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Book of the Week: A Pick by Michael Schmelling

Once A Year by Axel Hoedt
This week's Book of the Week pick is from photographer Michael Schmelling who selected Axel Hoedt's document of traditional German festival costumes Once A Year published by Steidl.

"Small, 100 pages, simple glossy jacket, some kind of cat-like figure on the cover - I almost passed this by in the bookstore, thinking it was a children's book. And maybe it actually could be a spooky children's book - something you know will maybe give you nightmares, but you look at it anyway. Like Grimms' Fairy Tales, which were misleadingly first published as "Children's Tales," you're fooled by something that seems kind of cute and magical. But look twice, you realize there's nothing really cute about it. Caught off-guard, you're left with an open-ended sense of foreboding. This is a strange and impressive accomplishment, especially when you consider that there's no real attempt to create fantasy here (and when you consider how often we've seen masked subjects in photography, from Irving Penn to Phyllis Galembo). I can imagine how the photographer made the work, I can see the seamless and the tape - and I know these are people in costumes in a studio, but I'm still left uneasy." -- Michael Schmelling

Michael Schmelling is the author of five photo books: Shut Up Truth (J+L Books, 2002), The Week Of No Computer (TV Books 2008), The Plan (J+L Books, 2009), Atlanta: Hip Hop & The South (Chronicle, 2010) and Land Line, released this month by J+L Books. Schmelling's work from The Plan was included in the 2013 ICP Triennial: A Different Kind Of Order.

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