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A Closer Look: AMC2 Journal Issue 4

AMC2 Journal Issue 4: Chasing Shadows
Chasing Shadows, the fourth volume of the AMC2 periodical from the Archive of Modern Conflict, is a catalogue of the exhibition of the same name that appeared at Paris Photo in November of 2012. Widely considered a highlight of the festival, the original show featured hundreds of photographs from the archive, hung in groupings and arranged up and down deep purple walls. The photographs displayed the diversity of the archive’s collection and were assembled quickly; 500 were initially selected, themes became apparent and the images were rearranged over the course of a few days, and then again a week later. Emphasizing fast decision-making leaves little room for over thinking and, to paraphrase AMC founder Timothy Prus, avoids anguish, allowing one to reach into the subconscious. Trusting instinct has clearly been a part of all of AMC’s publications, but has it has never been as apparent as in Chasing Shadows.

Unlike the exhibition, which was purposely designed to subvert a linear, filmic viewing pattern, the book has a distinct cinematic quality. The modestly sized perfect-bound paperback features a selection of about 200 images. Each page is folded at the edge, giving the sense that the whole interior could pull out like an accordion fold, creating a continuous strip of images. The pages are, in fact, tightly contained, but just the suggestion – and the few images that actually wrap around the edge onto the following page – is enough to give the book a particular sense of continuity. The sequences seem to stretch on in dialogue with each other, and despite the occasional disparate nature of the images, none feel isolated.

from AMC2 Journal Issue 4: Chasing Shadows

The images in the book span nearly the entire history of photography, but the bulk seem to be from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The warm tones of these early photographs are striking, as is the sharp contrast of sepia and cyan. A portrait of a West African king shares a spread with a delicate floral cyanotype and a dreamy and colorless aurora borealis. The sequence is then repeated several times, transitioning between monarchs, plants and the pale northern lights, the first of a number of general themes that quietly creep in. Those themes rest gently in the background – it's easy not to notice the transitions. We see a variety of ethnographic portraits, street front panoramas, desertscapes, early scientific documentations, a 1962 shot from Robert Frank, a portrait of Freud and two chows, Blinky Palermo in Munich, a mushroom cloud in Tahiti, and a pile of lentils. The variety is great, but through subtle themes and thoughtful sequencing, a fragmented narrative seems to surface. Of what? Well, I’m not sure that I could ever say, but somehow things feel connected, and I want to look again.

from AMC2 Journal Issue 4: Chasing Shadows
from AMC2 Journal Issue 4: Chasing Shadows

All images are given dates, photographer (when known), title and type of print in the index that concludes the book, which, given the volume of imagery, is a little bewildering to navigate, but effective in keeping the focus on the photographs rather than their origin. The concise attributions leave you wanting more information in some cases, but this book feels like it isn’t so much about the individual image as it is their power in conversation. Still, I’m sure a good deal could be said about a few of these photographs, and we’re given just enough information to do some research on our own.

from AMC2 Journal Issue 4: Chasing Shadows

When I think of this book, cyan floods my memory before any images are recalled. I’ll take a cue from the title and step back from trying to explain what goes on between the pages. Suffice it to say that it is both mysterious and powerful, and perhaps a bit of an optical illusion – it functions better in the periphery than with direct focus. This is a book to be looked at over and over again, flipped through silently, watching. And even after looking at every picture deeply, you’ll open it at random and see something new. --Sarah Bradley

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