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

Social Media

Book Review Structure Photographs by Isabelle Boccon-Gibod Reviewed by Meggan Gould "There is a child shooting daggers at me. Much like my youngest, whenever I try to take her picture. I have no more than opened this new book, and I am clearly being glared at. Proceed with warning. Perhaps this child is irritable at having been placed on the floor, kneeling between their mother’s legs (presumed mother) while their siblings (presumed siblings) are able to show off their pretty tights and shoes, standing flanking the mother. The father (presumed father) hovers above them all, glowering at me as well. Not to be callous, but their clear animosity hooks me..."

By Isabelle Boccon-Gibod
https://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=IG098
Structure
Photographs by Isabelle Boccon-Gibod

Editions Hemeria, Paris, France, 2021. 88 pp., 9¾x12x½".

There is a child shooting daggers at me. Much like my youngest, whenever I try to take her picture. I have no more than opened this new book, and I am clearly being glared at. Proceed with warning. Perhaps this child is irritable at having been placed on the floor, kneeling between their mother’s legs (presumed mother) while their siblings (presumed siblings) are able to show off their pretty tights and shoes, standing flanking the mother. The father (presumed father) hovers above them all, glowering at me as well. Not to be callous, but their clear animosity hooks me.

Isabelle Boccon-Gibod poses 31 groups in this deliciously sterile, and lusciously printed book, Structures. In each, a family unit (presumed) sits or stands, using chairs or stools as necessary to fit within the formal rectangular space, and stares back out at us. A white background sweep is rolled neatly behind the subjects; the gray floor is meticulous. Faced with minimum visual stimuli, I fall headlong into the unique trance of the photographic typology.

I should note: I have always had a weak spot for a good typology. Deadpan redundancy is one of those hooks that pierces me, holds me, swings me from image to image. To limit the potential elements of complexity by controlling the variables within a group of images renders an insistent directing of our gaze. Typologies tickle my brain in the same pleasure center as jigsaw puzzles.


Putting human subjects at ease in front of a camera, conversely, gives me as much pleasure as having ants crawling inside my underwear. Perhaps I project discomfort (of artist and sitter both) onto portraiture. And yet — awkwardness is an underrated hook, and Boccon-Gibod plays off of it beautifully. Several subjects might be about to catapult off of their stools or chairs, barely able to hold a jittery knee still. In one, a younger woman looks as if she is about to lift the chair in front of her, holding her mother (presumed) aloft. Is it a gesture of love? Preservation? I imagine the difficult acts of posing at stake here — brooding teenagers, young adults just finding comfort in their skin, older adults adept at holding the camera’s gaze. Children practice what will later become instinctual — how to slacken facial muscles, a poker-faced response to the world’s amusements and slights.

It doesn’t take me long to begin to question the veracity of these as family units. Wait, do these people even know one another? I am excruciatingly aware of my typecasting assumptions as I flip from page to page, glib in my presumptions of familial bonds. Another confession of my puzzle-inclined brain: I long to be tricked. I think of Richard Renaldi’s Touching Strangers series, and I want to question the ties that link the subjects on each page. Might they be actors? Is DNA really the primary conceit for these groupings? The artist gives us no names, ages, relationships, no handy key to decipher family lineages. In not indulging this desire, we are (dangerously, delightfully) left to our own devices. A sociologist of French culture might note the relative homogeneity of the family groupings (presumed), the apparent dearth of queer families (presumed), the minimal racial diversity of the subjects (presumed).

I speculate at length on the logistics of making this work. I wonder, idly, who chose the stools and chairs for each pose. What does Boccon-Gibod say to these families (presumed), to invite them to participate, and then to direct them? How did she ask them to dress? The attire is neither formal nor informal — some in jeans, some in jackets, there is little notable about their clothes or shoes beyond that they seem strikingly, plainly, passively, nice. There are no visible rips, or holes, no legible labels, no words, branding, or slogans.

