of space.

Goddess. By Caleb Cain Marcus. Damiani, 2015.

Richard Ford’s brief text explains much about the nature of the photographs and introduces the ideas that Cain Marcus is working with. In the photographer’s statement, Cain Marcus notes his “dialog with color” and discusses the project as a whole. Both texts help the reader gain some context about the images, and the book ends with titles for the photographs, adding to the mystery since the specific location has been is not mentioned. Space is listed in each title.

Goddess. By Caleb Cain Marcus. Damiani, 2015.

Cain Marcus uses distance to frame the space he is interested in. The opening pictures of the lush green vegetation are among the few images where he is close to the subject he is photographing. The pacing of the book hints at the idea that the focus of the river is off in the distance. In one of the photographs where bricks are being made, children at the front edge of the frame clearly look at Cain Marcus. This is the only instance where the photographer is acknowledged. In the other photographs of people, the perspective is elevated or the person is far enough away, or both, that the people do not react to the camera.

Goddess. By Caleb Cain Marcus. Damiani, 2015.

It is the elevated views that draw the reader in. One shows a busy river-bank scene with buildings and a market. People mill about the buildings and cars as a light mist covers the scene. It is not possible to determine all of what is in the photograph because of the mist. Small bursts of red and orange dot the image. With his vision, Cain Marcus is showing the reader how the river shapes the space of daily life in this particular place. The next picture, nearly taking up both pages, could be a closer view of this same scene, but nearer to the water and again seen from on high. A couple reaches out to each other with the man on the bank and the woman in the water. Boats and possibly merchants are also present. Cain Marcus gives the bank a sandy pink hue while the water, which is not clear, is white. The whiteness of the water could mean a number of things. Potentially, this is Cain Marcus’ way of introducing the role of the river in Indian religious life. He writes that locals call the river Ganga, a manifestation of the goddess of the same name, which also helps to explain the title.

Goddess. By Caleb Cain Marcus. Damiani, 2015.

Goddess is a book that creates as much mystery as it explains. It allows for a contemplative reading experience while showcasing a photographer’s ability to transform a place into his own world. Initially, the color was jarring, but with repeated views, it becomes less so and I realized that there was no other way for Cain Marcus to make these photographs.—TOM LEININGER


TOM LEININGER is a photographer and educator based in North Texas. More of his work can be found on his website.


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