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photo-eye Book Reviews: Horizonville

Horizonville, Photographs by Yann Gross.
Published by JRP|Ringier, 2011.
Reviewed by Colin Pantall
Yann Gross Horizonville
Photographs by Yann Gross. Edited by Yann Gross. Text by Joël Vacheron.
JRP|Ringier, 2011. Softcover. 70 pp., 50 color illustrations, 9-1/2x11-1/2".

Slip through a wormhole in space and there are an infinite number of possible worlds you could end up in. The world Yann Gross found himself in was Horizonville. It's the kind of town that confirms the suspicions held by many of Switzerland's fellow Europeans; that there is something odd about Switzerland, odd beyond the oddness of France or Italy or England, odd with 'great big fecking bells on it.' Not only is the country home to pharmaceutical companies, banks and the Federation of International Football Associations, for Yann Gross it is also a center of a skewed American culture; American culture with Swiss characteristics.

Horizonville, by Yann Gross. Published by JRP|Ringier, 2011.
In Horizonville, Gross photographs the people he encounters on a moped-mounted road trip through the Rhone Valley. Lovers of all things American, the people he meets wear US Air Force uniforms and cowboy hats, patronize saloon bars and monster truck rallies. All well and good, it's a classic simulacral experience; a re-enactment of the odd and alien in an odd and alien environment. When this happens in photography, the odds and the aliens often cancel each other out, leaving you with something dull and commonplace. With Horizonville, things aren't that simple. There is something innately other about the people and places Gross photographs. These are community pictures, of faces and ways of thinking that have some family resemblance to the USA.

Horizonville, by Yann Gross. Published by JRP|Ringier, 2011.
Horizonville, by Yann Gross. Published by JRP|Ringier, 2011.
 Horizonville is Tolkienesque, but in a well-trimmed way that mirrors the uncannily clean streets. There is an un-American sexualization of affairs throughout the book, a sexualization that involves mustard smeared bratwurst and bizarre erection tests, a 'Lesbo Show' with a delighted bearded biker in the foreground and a Harley Babe in a transparent tiger-patterned vest. Gross adds a sinister touch with a portrait of Murielle, a waitress who stopped serving at the Yukon Cafe after a patron "asked if she had ever been raped, adding that if not, he'd gladly do the honors." Terribly clean, terribly tidy and terribly odd.—Colin Pantall

Colin Pantall is a UK-based writer, photographer and teacher - he is currently a visiting lecturer in Documentary Photography at the University of Wales. His work has been exhibited in London, Amsterdam, Manchester and Rome and his Sofa Portraits will be published as a handmade book early next year. Further thoughts of Colin Pantall can be found on his blog, which was listed as one of’s favourites earlier this year.