Social Media

Book of the Week: Selected by Owen Kobasz

Book Of The Week Not Just Your Face Honey Photographs by Stefanie Moshammer Reviewed by Owen Kobasz Not Just Your Face Honey is a photographic series by Austrian artist Stefanie Moshammer (born 1988) reflecting on the line between love and delusion. It is based on a love letter written to her in March 2014 by Troy C., a man unknown to her, which led the artist to explore questions of surveillance and stalking.
Not Just Your Face Honey. By Stefanie Moshammer.
Not Just Your Face Honey 
Photographs by Stefanie Moshammer

Spector Books/C/O Berlin Foundation, 2019.
144 pp., 67 illustrations, 8¾x11¼x¾".

“HELLO, HELLO the Upper Most incredible, sensational, Amazing, and Beautiful girl/woman or anything I’ve ever seen!! I knocked on your door or the house you are helping at because I was looking to say Hi to my ex-girlfriend. Forget her, I couldn’t believe my eyes and ears when you opened the door twice. Not just your face honey but your voice melted my Heart!”

These are the opening lines to a letter Stefanie Moshammer received in March 2014 from Troy C., a near stranger. The unprovoked letter followed a five-minute encounter one week earlier. Moshammer was staying in Las Vegas to shoot Vegas and She when Troy knocked on her door looking for his ex-girlfriend. Moshammer’s new series, Not Just Your Face Honey, uses abstract imagery to explore the emotions provoked by this overwhelming declaration of love.

Published by C/O Berlin in conjunction with Spector Books, the eye-catching photobook is covered in a deep green, almost reflective, vinyl fabric that changes, like a holographic card. The first pages showcase Troy’s letter — not as a text supplement, but rather, as an object. Each of the three images zooms in closer than the last, inviting the feeling — to open such a document. The letter is then broken up into fragments scattered throughout the book among Moshammer’s images, intertwining the two narratives into one, new object.

“Please, Please stay in our Beautiful, wonderful country and you can stay with me at my awesome House anytime”, reads one page. The following photographs trace a journey: A sign for Interstate 15, pointed towards Barstow, CA. The mountains. A strangely beautiful camper, mirroring the surrounding desert. Gas stations and motels. The open road. And finally, car headlights shining on a suburban house. Blurred figures walking the street.

The images are inconsistent. Some are color, others are black and white; one may take up a whole page while another is the fraction of the size. Through these images, however, a narrative is carried. In some ways it is an exploration of what Moshammer’s life would have been like had she accepted the offer, had she driven out of the state and stayed in Troy’s “Awesome” house. Troy’s words serve as the frame for Moshammer’s photographs, Moshammer’s photographs illustrate how the words may actually feel.

At no point in the series, however, is there a truly idyllic image of love. The first formal picture is a satellite image with Moshammer’s address highlighted in an orange circle, which immediately invokes the ideas of surveillance that have become especially poignant in the age of GPS smartphones. Although by accident, he does know where she lives, giving him power and altering the dynamic in any relationship to follow

The letter Moshammer received was addressed to “Austria Girl.” Stefanie Moshammer is Austria Girl, but Austria Girl isn’t just Stephanie Moshammer. The lack of a name in a document this intensely personal goes on to highlight the impersonal nature of the whole affair. Moshammer captures the impersonal nature in her portraits — they’re faceless. Faces are cropped out, covered by jackets, or intentionally blurred, leaving bodies, without identities, doing things.

Three uncovered portraits do appear towards the end. They are, however, so washed out that it’s nearly impossible to make out their facial expressions. Like ghosts viewed through very thick glass, there is nothing that you can discern about them — they could be anyone or everyone.

Not Just Your Face Honey is more than a reaction to this bizarre love letter. It uses the scattered format found in the original document to put forth a powerful exploration of love, illusion, surveillance, and identity. Throughout is an outsider view of America, through beautiful landscapes and open roads, as well as more sinister elements. “I can be your ticket to USA citizenship” — and a page of bald eagle stamps with a lone image of a woman in bubble wrap, an exotic export. Moshammer creates a narrative of impressions, inviting the viewer to follow her feelings on this bizarre occurrence.
Owen Kobasz edits the blog & newsletter at photo-eye. He holds a BA in the liberal arts from St. John's College and takes photos in his free time.