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Best Books: A Closer Look - A Series of Unfortunate Events

 Michael Wolf’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is an interesting commentary on humanity’s coming of age in the digital networking era. These photographs are the banal moments that usually take up a majority of our existence. The strange thing about Wolf’s images are they consist of exploited occurrences of our everyday life – oddities captured by Google Street View. And these compiled photographs offer a series of differing stories. An image of a van on fire parked in a suburban neighborhood is a glimpse of an occurrence that was captured by the technology we have introduced into our daily lives. These images make me want to know the rest of the story – did that van explode in its suburban driveway? Did everyone in the incident come out unharmed? It’s the beginning of a narrative that has no ending… these photographs and Wolf’s concept are quite intriguing.

There are other images in this book that are eerily bizarre though they are street camera views of ordinary people doing ordinary things. An image of a woman talking on her cell phone comes off as though big brother is invading our everyday existence. Am I being over dramatic? Probably, but the point that Wolf can weave together very different images that ultimately come from the same source such as Google Earth is unnerving and a little creepy. There are moments of pure beauty in this book. A deer jumping across the road or a bird flying into the camera’s focus offers the banal as beautiful – and present a nice juxtaposition as to what can be caught on camera when we are all acting our lives out live.

from the book A Series of Unfortunate Events

from the book A Series of Unfortunate Events
Marc Feustel’s commentary on Wolf’s project, originally published in Foam Magazine, has an interesting point. “Google Street View explodes one of Cartier-Bresson’s fundamental concepts: the decisive moment” -- a concept Cartier-Bresson coined as the photographer’s ability to capture on film a moment of great significance. Feustel continues, “By removing the photographer from this equation, Street View is creating a different kind of decisive moment, one that does not depend on the photographer, but that is governed purely by chance instead.” If this is the case, these moments caught on camera could lead to an endless wellspring of decisive moments…. but I like Wolf’s title and think unfortunate events is an appropriate term for this type of imagery.

Selected as a Best Book of 2010 by Hester Keijser.

Purchase a copy of this book here.