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photo-eye Book Reviews: Sasha

Sasha, By Claudine Doury.
Published by Le Caillou Bleu, 2011.
Reviewed by Colin Pantall
Claudine Doury Sasha
Photographs by Claudine Doury. Text by Christian Caujolle and Melanie McWhorter.
Le Caillou Bleu, 2011. Hardbound. 72 pp., illustrated throughout, 12-1/4x8-3/4".

Chasing or Following?

Sasha is a story of a girl becoming a woman. Sasha’s mother, Claudine Doury, starts the book with a picture of Sasha gazing into a shiny ball, looking at what the future might hold. Next she is in the woods, standing in a sun-dappled glade amidst of sea of dry ice.

The mystery continues as Sasha walks into water, a baptism that leaves her reborn and immortal, able to walk on water and conquer the world – until the next picture at least where she wades with a clump of water weed on her head, a teenage creature from the Black Lagoon.

Sasha, by Claudine Doury. Published by Le Caillou Bleu, 2011.
Sasha, by Claudine Doury. Published by Le Caillou Bleu, 2011.
Weeds change to mud, the body changes and soon Sasha is cocooned in grass, ready to reach the forest where she laps up the sunlight on her face and luxuriates in her new womanhood.

Sasha is shown holding a bird, on a bed with a younger child weighing down on her, in a living room with her head trapped in a bell jar. Here Sasha’s eyes are closed, blocking out the outside world. In an accompanying essay, photo-eye’s Melanie McWhorter quotes Sylvia Plath’s view of the exterior world as “blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is the bad dream.”

A cut plait and suffocation follow as Sasha seeks her place in the world. She is domesticated, frozen, liberated and free – a freedom that comes to an end with the final picture of the book; of Sasha running after a boy into the forest. Or is she chasing him?

Sasha, by Claudine Doury. Published by Le Caillou Bleu, 2011.
Sasha, by Claudine Doury. Published by Le Caillou Bleu, 2011.
Where many photographers try to portray the transition into adolescence through portraits emphasising an in-between time of affective withdrawal, with a focus on the physical and emotional oddness of adolescence, Doury has projected her explorations onto the physical world. It’s a poetic view but one with a solid grounding in the non-sentimental reality of being coming-of-age, of the loss of a childhood that is supposed to have gone yet still remains, and the responsibility and worry of an adulthood that may never come. Combing beauty and complexity, Sasha is a book that continues to reveal new layers with every viewing.—COLIN PANTALL

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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.