PHOTOBOOK REVIEWS, INTERVIEWS AND WRITE-UPS
ALONG WITH THE LATEST PHOTO-EYE NEWS

Social Media

Book Review: Indago


Book Review Indago By Yurian Quintanas Reviewed by Sarah Bay Gachot There is one short paragraph of quoted text in Yurian Quintanas’ Indago, his dark photographic foray into nature. It’s from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
Indago. By Yurian Quintanas. editions 77, 2016.
Indago
Reviewed by Sarah Bay Gachot


Indago
Photographs by Yurian Quintanas
editions 77, Paris, France, 2016. In English. 80 pp., 37 black-and-white illustrations, 9½x12½".


There is one short paragraph of quoted text in Yurian Quintanas’ Indago, his dark photographic foray into nature. It’s from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” Printed small, Quintanas ends the book with this, at the top of an otherwise grey light-rag-textured page. It’s a relatively well-known quote from the section of Walden in which Thoreau writes on “Where I’ve Lived, and What I’ve Lived For,” but I would argue the words following this passage are more appropriate to Quintanas’ black-mirror view of nature displayed in Indago: “...I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life... to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world.” The images of Indago are raw, tangled, and full of wet dirt. They depict the night mystery of nature — this sentiment of meanness, of sucking the marrow out of life, suit their sublimity well.

Indago. By Yurian Quintanas. editions 77, 2016.

Indago, the word, is a conjugation of the Latin indagare, indagavi, or indagatus, which means to investigate, search out, or track down. Quintanas presents a segment of the Milky Way on the covers of the book — a black and white image of galaxies and stars, far away and far in the past (for the speed of light takes so long to get to us from these stars). The sky is always endlessly vast and discoverable, but far beyond our reach. Within the book, Quintanas’ series of black and white photographs track down the terrestrial matters of nature at night and this universe caves in to something very close and small. A furry caterpillar; a tree stump piled with stones; a closed-in canopy of tree branches washed out with light against a black sky — these are the views of someone running blind through the density of night, occasionally blasting field and bush with a flashlight, seeing only whatever comes close, making the world small through a myopic and limited vision.

Indago. By Yurian Quintanas. editions 77, 2016.

In reality, these are images that Quintanas ostensibly considered carefully and made with a camera flash. An accompanying letter from the publisher explains that this is an “unhurried” exploration of the “closest natural environment,” though I sense something more desperate here, less “unhurried” and more digging, a digging through the thick of night, into roots and detritus, a dew-thick atmosphere slicking to one’s face. There is so much more to be seen at night in the dark when vision is compromised — so much that could potentially be seen. This is the desperation of Indago. In the dark, a cone of light brings out textures and tangles, branches and hair turned white with radiance. An image of a man’s back, body hair and spine mottled with wet dirt, dark hair camouflaged into the earth, is visceral and perplexing — does this image tell a story of pain, struggle, or simply the proximity of nature? Has this body struggled in, or rolled about in and embraced, this dirt?

Indago. By Yurian Quintanas. editions 77, 2016.

Towards the last pages of Indago, Quintanas’ images open up. A photograph of clouds passing a small full moon is followed by a spread of a field framed by and expanse of hills and horizon. A wet horse is in the foreground and those shining molecules that flash photography ignite in the dark float like fairies across the frame. The next pages display an illuminated plant that looks quite like the structural formula of a chemical compound, branching out in molecular geometry with fireworks of tiny dried flowers. Then, a spread of the Milky Way again — the macrocosm — followed by a small image of a tadpole shrimp — the microcosm — a creature just a few centimeters long that looks something like a miniature horseshoe crab or a trilobite. Tadpole shrimp are organisms that have not changed much over the last 200 million years.

Indago. By Yurian Quintanas. editions 77, 2016.

Indago is full of timeless images that paradoxically are, of course, taken in an instant of light. Quintanas presents them in a slender book beautifully printed on heavy uncoated paper. There is the living, and the detritus of the non-living — a butterfly wing, a crushed lizard on fold-out pages — within Indago. This is a book of the natural world, but what is key is the manufactured light of the camera, a human flood that illuminates this thin plane of space in the night. Rightly shortlisted for the 2016 Book Awards in Arles, Indago shows a perspective on wildness through the willowy grasp of human perception.
— SARAH BAY GACHOT


SARAH BAY GACHOT  is a writer, educator, and artist who lives in Los Angeles, California. She is the editor and author of Robert Cumming: The Difficulties of Nonsense (Aperture, 2016) and will be curating a show of Cumming’s photographs at the George Eastman Museum in 2017. Lylesfur.tumblr.com

Read More Book Reviews

No comments:

Post a Comment