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Oyster: Reviewed by Blake Andrews


Book Review Oyster Photographs by Marco Marzocchi Reviewed by Blake Andrews Made over the course of 10 years, ‘Oyster’ is a visual diary compiled by Marzocchi as clues to understand his absent parents. At times bordering on frustration and violence, his images express his search for a ‘culprit’, a cause for his dysfunctional childhood environment..
https://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=ZJ256
Oyster. By Marco Marzocchi.
https://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=ZJ256
Oyster  
Photographs by Marco Marzocchi

Void, Athens, Greece, 2019. 84 pp., 5½x6¾".

Judging by his photographs, Marco Marzocchi has packed a lot of experience into his forty-six years on the planet. So it’s no surprise that his debut monograph is audacious. For starters, every copy of Oyster (Void, 2019) is printed with a unique cover graphic on the front and back. Each book is individually signed and numbered, the title handwritten on the binding. Such attention to detail is demanding, and is typically only seen in handmade books limited to a few dozen copies. Oyster’s press run is 500. The front and back covers of the book can be linked together into unique pairings with other copies of the same title, by which each individual copy forms a small component of a larger, grander image.

Oyster. By Marco Marzocchi.
The photographs in Oyster depict a diaristic chronology of Marzocchi’s life. The series begins with a childhood photo of his grandmother, then continues in scrapbook fashion to the present. At this point the river of images widens into a short series of monochrome full-bleed photos. Marzocchi’s life has been eventful. His parents split up during his childhood, then died young. “Drugs, addictions, jails, and dysfunctional environment…were constant elements [of his youth],”, according to the photographer’s bio. Captions spread throughout the book hint at even more turmoil. “I had to tell my fiancé ‘the truth’,” says one. Another shows various life components — Dad, faith, job, etc. — as vectors that surround the word “LOST”.

Oyster. By Marco Marzocchi.

Turbulent stuff. The text, however, is not the main attraction. This is a visual book narrated largely by the photographs themselves. Marzocchi is a talented photographer whose gritty, diaristic style is reminiscent of Nan Goldin and Corrine Day, to name a few. Many of the images appear plucked from old family scrapbooks, repurposed with various physical applications still affecting them: tape marks, torn edges, folds, and scribbles run throughout, lending a spirit of whimsy. But, when the book is taken as a whole, these facets — source and physicality — fade into minor details, subsumed by Marzocchi’s commanding narrative.

Oyster. By Marco Marzocchi.
One of Oyster’s early photos depicts an arm entwined around by a snake. This image stands as something of a totem for Marzocchi (An Ouroboros floats near his name on his website). The front and back covers feature snake illustrations by 18th-century Dutch naturalist Albertus Seba. Pull back the front cover and you realize that the very structure of the book is rather snakelike in its long accordion-style construction. At its mouth, the psychedelic duotone of the arm/snake photo mentioned above. A handwritten colophon follows, scribbled in verse around an old snake illustration by William Skelton. All this material is hidden within the cover, out of immediate view — perhaps consumed whole by the snake? — and it takes a bit of investigation to unearth.

Photos and design combine into an elegant package, the result of 10 years of work according to Marzocchi’s site. The road to production was spurred along by several laudations, a Gomma Grant in 2017, a Helsinki Photo Award in 2018, and a Temps Zero award in 2019, to name just a few. “This work is focused on dealing and replacing all the doubts and the fears that I had. Exorcising the pain and the [longing] for love." That’s a labor, here richly rewarded.

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Oyster. By Marco Marzocchi.
Oyster. By Marco Marzocchi.

Blake Andrews is a photographer based in Eugene, OR. He writes about photography at blakeandrews.blogspot.com.

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