Afloat in anonymity and the clout of my own assumptions, I squint and flip through the pages, moving beyond the hyper-focused detail of facial expressions, fingernails, and shoelaces to the geometric forms of the bodies in the rectangular space provided. Each family unit of 2 to 6 individuals stiffly forms a structural presence — a triangle, a square, a rectangle. Ad-hoc buildings, units of cohesion. The redundancy of image structure belies the complexities of family structures, of course, and can only hint at the range of potential iterations. I hover, still squinting, in this space of pure architectural form, family bonds as arbitrary cement. However imagined, reductive, awkward... herein we find structures of strength.


I find myself imagining my own tediously heteronormative family as a page in this book. My partner and older child are obnoxiously good at deadpan posing; younger child and myself: squirmers (and scowlers). Or, myself as a teenager, with my original nuclear family (identical structure). I wish I had that photo — neat, clean, mythical. One moment where we simply stand together, neutralized to black-and-white, and stare forward, reduced to the ways our bodies touch at the shoulders, subtly bolstering one another.

These portraits are executed with exquisite attention to technical detail. The white backdrop’s rectangular frame, just a shade darker than the white frame of the page, holds the photographic frame, and is beautifully even, identical on each page. This is what makes typologies zing. The reproduction of the grayscale is nothing short of delectable. The photographs are introduced by a warm and spare essay by Daniel Mendelsohn, reflecting on the nature of, and need for, family (presumed) photographs.

Purchase Book

Read More Book Reviews


Meggan Gould is an artist living and working outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she is an Associate Professor of Art at the University of New Mexico. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,, the SALT Institute for Documentary Studies, and Speos (Paris Photographic Institute), where she finally began her studies in photography. She received an MFA in photography from the University of Massachusetts — Dartmouth. She recently wrote a book, Sorry, No Pictures, about her own relationship to photography.
photo-eye Gallery On View - Pentti Sammallahti Delaney Hoffman
This week, we're featuring a selection of stunning silver gelatin prints from Pentti Sammallahti from our flat files. You can stop by the gallery to check them out or schedule a visit online! Read up and learn more about one of the most prolific artists at photo-eye here!
Pentti Sammallahti, Helsinki, Finland, 1973, Toned Silver-Gelatin Print, 4.5 x 7″, Not editioned, $1100

This week at photo-eye we are so excited to spotlight unique silver gelatin prints from Pentti Sammallahti that have been installed in our physical gallery space! All of these images are richly toned and formally stunning — and if you can’t swing by our Santa Fe gallery to see them, we can take you on a tour with a Virtual Visit sometime.

Pentti Sammallahti has made hundreds (but probably thousands) of photographs. This isn’t necessarily surprising, as the artist was first given a camera when he was just a small child, beginning to photograph seriously at nine years old shortly after viewing The Family of Man, the groundbreaking exhibition curated by Edward Steichen, in Helsinki in 1955.

The tradition of modernist photography from that era was incredibly influential to Pentti Sammallahti’s view on the role of the photographer, the negative and the print. In the tradition of photographers such as Josef Koudelka, Paul Strand and André Kertész, Sammallahti is concerned with what a photograph can reveal through simple, careful observation and attention to form. 

By focusing on interactions between characters, whether they be humans, birds, dogs, or some variation of the three, Sammallahti lets us, as an audience, witness the quiet but joyous moments that often go overlooked. This is the photographer’s concern: utilizing images as a tool for both connection and contemplation. However, the final image and its effectiveness are contingent upon proper attention paid during the printing process. Sammallahti’s oeuvre of darkroom works reveal parts of his process; some prints are toned to the point where they’re blue while others are rich and warm. The artist is cognizant of the ways that the final image will impact our perception of the scene, and so he prints for the impact that he desires.

