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Book of the Week: A Pick by Daniel Boetker-Smith

Book of the Week Book of the Week: A Pick by Daniel Boetker-Smith Daniel Boetker-Smith selects The Middle of Somewhere by Sam Harris as Book of the Week.
The Middle of SomewhereBy Sam HarrisCeiba, 2015.
This week's Book of the Week pick comes from Daniel Boetker-Smith who has selected The Middle of Somewhere by Sam Harris from Ceiba.

"Publishers ceiba are fast becoming one of the most dynamic and talked about photobook makers around. In 2015 ceiba, run by Eva Maria Kunz, released The Middle of Somewhere, which was shortlisted for Les Rencontres d’Arles Book Award 2015, a finalist at GuatePhoto Festival and won a Lucie Award. The book is Sam Harris’ chronicle of a decade or so of his family’s life, encompassing a journey from England to Australia (via India), and a spiritual and visceral exploration of the realities and magic of childhood and family.

The simple beauty of this book is centered around a diaristic thematic; it looks and feels like a handmade journal that’s been improvised and decorated as the miles have accrued. On further exploration, The Middle of Somewhere is much more than this; a smart collaborative process has resulted in a book that reaches beyond the everyday, and talks of breathing in and experiencing moments in a way that is unafraid and raw. Harris’ wife and daughters are central in the book, we rarely see the photographer himself, and there are notes, scribbles, and drawings by his family throughout that gives the sense that each copy of this book must be somehow unique. The way the book is constructed, the detail that is incorporated, and the attention to the tactile experience suggests that there is only one of these books in the world, an edition of 1. There is a sense of holding something precious in your hands. This plays with how the viewer experiences the narrative presented, it's like being given someone’s treasured family photo album to leaf through, delicately and slowly, wary of damage. It also, somehow, feels like this could be your family, your childhood, your memories.

This feeling is enhanced further by the photographs themselves; in the images we rarely move beyond arms length from the subjects. Apart from a couple of landscapes the majority of photographs place us firmly within the family boundaries, for the duration of the book we become part of the Harris clan. We see, through the course of the book, his daughters growing, and we see their changing relationship to their surroundings from the privileged position of their father, right there, guiding them through. This book is a gift from a hippy father to his daughters.

I was asked by someone yesterday to describe Harris’ book in one sentence, I said without thinking: 'it's like looking at a Super-8 film in book form.' This is a unique and special book."—Daniel Boetker-Smith

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The Middle of SomewhereBy Sam HarrisCeiba, 2015.
The Middle of SomewhereBy Sam HarrisCeiba, 2015.

Daniel Boetker-Smith is a writer, curator, educator and artist based in Melbourne, Australia. He is the Director of the Asia-Pacific Photobook Archive, a not-for-profit organization established in 2013 to promote and share the books of photographers from the Asia-Pacific region at festivals, galleries, and institutions all over the world. He regularly writes on photography for a number of online and print publications. He is also coordinator of the Asia-Pacific Photobook Prize and a Founder of Photobook Melbourne, the only international photobook festival in the Asia-Pacific region. Daniel is the Course Director at the Photography Studies College, Melbourne.

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