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Book Review: Brutal

Brutal. Photographs by Michal Luczak.
Self Published, 2012.
Reviewed by Christopher J. Johnson

Photographs by Michal Luczak.
Self Published, 2012. Hardbound. 64 pp., 31 black & white illustrations, 13¾x17".

Brutal by Michal Tuczak is a book like many other books; it tries to tell the story of a place and its people. It is a documentary. All the photos in Brutal are of the Katowice Station in Katowice, Poland and of the people who make their way there to take the train into other cities for work and leisure. These are photographs of shadow and concrete, torn clothes and weathered faces. Tuczak photographed the Katowice station between July 2010 and January 2011 before it was to be refurbished. His hope was to capture the station in its 20th century glory before it, like most things, made the transition to our own century. Tuczak is nostalgic to say the least and these photographs capture that. This is a document about travel and travelers that never touches on destinations but, rather departures and returns. Brutal is a sea of faces and bodies in motion. The station itself seems a transitional realm that, like so many throughways, is in a state of constant neglect.

Brutal. Photographs by Michal Luczak. Self Published, 2012.
Brutal. Photographs by Michal Luczak. Self Published, 2012.

So, what sets Brutal apart other than the trademark style of Tuczak's art? Presentation. Brutal is a massive book (1 ft. 5‘ by 1 ft. 2‘). It is clunky and non-bookshelf friendly. It is crudely, and thus delicately bound. Its feel is rough to the hands. This is not a book that you possess but a book that seduces you. The massive format of Brutal is great; rarely do we get such a sense of looking in. Here perspective is everything. The faces and places given to us by Tuczak will not be ignored or compartmentalized. Here is a haunted station, an outmoded place. There is an eerie quality that works in the chiaroscuro of these photos; the dark is deeper and the light is more fully blown. Equal attention is given to debris and functionality as we are invited to view the station from inside and out. Mysterious packages await delivery or, perhaps, have been left behind. Mortar lays about the station, old works torn out and never cleared away. It is a strange place that seems to hover between construction and demolition. These pictures, industrial and masculine, are like a photo archive for a lost David Lynch film. Brutal isn’t for those who prefer soft tones but rather, those who prefer the cold, who favor course wool over cashmere. The discreet collector will also find the presentation of this book to be one of a kind, provided they have the space to shelve it.—CHRISTOPHER J. JOHNSON

Brutal. Photographs by Michal Luczak. Self Published, 2012.

Selected as one of the Best Books of 2012 by Andrew Phelps.

CHRISTOPHER J. JOHNSON is originally from Madison Wisconsin. He came to Santa Fe in 2002 and graduated from the College of Santa Fe majoring in English with an emphasis in poetry. He is an arts writer for the Weekly Alibi in Albuquerque.