Pentti Sammallahti, Paris, France, 2004, Toned Silver-Gelatin Print, 9.75 x 7″, $1600

Pentti Sammallahti’s images are imbued with a certain sense of tranquility, which is often referenced by critics and curators when speaking about his work. This element of peace doesn’t just come from the subject matter, always perfectly isolated within the frame, but from the attitude and intentions of the artist as well. Sammallahti’s goal is not to make the most “iconic” image, but rather to explore the things that photographs can communicate to us on a human level.

View some more prints on view below, and schedule a Virtual Visit or come by the gallery to check out the images on view!

Pentti Sammallahti, RTGA, Latvia, 1997, Silver-Gelatin Print, 4.8 x 4.8″, Not editioned, $1100

Pentti Sammallahti, Signilskar, Finland, 1974, Silver-Gelatin Print, 6.3 x 7.5″, Not editioned, $1300

Installation view of work from Pentti Sammallahti at photo-eye Gallery






Interested in seeing more of Pentti's work? Check out his most recent book, Me Kaksi, in our Bookstore when you stop in to see his prints!

Me Kaksi is the newest collection of images from Pentti Sammallahti's illustrious career that focuses in on the idea of the pair, the duo, the couple, as a necessary dynamic, whether that be for emotional reasons or a good laugh. 

>> Schedule a Virtual Visit to view Pentti Sammallahti's work! <<

>> Learn more about Pentti Sammallahti's origins in this interview with Anne Kelly <<

 

• • • • • 

Print costs are current up to the time of posting and are subject to change.

photo-eye Gallery is proud to represent Pentti Sammallahti.

For more information, and to purchase prints or books by Pentti Sammallahti, please contact Gallery Director Anne Kelly or Gallery Assistant Delaney Hoffman, or you may also call us at 505-988-5152 x202
Book Review Instructional Photography Artist's book by Carmen Winant Reviewed by Kim Beil "Carmen Winant coins a novel term, 'Instructional Photography,' with the title of her new book. Her neologism is so apt that it doesn’t even strike me as new. The term is as forthright and instrumental as the photographs themselves..."

By Carmen Winant
https://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=DU176
Instructional Photography
Learning How to Live Now
Artist's book by Carmen Winant


SPBH Editions, 2021. 96 pp., 48 illustrations, 4¼x5¾x½".

Carmen Winant coins a novel term, “Instructional Photography,” with the title of her new book. Her neologism is so apt that it doesn’t even strike me as new. The term is as forthright and instrumental as the photographs themselves.

Winant collects, collages, and re-presents photographs from how-to manuals in this book, as in her larger practice. There are instructions in aerobics, ceramics and rock climbing, as well as pictures from the literature of medicine and sexuality. The key feature of an instructional photograph is its promised relation to a viewer’s body. In long view and in close-up, models demonstrate their tasks. Their bodies stand-in for the viewer’s body. We are meant to mirror their poses, whether learning how to shape pottery or practice self-defense.

It’s a small book that makes a big claim: that instructional photographs don’t just teach viewers how to accomplish a given task, but that, as a whole, the genre is a guide to living. As Winant puts it in the subtitle, they are a guide for “Learning How To Live Now.”


Immediately her tone is convincing: “In a moment — we might agree? — of heightened anxiety and re-imagination, I want, on these pages and together, to investigate the potential of photography to teach us how to live.” I cannot resist her first-person plural aside, nor the insistence of her italics. I do agree; I want to learn. Like John Berger’s Ways of Seeing, Winant makes her point through the combined rhetorical logic of words and pictures. She uses the form of the how-to book — a small, hand-held object — to emphasize its familiarity. We are, in effect, reading an instructional book about instructional photography.

Winant’s argument is bigger, though, than just defining the genre. She suggests that all photographs are instructional. She asks, “Don’t artists too believe we have something to ‘teach’ with and through our work?”

