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Book of the Week: Selected by Sarah Bradley


Book Of The Week Gerontion Photographs by Christian Michael Filardo Reviewed by Sarah Bradley “Much of what Filardo captures is outdated or broken down—the most timely items being a can of La Croix and a bottle of Gatorade, but these two are used up. The tight vertical frames show small and specific views that feel suspended in time. A pair of checkerboard pants lays on a dizzying tiled floor, a silvery dragon sticker gleams on the side of a rusted car, bits of red pop in a small apartment kitchen. While the perspective is clear, the images feel impersonal, which stands in contrast to the book’s writing.” — Sarah Bradley


Gerontion. By Christian Michael Filardo.
https://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=ZH898
Gerontion  
Photographs and text by Christian Michael Filardo

Dianne Weinthal, Los Angeles, US, 2019.
60 pp., 34 four-color illustrations, 6¾x10".

I have been thinking for a while about this review and how I will approach it, that I will approach it like I approach every other review I write. Of course, I didn’t completely do that. I failed at first to do the Googling that I typically do because I have an atypical proximity to this photographer. It’s enough to say that Christian Michael Filardo and I were close friends for a time when they lived in Santa Fe, but we haven’t talked since they moved in the summer of 2018. This, maybe, gives me some additional context. I know the Brad who is mentioned in the text and recognize two of the three faceless people depicted. I know this, but it is not illuminating. I say all of this because though this book is deeply personal, it is also about an internal state that I couldn’t have traction on, regardless of what I know and what I do not.

The cover of Gerontion is beautifully designed; the red printed dust jacket unfolds to a red image printed on the inside. It feels a bit like a chapbook. Indeed, it takes its name from a T.S. Eliot poem, reprinting the Shakespeare epigraph that starts it on the book’s cover. The dream and pull between youth and age mentioned in the sparse lines are themes demonstrated throughout. It even appears in the book’s signature, which includes a child-like holdover of “Age 27” between the name and date.

GerontionBy Christian Michael Filardo.
The images, shot with flash and existing within a blown-out flatness, can be interestingly confusing. Filardo’s eye is slyly associative, and the photographs feel most concerned with showcasing his odd discoveries. Much of what Filardo captures is outdated or broken down—the most timely items being a can of La Croix and a bottle of Gatorade, but these two are used up. The tight vertical frames show small and specific views that feel suspended in time. A pair of checkerboard pants lays on a dizzying tiled floor, a silvery dragon sticker gleams on the side of a rusted car, bits of red pop in a small apartment kitchen. While the perspective is clear, the images feel impersonal, which stands in contrast to the book’s writing. Consequently, it is also worth getting to know the book from just the photographs, letting them breathe without the emotional crowding of the text.

GerontionBy Christian Michael Filardo.

The first poem enhances a sense of narrative in the early images, but as the book progresses, narrative becomes less apparent and we are left with feeling. The stream of consciousness poems have a hazy-minded logic and a preoccupation with death. They are heavy in the way that so many young men I’ve known have told me with narrowed eyes, “I don’t expect to make it to 30.” Every one of them did. The solipsism of sadness bounces off of mundane action to create a very specific humor. It is a strong voice of slight depiction. Momentary feelings are made clear, but little is revealed.

GerontionBy Christian Michael Filardo.
While the associative qualities that brought the lines of the poems together are opaque, the associations between images become more overt. About halfway through the book, the parallels between images hit a high pitch, so much so as to cloud their distinct subject matter; what is notable is that they look like each other. I am brought back to those lines of text mentioning Brad: “I could never tell you how much it meant to me, the trust. Putting faith into something you know will let you down. Brad calls me to tell me he’s sorry he’s forgotten to be in touch. I’m sorry I’ve forgotten to be in touch too.” I am reminded of those states where the urge to prolong and examine the emotion overtakes the need to mitigate it. These are places of free association where traces of the things you can’t stop thinking about surface everywhere. The act of connection is clear even if the significance is not.

As I sit down to write this, I read a music review and find uncanny associations to my own patterns of thought. The reviewer excerpts a quotation from The Egg and The Chicken by Clarice Lispector about how the most important part of knowing something is what you do not know. I have a growing affinity for the complexity of this kind of knowing. There is much I don’t know about this book, but what I do understand is its mood, an interior place of looking outward.


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GerontionBy Christian Michael Filardo.

Sarah Bradley is a multidisciplinary artist whose practice spans writing, audio, sculpture, installation, and costume. Her writing on photobooks has appeared in photo-eye, IMA, Phroom and Southwest Contemporary. Bradley is a co-founder of the Santa Fe art space Etiquette, a Creative Director at Meow Wolf and a co-host of the Too Sick podcast.
sebradley.com

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