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photo-eye Book Reviews - Best Books: Wrong

Wrong, Photographs by Asger Carlsen. 
Published by Morel Books, 2010.
Reviewed by Jonathan Blaustein
Asger Carlsen Wrong
Photographs by Asger Carlsen.
Morel Books, 2010. Hardbound. 88 pp., Duotone illustrations throughout, 8-1/2x8-1/2".
There's something about a good sci-fi movie that really sticks in your head -- especially if you see it during your formative years. I saw Paul Verhoeven's Total Recall in the theaters, so I must have been about 15 at the time. There were certain visuals in that film, ie. the three-boobed prostitute, that I can imagine at will all these years later. It just seemed so real, as far as futuristic visions go. Sometimes, an artist just gets it right on a conscious and subconscious level. And having spent some time with Wrong, by Asger Carlsen, I'm willing to ascribe such imaginative success in this case. It's a terrific book on multiple levels, and I'm glad I get to keep this copy.

Carlsen has taken the "of his time" wizardry of Jerry Uelsmann and brought it into the digi-verse, black and white and kooky as ever. I know it's not crazy original to make the comparison, as everyone who creates bizarre, surreal composites must resent the immediacy of the thought. But as a child of the computer age, I've never been able to grasp the sense of wonder people must have had when they first saw a good version of Uelsmann's work. That "I know it's not real, but it looks like it" feeling is hard to come by these days.

Wrong, by Asger Carlsen. Published by Morel Books, 2010.
 But Carlsen has nailed it. This book contains a series of black and white images of somewhat-normal looking scenes that have insane sub-themes grafted on, masterfully. Wooden leg frames, double faces, faces replicated on the back of heads, flesh mounds, bug eyes, there are a handful of tropes that Carlsen brings back again and again, each time with pleasure.

Wrong, by Asger Carlsen. Published by Morel Books, 2010.
 I've always thought, and occasionally written, that black and white photography has tremendous potential to manipulate temporal expectations in viewers. And here, it's just the perfect choice. The series of images reads like a quasi-almost normal series of pictures from 2150, once genetic engineering has had some time to settle in. They look like historical photographs of a history not yet lived. Genius. (Especially as the book's post-script reads "Based on a true story.")

Wrong, by Asger Carlsen. Published by Morel Books, 2010.

I suppose some might find these images creepy or disturbing. I'd understand if they did, but I practically giggled. They're funny in an absurd way, and yet the craftsmanship leaves not doubt as to the artist's seriousness. Just a great piece of work. Well worth the investment.—Jonathan Blaustein

Jonathan Blaustein is a photographer and writer based in Taos, NM. His work resides in several major museum collections and has been exhibited widely in the United States. For more information, please visit