With all the visual intelligence of a photobook editor, Winant’s page breaks underscore her argument in words and pictures. Like a poet, Winant gets in your head. Like instructional photographs themselves, the interaction demanded by her book — read the words, turn the page, read the images as words — makes this promise real. In neuroscience, this relationship between bodies is described as kinesthetic empathy. Watching a body perform a task, we can feel the motion in our own bodies. In Winant’s book, this is most effective in the full-bleed sequences that unfold over several pages. Like the still photographs that take on a sense of movement in Chris Marker’s La Jetée, photographs of a woman seated and back-lit on a patio become uncannily live as I turn the pages.


Winant amplifies this experience of connection by giving the viewer control over the pacing. You turn the page, you create the movement, you decide to go forward or backwards in time. You also choose to inhabit the image, to imagine yourself into it. There’s a powerful movement from self-recognition to self-actualization in these images. Winant admits that such grand hopes for photographs are often dismissed as “didactic” in art school. They are too obvious.

But, what they also do — and what Winant’s book does — is make a gift of themselves. They are literally self-sacrificing, in that they make an image of the self available to others. They promise the image of the body as a container, a shelter for others to inhabit. But they are also endlessly renewable. I might inhabit this body for a moment in my mind, I might feel its sensations in my own body, but it’s also available to others who study it. We can try on new ways of doing and new ways of being with others in the world through instructional photography. I agree; ‘in a moment… of heightened anxiety and re-imagination,’ I hungrily turn to art like Winant’s for instruction in life.

Purchase Book

Read More Book Reviews


Kim Beil is an art historian who teaches at Stanford University. She is the author of Good Pictures: A History of Popular Photography.
photo-eye Gallery photo-eye Conversation with Brad Wilson Delaney Hoffman
Gallery Director Anne Kelly speaks with Brad Wilson about his work from Affinity, which is currently on view both digitally and in person at photo-eye Gallery as a part of The Other World! Get the inside scoop on the process of photographing these beautiful animals and hear Brad's thoughts on book publishing.

 

Brad Wilson, Eyelash Pit Viper #1, 2013, Archival pigment print, 22x29″, Edition of 15, $2000

This week, photo-eye Gallery is ecstatic to premiere a brand new photo-eye Conversation between Gallery Director Anne Kelly and represented artist Brad Wilson!

We have been lucky enough to host a beautiful array of prints from Brad Wilson’s Affinity series in the gallery for the last two months as a part of his show, The Other World. This exhibition accompanies a stunning book by the same name that was published by Damiani Press in 2021. 

Affinity is a body of work that has been in progress for over a decade and has always had the goal of communicating the individuality of the animals that Wilson is photographing. These portraits are not “standard” wildlife photography, and this is for a reason! They are shot at a higher resolution than a human eye can see, capturing every detail of these creatures. This supplies an amount of incredible detail that allows the viewer to feel closer to Brad Wilson’s animal subjects than would ever be possible in real life. The online exhibition of The Other World, built with VisualServer X, provides an opportunity for an even closer look as it lets the audience zoom in.


For me it’s about giving the viewer an experience that you’re not going to get looking at an animal off in a landscape somewhere, that you’re not going to get in a zoo. Being able to be that close gives you a sense of intimacy and connection that I find very powerful. That’s why I wanted it to be as detailed as it could possibly be. 
Brad Wilson

 

Listen to the photo-eye Conversation below, and keep scrolling for images from Affinity!



Part of the challenge of this series is that you have to look beyond just how beautiful [these animals] are, how visually compelling they are, because there has to be something else in the photograph, some other level of connection. That's what I was looking for... some moments when they've calmed down, when they look more introspective, and that's what is compelling to me.

Brad Wilson


Brad Wilson, Raven #2, 2013, Archival pigment print, 22x29″, Edition of 15, $2000

Brad Wilson, Mandrill #1, 2014, Archival pigment print, 22x29″, Edition of 15, $2000

The sanctuary owner said that [the mandrill] only knew one trick, so I said "What's that?" and the owner said, "Not killing you."
As far as tricks go, that's a pretty good one, but [the mandrill] just needed to figure out where he ranked, and then he could relax.

