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Book of the Week: Selected by Owen Kobasz



Book Of The Week Behind the Glass Photographs by Alexandra Catiere Reviewed by Owen Kobasz For the past 15 years, Alexandra Catiere has illuminated faces, bodies and things that weave an emotional and intimate narrative. Behind the Glass is designed for each reader to contemplate her images in their own way as each double spread can be opened to reveal another photograph. The constellation of photographs published here creates a new portrait of life as it travels across her path.
https://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=ZH657
Behind the Glass. By Alexandra Catiere.
Behind the Glass
Photographs by Alexandra Catiere. 

Chose Commune, Paris, France, 2018.
64 black-and-white illustrations, 5¾x7¾".

Shortlisted for the 2018 Paris Photo-Aperture PhotoBook of the Year Award.

Alexandra Catiere’s new photobook, Behind the Glass, pulls its name from a series she took between 2005 and 2006. Shot from bus stops in Minsk, the portrait series captures passengers through thick glass windows. In this publication it is accompanied by a selection of landscapes and still lifes, as well as Catiere’s more recent photograms.

First of all, Behind the Glass does not explain itself. We are given a collection of striking, high-contrast images and left to discover what they mean. Cécile Poimboeuf-Koizumi and Vasantha Yogananthan’s concept provides a compelling sequence and interpretation for these temporal images.



Completely in black and white, Catiere’s photos evoke a hazy sense of movement— like driving through a foggy night. The cover image appears blurry and starry; the person’s face is nearly expressionless, but curious. Certain passengers appear disinterested, distressed, far away, or full of hope and fear. Some appear oblivious to Catiere’s camera while others seem to be moved by it. These portraits feel close and intimate but far away, one step removed, mediated by glass.

The layout of Behind the Glass is the most immediately striking element of the book. Each photo takes up a borderless two-page spread, which opens to reveal another photo on a four-page spread. The horizontal spreads alternate between passenger portraits and scenery. Forests and rivers appear most frequently. Many of these shots are long exposures, as though they were taken from a vehicle. The vertical spreads they open to reveal also seem to have a pattern. The portraits all open to reveal Catiere’s abstract, organic photograms. The others vary from a woman standing in a river to a cracked windshield to a dead crow. The layout is designed with intention and flows naturally, but it is not clear if the patterns mean anything.
Chose Commune’s publisher’s description ends, “For the past 15 years, Alexandra Catiere has illuminated faces, bodies, and things that weave an emotional and intimate narrative. The constellation of photographs published here creates a new portrait of life as it travels across her path.”

A poetic description invites a poetic interpretation. The way I read this book is that placing her organic photograms behind portraits of strangers is a way of superimposing an abstract version of their emotions. The other spreads are then views from the bus window. Fleeting images. The spreads they open to may be seen as moments at the stop, or something else altogether.

I find it beautiful that this collection of starry, abstract photographs is highly curated without an explanation. The photos and design capture movement, inviting the reader to take a personal journey. As readers we are invited to interact with them in our own way and take from them what we wish.

Purchase Book.  



http://blog.photoeye.com/search/label/Owen%20Kobasz

Owen Kobasz edits the blog & newsletter at photo-eye. He holds a BA in the liberal arts from St. John's College and takes photos in his free time.



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