Social Media

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 Hell's Gates by Tim Coghlan as Book of the Week.
Hell's Gates By Tim Coghlan
Perimeter Editions & Knowledge Editions, 2018.
Daniel Boetker-Smith selects Hell's Gates by Tim Coghlan from Perimeter Editions & Knowledge Editions as Book of the Week.

“ ‘A blaze that occurs in an institution of organized religion — no matter its cause — elicits a particularly acute response … how is it that some images seem to hold this intense charge and resonance?’ asks co-publisher Dan Rule in his short essay at the end of Hell’s Gates. Melbourne-based artist and designer Tim Coghlan has been mining the ever-ballooning Internet image archive for a number of years and across a number of publications. Hell’s Gates is his most simple and yet most effective photobook to date and is comprised of hundreds of lo-res, amateur and public domain photographs of burning churches organized into four chapters: Night, Day, Wasting Water, and Decimated.

The resonance and spectacle of these images and of such a project is brought into sharp focus by unfathomable events unfolding on a daily basis in Trump’s America (the majority of the images in the book seem to be from North America) – most recently seeing the US Attorney General Jeff Sessions defending the separating of children from their parents at the Mexican border by invoking a Biblical verse previously used to argue in favor of slavery. Given that Hell’s Gates was previously published over five years ago as a small-run zine, it is telling that Coghlan has chosen this moment to revisit and dramatically expand this project. This is a book reflecting on contemporary America, its past, its present and its future.

What lingers after spending time with Coghlan’s book is the territory of images that theorist and artist Allan Sekula spoke of in his essay "Reading an Archive" (1983). Coghlan’s position here is one of provocateur, and as the liberator of meaning, a relevant theme in current US politics. Sekula talks of the mode of “pictorial address that affects images extracted from an archive” — in the originary mode of these images their purpose was primarily informational, to describe a particular event (a burning church). In Hell’s Gates, however, the territory is shifted and enlivened by the shock of the decontextualized montage.

This book shows us hundreds of burning churches — it feels like the end of the world —most interestingly though, Hell’s Gates seems to also withhold judgment. Is this a metaphoric rail against contemporary US politics; is it a tongue-in-cheek poke at America’s relationship to organized religion; or is it a picture of American society on the brink on destroying itself from within?

Looking through Hell’s Gates I couldn’t escape the feeling that if one photobook was to remain after some cataclysm, to form the basis for a new religious belief system, I really feel like this should be the one. What a world that would be!" — Daniel Boetker-Smith

Published in an edition of 666.

Purchase Book

Hell's Gates By Tim CoghlanPerimeter Editions & Knowledge Editions, 2018.

Hell's Gates By Tim CoghlanPerimeter Editions & Knowledge Editions, 2018.

Daniel Boetker-Smith is an educator, writer, curator, publisher, and photographer. Daniel is the Academic Director at Photography Studies College (Melbourne). He is a contributor to British Journal of PhotographyVoices of PhotographyVaultPaper JournalSource, and other Australian and international publications. He is also the Founder of the Asia-Pacific Photobook Archive, the largest collection of self-published and contemporary photobooks from the Asia-Pacific region in the world. Daniel was previously the Managing Editor of Australia’s oldest photography magazine Photofile.