Brad Wilson


Brad Wilson, White Rhino #1, 2013, Archival pigment print, 22x29″, Edition of 15, $2000

Brad Wilson, Crowned Crane #4, 2011, Archival pigment print, 22x29″, Edition of 15, $2000

>> View the online exhibition of The Other World <<

>> Purchase The Other World: Animal Portraits <<


• • • • • 

Print costs are current up to the time of posting and are subject to change.

photo-eye Gallery is proud to represent Brad Wilson.

For more information, and to purchase prints or books by Brad Wilson, please contact Gallery Director Anne Kelly or Gallery Assistant Delaney Hoffman, or you may also call us at 505-988-5152 x202
Book Review kissing a stranger Photographs by Joni Sternbach Reviewed by Brian Arnold "In some ways it seems easy to me to mock the 1970s, with so many trends that haven’t aged well — disco, Atari game systems and the Commodore 64, birthday parties at the roller rink, Archie Bunker from All in the Family, and Charlie’s Angels. In other ways, however, in the wake of Woodstock and the Stonewall Riots, the 1970s were revolutionary. Our Bodies, Ourselves was first published in 1970, paving the way for a whole new approach to feminism and equal rights for women, and the 1972 publication of the Joy of Sex completely changed the sexual revolution, bringing it to middle-class American bedrooms..."

The Moon Is Behind Us. By Joni Sternbach
https://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=ZJ855
kissing a stranger
Photographs by Joni Sternbach

Dürer Editions, Ireland/France, 2021. 96 pp., 9¼x11¼".

In some ways it seems easy to me to mock the 1970s, with so many trends that haven’t aged well — disco, Atari game systems and the Commodore 64, birthday parties at the roller rink, Archie Bunker from All in the Family, and Charlie’s Angels. In other ways, however, in the wake of Woodstock and the Stonewall Riots, the 1970s were revolutionary. Our Bodies, Ourselves was first published in 1970, paving the way for a whole new approach to feminism and equal rights for women, and the 1972 publication of the Joy of Sex completely changed the sexual revolution, bringing it to middle-class American bedrooms. There were ground-breaking intellectual works developed by writers such as Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida, and incredible cinema like Taxi Driver and Apocalypse Now. And of course, it was also a golden age for photography, with innovative academic programs emerging at institutions like the Visual Studies Workshop, as well as groundbreaking work by John Szarkowsi and Nathan Lyons helping to pioneer new collections and exhibitions devoted to the medium. All these things also provide the perfect backdrop for understanding the wonderful new book by photographer Joni Sternbach, kissing a stranger.

Well-known for her beautifully produced wet-plate photographs of surfing communities, kissing a stranger is best understood as a portrait of the artist as a young woman. The photographs were all made in the 1970s and 1980s, while Sternbach was attending art school in the tough streets of New York and battling her own upbringing amidst middle-class family disfunction. Stylistically speaking, the pictures in kissing a stranger are an incredible surprise. Nothing like the pictures Sternbach makes today, they are all produced in a very traditional manner, black-and-white and with a handheld camera, very much in a decisive moment tradition, reacting to life as she sees it happening.


The opening photograph perfectly sets the stage for the entire narrative to follow. It shows a woman dancing, in mid-twirl. She appears like a whirling dervish or a dancer from Alexey Brodovitch’s Ballet. The twirling figure feels transcendent, like she is using her body and movement to escape the confines of this reality. In the following pages we are witness to one-night-stands, bitter marriages, and a tough urban environment. We are also witness to a young woman armed with a camera trying to break free of a life that feels foreign, all as an act of self-declaration and self-determination.

