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Loose Plates: Loteria Fotografica Mexicana, fotoTaroc and Law & Order Gets Me Through the Night

Loteria Fotografica Mexicana, fotoTarco and Law & Order Gets Me Through the Night

We are surrounded by fascinating books here at photo-eye, but I am always interested to see the books that aren't exactly 'books' in the traditional sense. Unbound, they aren't quite portfolios either, but intriguing collections of images presented in unusual ways -- I'll post about five of them this week. Each are beautiful objects re-imagining the way photography can be presented in an intimate form, changing the way we view and interact with the work. Today we have Loteria Fotografica Mexicana and fotoTaroc, both by Jill Hartley, and Law & Order Gets Me Through the Night by Laura Noel.

Loteria Fotografica Mexicana -- Jill Hartley
In her 2000 publication Loteria Fotografica Mexicana, Jill Hartley has taken the Mexican game of chance as an inspiration point, creating her own version of the game illustrated by her photography of Mexico. Incorporating a number of the traditional loteria cards with some of her own imagination, the pictograms are reinterpreted here in the form of street photography. It is an apt analogy for Hartley's photographic journeys through Mexico, being in the right place at the right time to make a photograph being not unlike a lottery. In timeless-feeling black & white images we see city monuments and street fairs, children and beautifully framed objects, each tethered to the theme by the name printed in Spanish on the bottom of the card. For El Valiente "the brave one," two masked wrestlers stand with arms crossed facing the camera. Each card also bears a four-line poem on the back in Spanish, and both images and accompanying text are also presented in a small book with introductory essays. Unfortunately for me, my Spanish is hardly good enough to work though the texts, but Loteria Fotografica Mexicana is entirely enjoyable nonetheless. Complete with boards, Hartley's loteria set is playable, providing a lens though which to view and contemplate her work, as well as a fun way to interact with it. The boards, book and cards all fit neatly into a cardboard box with Velcro closure.

cards from Loteria Fotografica Mexicana
fotoTaroc -- Jill Hartley
fotoTaroc, also from Hartley, is another riff on a traditional game, this time, the tarot. Here, the link is looser; instead of 78 cards, Hartley presents the viewer with 88, and unlike the traditional tarot, they are unlabeled and unnumbered. While an observer with some knowledge of the symbolism of the tarot can find some overlapping of imagery, Hartley's fotoTaroc is a game of chance and free association. Saturated color images show a variety of objects, items and scenes, each beautiful in its own right, but intriguing when paired and re-ordered; they are images open for interpretation and association. In a small booklet that accompanies the cards, Hartley explains how the game is to be played: three cards are selected and laid face up, then, "paying close attention to first impressions, he or she must look for a personal message in the images as if interpreting a dream or deciphering destiny." How to respond to a sequence of images featuring a Ferris Wheel seen through a rain-streaked window, a shockingly-pink chick, like the living incarnation of a marshmallow peep, and a serene visage carved in the trunk of a tree, eyes closed, mouth in a subtle smile? These images are less connected to place than the images in Loteria and each feels more random and mysterious. I can see this game being a lot of fun to play with the right group of people, and is a clever way to get viewers to engage with the work, asking the participants to forge personal connections with the images. The cards are presented in a small box contained within a mesh bag.

cards from fotoTaroc
Law & Order Gets Me Through the Night -- Laura Noel
Selected as one of Larissa Leclair's best self and indie published books of 2011, Law & Order Gets Me Through the Night by Laura Noel is an interesting and unusual object. Contained with in a mesh bag is a small hand-stamped box containing cards fifty cards printed with images from the television series (and at least one of its spin-offs) on one side and the phrase 'Law & Order Gets Me Through the Night' repeated on the other. In another small bag, a plastic stand is included, perfect for the presentation of these 3x2 inch images. A photographic project resulting from nights of insomnia, the long-running crime drama a consistent friend, the images capture stars and scenes from the show along with the comforting graininess and cool hue of an old television set. While long-time fans of the show will undoubtedly recognize episodes, the images are familiar not simply for their subject matter -- chronic insomniac or not, many of us have sat in the ameliorating glow of television reruns late at night. Each well-composed image from the series can be selected for individual view on the stand, but the stack of cards are also pleasurable to hold in the hand and flip through as a whole. I can imagine playing games with them, perhaps storyboarding your own episode or devising a game of memory.

cards from Law & Order Gets Me Through the Night

Purchase a copy of Loteria Fotografica Mexicana
Purchase a copy of fotoTaroc