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Book Review: Noroc

Book Review Noroc By Cedric Van Turtelboom Reviewed by Colin Pantall Noroc by Cedric Von Turtelboom is a book about Romania. "Noroc" means both "Good Luck" and "Good Health," it tells us on the first page.
Noroc.  By Cedric Van Turtelboom.
Self-Published, 2015.
Comfortable Discomfort
A review by Colin Pantall

Photographs by Cedric Van Turtelboom. Texts by Jean-Marc Bodson & Cedric Van Turtelboom.
Self-Published, Bruges, Belgium, 2015. In English. 86 pp., full color illustrations, 6¾x8¾".

Noroc by Cedric Von Turtelboom is a book about Romania. "Noroc" means both "Good Luck" and "Good Health," it tells us on the first page.

The second page establishes the theme visually with a picture of two bottles of what looks like beer standing on a picnic table in a snow covered back yard. There are table cloths (maybe) hanging from a washing line and the picnic table is covered with an Easter themed covering complete with roosters, chicks, blossoms and rabbits. The scene is harsh (snow is falling — it looks cold) but with the sense of a comforting indoors waiting just behind the camera.

Noroc. By Cedric Van Turtelboom. Self-Published, 2015.

That sense of comfort is fitting because what is notable is the way that Noroc was made; during trips in which van Turtleboom stayed with host families for the duration of his shoots, the idea being that this would give him an insight into local communities, local customs and local ways of seeing.

It's a curious book filled with curious pictures; flash-filled images with a woodland theme merge with dead sheep and emu in the back of a van and a man in a white suit standing in the driving snow.

Snow's quite the thing and it looks great the way von Turtelboom photographs it with blurry snowflakes in the foreground against the main story happening out back; a man standing bare-chested on a life-saver's platform by what could be the Black Sea.

Noroc. By Cedric Van Turtelboom. Self-Published, 2015.

There's a man taking an axe to a car, a crazy-bent swing and then suddenly there's a little story of von Turtelboom's travels in the country, of the homes he stays in and the only word he is able to exchange with Romanians being "Noroc" — Good Health.

That’s the shortest of the stories that are interspersed with the images. We hear about Lucian who used to work in Iraq but is now living with his mother and has recently redecorated his room. And as one of the many interiors that fill the book, we see the rough sunshine-hued brushes of paint across the bedroom where he sleeps.

Noroc. By Cedric Van Turtelboom. Self-Published, 2015.

More interiors follow. Mother Mary and a couple dancing with guns against an umbrella reflector all dressed up and waiting for the photo. Uniforms, phone chargers and stairways overflowing with potted plants come next. We hear about Mirel, the guard who sleeps in a caravan, and Dana, whose uncle likes burning fridges, all of whom we might see (but are never quite sure that we do) in the color-saturated pictures of concrete interiors covered in the brightest of pastels with the most offbeat of hues.

Noroc. By Cedric Van Turtelboom. Self-Published, 2015.

So there we have it. Rooster heads (that’s how the book ends), offbeat hues, domestic configurations and angled poses. It's all rather mysterious, but at the same time fun. I don't really know what kind of story the book tells, or if it says anything about Romania or anything else for that matter. But it's fun to look at and a pleasure, with its low-rent spiral-bound Swiss binding and full bleed pictures, to flip through.—COLIN PANTALL

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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.

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