With multiple viewings of the book, I’ve broken Sternbach’s sequencing into four distinct sections. The opening photographs are all portraits of young women — some looking sensual, empowered and self-possessed, while others more isolated and disheveled. There is an interesting transition after this first sequence of pictures — an empty landscape and a young man sipping coffee in his underwear — before we get to the second sequence, a series of portraits of an older woman (presumedly the artist’s mother). These portraits portray a complex family life, pronounced with harsh captions like “Happy lie,” “Divorce,” and “People’s parties.” The combined effect of these opening sequences of photographs is very compelling, suggesting a conflict for these young women — caught between their own desires, complex family histories, and a need for self-definition.


Again, after a brief transition in which we see a ballerina holding a bundle of balloons and a woman looking defeated, her head planted submissively in her lover’s lap, Sternbach starts the next section of pictures, this time focusing on (her) lovers. With pictures depicting naked couples lying together in bed, nude torsos, and even an interesting picture that feels like a profound role reversal, Sternbach looking down on her lover splayed on the bed, his underwear barely concealing his erection (in this picture, she has all the power, not how I preconceive romantic love in the 1970s).

The final section of photographs is made out on the streets of New York, where Sternbach clearly is asking questions about love, relationships, and being an independent woman. Interspersed with pictures of couples — both young and old, some kissing and delighting in their love, others fighting or looking bored and tired — she also shows women assuming a variety of roles. We see women alone and isolated, prepping for their wedding day, and tending to their children. And among these is one picture that feels especially poignant, a young woman with her hands cradling her belly, as if holding her empty womb (I’m reminded of the beautiful poem by Emily Dickinson, “My Life had Stood, a Loaded Gun”). Together, these photographs express an incredible desire for freedom — a profound need to escape from expectations of gender normativity, to be an independent woman in control of her desire, relationships, and identity.

The final picture in the book offers a tremendous affirmation and feeling of joy, a relief after so many pictures that depict struggle and conflict. It shows a young woman smiling and pretending to hold a camera, releasing the shutter to take her picture. She exudes a sense of delight and playfulness, but also solidifies the narrative — that Sternbach used her work as an artist and photographer to escape from the confines of a life surrounded by unhappy marriages, restrictive cultural expectations, and as a way to take control of her life and own her sense of self.


It is difficult for me not to compare kissing a stranger with the recent publication by Deanna Templeton, What She Said (my review for this book is here). By appearances these books seem quite different — Templeton's bubblegum pink book is so much more extraverted than then this soft-spoken, more lyrical work by Sternbach — but on a deeper level the books have striking similarities; both women delve unflinchingly into their pasts to better understand who and what they are today. Templeton and Sternbach both use their work as artists to better grabble with and understand an essential moment in their development, while at the same time acknowledging photography as an essential tool for self-definition and the creation of personal identity. Such issues are at the forefront of our cultural discourse today, with so many books now probing the remarkable complexities of culture, marginality, and self. I am very interested in seeing more books like these new publications by Sternbach and Templeton, narratives in which women honestly depict their struggles and triumphs of self within such rigidly defined attitudes, expectations, and roles.

Purchase Book

Read More Book Reviews


Brian Arnold
is a photographer, writer, and translator based in Ithaca, NY. He has taught and exhibited his work around the world and published books with Oxford University Press, Cornell University, and Afterhours Books. Brian is a two-time MacDowell Fellow and in 2014 received a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation/American Institute for Indonesian Studies.
photo-eye Gallery On View - Prints from Linda Connor Delaney Hoffman
It's a new year, and so it's time to switch it up! We're thrilled to announce the installation of a selection of Linda Connor's unique Printing Out Paper prints in the gallery. Stop in and check them out!

 

Linda Connor, Morning Light, Nako, Spiti, India, 1994, Contact print on Printing Out Paper - Gold Toned, 8x10″, $3500

Linda Connor is what most would consider to be well-traveled. She and her 8x10″ view camera have trekked through the sloping foothills of the Himalayas, across the Andes, along the Ganges River and across the deserts of the Southwestern United States. Along the way, she has photographed the people and the places that have inspired joy, poetry or reverence, she has spent time in astronomical archives making contact print after contact print of our first glimpses of outer space, and she has inspired many students throughout her career as an educator at the San Francisco Art Institute.

We are thrilled to announce the installation of a few of Linda Connor's images in our physical gallery space. Her importance as an artist and educator cannot be overstated, however Linda prefers to align herself with the identity of a "visualist". As the artist says, "...the way that images convey their forms and meanings is my most fluent language — both in how they speak to me and how I wish their presence to convey to others." This is to say that Linda Connor's pictures speak to her and to us, her audience (which is to be expected in photography), but also to each other.

The prints that have taken up residence on the photo-eye Gallery wall are all included in Linda Connor's newest book, Constellations, which manages to present a collection of images that span both regions and years. Despite the physical distance that separates the plates included in the book, they manage to converse amongst themselves. Flipping through the book puts you in the middle of an ongoing dialogue between the present and the past; between what is happening in front of the artist, and what has happened light years ago.

View a selection of prints from this work below, and make sure to stop into the gallery to see the beautiful, unique warmth of Linda Connor's gold-toned images in person!


Linda Connor, December 21, 1989 from the Lick Observatory Archive, Contact print on Printing Out Paper - Gold Toned, 7x5″, $3500

Linda Connor, Cloud Shadow, Ladakh, India, 1988, Archival pigment print, 22x28″, $3500

Linda Connor, Orion Nebula, January 21, 1938 from the Lick Observatory Archive, Contact print on Printing Out Paper - Gold Toned, 7x5″, $3500

Linda Connor, Earth and Sky III, Queensland, Australia, 1997, Contact print on Printing Out Paper - Gold Toned, 8x10″, $3500

>> View Constellations in the photo-eye Bookstore here <<

>> Learn more about Linda Connor! <<

 

• • • • • 

Print costs are current up to the time of posting and are subject to change.

photo-eye Gallery is proud to represent Linda Connor.

For more information, and to purchase prints or books by Linda Connor, please contact Gallery Director Anne Kelly or Gallery Assistant Delaney Hoffman, or you may also call us at 505-988-5152 x202
Book Review I Made Them Run Away Photographs by Martina Zanin Reviewed by Odette England "Zanin’s book presents a bizarre love triangle. There are photographs made by Zanin mixed with family snapshots. Stitched into the book are smaller slips of peach-colored paper, the same color as the cover. Each features text in typewriter font, authored by Zanin’s mother and taken from her diary called Letters to a Man I Have Never Had. The third arm of the triangle — “the man” — is mostly invisible..."

I Made Them Run Away by Martina Zanin.
https://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=CE050
I Made Them Run Away
Photographs by Martina Zanin

Skinnerboox, Jesi, Italy, 2021. 132 pp., 6½x9¼".

Did you read her book?
Yes, I read it.

It’s common in language, a word spelled the same that differs in pronunciation. With a word like ‘read’, it also refers to different tenses. They’re called heteronyms, words that change their meaning depending on where the stress is placed. It’s this thought I have upon reading Martina Zanin’s photobook I Made Them Run Away. At first, because the folded softcover features a long tear. Tear as in air, not tear as in fear. Which takes me on a tangent to the Australian rock band INXS’ hits Never Tear Us Apart (1987) and Bitter Tears (1990). Context tells us which tear is the right one.

Zanin’s book presents a bizarre love triangle. There are photographs made by Zanin mixed with family snapshots. Stitched into the book are smaller slips of peach-colored paper, the same color as the cover. Each features text in typewriter font, authored by Zanin’s mother and taken from her diary called Letters to a Man I Have Never Had. The third arm of the triangle — “the man” — is mostly invisible. (Come to think of it, ‘Bermuda Love Triangle’ may be more accurate. After all, all stories contain myth. If they’re good stories — like Zanin’s — they keep us in suspense with complex supporting characters, subplots, and implications).


It’s easy to tell the snapshots from more recent photographs, but there is visual coherence across the two type of images. It’s as if the newer ones were left in Zanin’s back pocket and washed too many times. They are diaphanous and diluted. This is a strength. It works because there is a lot of skin in Zanin’s pictures. Bodies at oblique angles, orifices (lips, holes, slits, vents), creases, seepage, and stickiness. Appendages and objects pulled, tucked, bent, trapped, purged, and poked. Many images are taken at close range where you can see skin prickles, a protruding throbbing vein, damp glans, and hair knots. Some subjects recur such as birds, bathroom mirrors, and palm trees. These images seem more metaphorical and act like haptic feedback devices. I feel the feathers, condensation, and fronds.

Many of the newer photographs lack specificity of place. Backgrounds are lean and hygienic. It’s this curt scientific façade that feels at odds with the proximity of the subjects. Cool and distant with excruciating familiarity. I’m careful to choose the word ‘familiarity’ over ‘intimacy’ because the relationships lack warmth. They refer to connection, yes, and tenderness too but also unease. It feels more like a book about looking over one’s shoulder than it does of looking back. These are the devil-in-the-detail pictures, like the budgerigar clinging to its wire cage with its beak, paired with an image taken inside a car of a seatbelt clutched by an anxious fist. The torn snapshots offer visceral gratification too. Each a swift micro-violence that beheads some male figures while removing others. It’s like photographic voodoo.

Zanin’s mother writes with an infatuated pen. Her private thoughts, presumably never meant for public view, drench the reader in wishes (“I would like someone who loves me sincerely and holds me tight”) and then reality (“there are times like these when I remember why I decided not to become involved with anyone anymore”). The intent and audience for her words changes throughout the book. Sometimes she’s giving herself advice, some read as affirmations. Others come across as directives to “the man”. Several present as cautions to other women including her daughter.


There are two photobooks, both by women, that remind me of I Made Them Run Away. Nikki S. Lee’s Parts (Hatje Cantz, 2005) and Chino Otsuka’s Imagine Finding Me (TRACE Editions, 2006). With the former, men are partially sliced out of images, as if after a breakup. In the words of the publisher, “These halved images clearly and disturbingly point out the empty spots, the striking dependencies and the ways that we all-women particularly-define ourselves through our partners”. The latter is a series of unique double self-portraits based on childhood snapshots taken from Otskua’s family album. Otsuka creates a digital time machine to bring her current and former self together in a single image.

I thought a lot about the title Zanin’s mother gave her diary, Letters to a Man I Have Never Had. To have and hold from this day forward. Who — and what — do we ever really have? It reminds me of that teenage drinking game Never Have I Ever. A great game for getting to know people. A sure-fire way to lose a man you’ve never had.

Zanin’s book reflects the undertow of a girl who wanted to be loved like the man her mother yearned for. It is a beautiful and sad braid of tales because it teeters between reflecting on one’s upbringing with a mix of fondness and ferocity. Making and presenting images that look and feel like still lives, taken by a medical examiner channeling Elinor Carucci, Ishiuchi Miyako, and the sensations (not the aesthetics) embedded in Antoine D’Agata’s photographs, is persuasive. It’s also a photobook that makes sense in book form. It harks back to the size and feel of a diary. And a body, too.

Did I read Zanin’s book? Yes, I read it. I Made Them Run Away reconsiders how we picture and puncture family (and partake in it photographically). How we narrate autobiographical memory through mixed messages. How opposites attract and repel. And, how as we mature and grow, stressors within our blood relationships can wither, bloom, or ignite the need to tear it down and build it back up again.

Purchase Book

Read More Book Reviews


Odette England 
is a photographer and writer based in Providence, Rhode Island and New York. Her work has been shown in more than 100 museums, galleries, and exhibition spaces worldwide. She has two photobooks out this year: Dairy Character, winner of the 2021 Light Work Book Award; and Past Paper Present Marks: Responding to Rauschenberg, her collaboration with Jennifer Garza-Cuen, which received a $5,000 Rauschenberg Publication Grant.