Anna Orlowska


Wschód Gallery & The Polish National Film School, Łódź

In Beauty in Photography: Essays in Defence of Traditional Values (2005) Robert Adams writes: ‘Beauty, whether in nature or mirrored in art, can itself be painful.’ ‘Futerał’ is a beautiful word. A word which you can’t translate into another language. A word with an existence profoundly tied to its own narrative, a meaning so deeply rooted in its geographical context. And, as exemplified by Agnieszka Tarasiuk’s introduction to Polish artist Anna Orłowska’s eponymous book it is also a word that invites an extensive essay to explore it.

Futerał (translated as ‘the case’ in English by Tarasiuk), in an inevitable and necessary act of surrender, presents the previously untold story of the former splendour and magnificence – and dubious paths of rebirth – of traditional aristocratic Polish palaces. Symbols of a traumatic national history from the past century, these architectural structures are embedded in the artist’s childhood memory just as much as Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle is in the memories of western girls and women. Seized from their owners during the Communist nationalisation campaigns which occurred throughout the Eastern Bloc after World War II, today these fairylike wonders are repurposed as luxury hotels, private and public offices and amusement parks. They are then saved from – or deprived of – their quiet journey to oblivion. Here, as if hibernating, the dungeons where the servitude was confined are still hidden from the public, tasteful flower bouquets have been arranged for visitors to admire and, of course, photograph. The glories of the past are enveloped in new businesses and marketing needs. As Soundwalk Collective’s Stephan Crasneanscki once stated in conversation with Sasha Waltz vis his compositions based on field recordings collected at various similar sites: ‘Each of these buildings is made of multiple layers of history, sleeping layers, each one with their own narrative. Through the act of recording and re-composing we have re-awoken these narratives and memories that were left behind by their inhabitants, and held tightly inside the walls of these buildings.’

Futerał is a beautiful book. A visual poem, carefully and finely produced in all its parts – from the unquestionable quality of Orłowska’s photographs to the delicate design, from the enriching writing to the fine local printing. It leads us into a controversial, yet bewitching and amusing, journey through old and new relics of Polish history, providing us with a unique, and little-known perspective. One to be passed on and preserved. For these fairylike palaces are mute witnesses to both the brightest and darkest human vicissitudes of our time.

Ilaria Speri

All images courtesy of the artist, Wschód Gallery and the National Film School, Łódź. © Anna Orłowska

Michael Ackerman

Hunger – Epilogue


In 2005, I interviewed Oren Bloedow, co-songwriter and guitarist of Elysian Fields, the obscure and gloomy Brooklyn-based band he formed with ex-lover and sultry torch singer Jennifer Charles – I wrote about music before I came to photography. They had just released Bum Raps & Love Taps (2005), an album that dealt with personal pain, but also feelings of transcendence. “I believe that many of the challenges related to joy and sorrow have to do with clinging to moments, to time,” Bloedow told me. “When something starts to feel good, you tend to slow it down so that it doesn’t slip away. And when something feels bad, you do the same to prevent it from escalating.”

On the cover of the album is a black and white photograph of an old man having a cigarette, his face shrouded in smoke, with a pint glass on the table that could be perceived as half full or half empty. The photograph is by Michael Ackerman, and it is also printed in Hunger – Epilogue, the first publication of Ackerman’s work since his highly-praised book Half Life (2010). With over 130 photographs, half of them previously unseen, the large-format newsprint is a fitting end to Void’s Hunger series, a project that takes its lead from Franz Kafka’s short story A Hunger Artist (1922).

‘Time, in its great disarray, is a specialty of Michael A’, writes friend and filmmaker Jem Cohen. Ackerman himself has confessed to his obsession with the passing of time. Many of his photographs show traces of fading and erasure, others suffer from marks, scratches or light leaks. There are vivid vignettes of life, friendship and love, as well as the fear of losing loved ones. Dark and ghostly portraits carry an intensity or a fragility, or both at once. A walled-in elephant looks ecstatic, vultures feast on a carcass. There’s anguish. One spread really kicks the gut: a constellation of re-photographed portraits from tombstones and official reports; mostly children, mostly from the Holocaust (yes, that is Anne Frank there) – death and remembrance are as much a personal as they are a collective experience.

Stefan Vanthuyne

All images courtesy of the artist and VOID. © Michael Ackerman

Francesca Catastini


Kehrer Verlag

In 2016, Francesca Catastini was invited by a man named Albrecht to take photographs of his holiday residence in the outskirts of Lucca, Italy. He was soon to be leaving, and wanted images of his home to remember it by. Whilst browsing, she came across an old Italian liquor — ‘Petrus’, a dark bottle with a red cap. As Catastini recalls, the drink was advertised in the 1980s as ‘the perfect drink for the strong man’. She later discovered that Albrecht’s grandfather, nicknamed after his uncle Pietrino, was a central paternal figure in his life… Pietro comes from the Latin ‘Petrus’.

Associations drawn between the liquor bottle, its masculine expression and patriarchal overtones served as the catalyst for Catastini’s latest body of work Petrus, now published in book form by Kehrer Verlag. With Albrecht — ­his home, his possessions and his life — at its heart, Petrus unravels in a sweeping meditation on the symbolic capacities of objects, and particularly the engendered meanings one might ascribe to them. Manifesting itself as an encounter with a subject that is ultimately absent from view, the book exhibits objects belonging to Albrecht. Albrecht the schoolboy, the musician, the smoker, the footballer. Put together, these possessions reveal the human drive to sculpt (sometimes very literally) ourselves, our ideas and the world around us, knowingly or unknowingly.

Landscapes comprising man-made quarries that surround Albrecht’s village are blended deftly with a mixture of ephemera and still-lifes which, in their ambiguity, invite symbolic readings; a stuffed bear caught prowling within a diorama, a postcard illustrated by the posturing Apollo Belvedere are but two examples. And what for the image of the Cuban cigar, protruding from a gloved and tightly-gripped fist? Perhaps, as Sigmund Freud is supposed to have said, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”.

Catastini plays with an array of visual references, constructing and deconstructing certain western masculine archetypes, those that hold a ‘powerful symbolic violence on us’ as the artist has said. By way of their decontextualisation and rearrangement, the images conjure an apparition of sorts, a projection of a man which is metonymic, arbitrary and, ultimately, subjective. As such, this book is a search for a definite form, albeit a static and finally anti-revelationary one. By the end, we feel we know no more about Albrecht, but also more of ourselves and our social and cultural conditioning. Petrus becomes not so much a study of how we can define masculinity, but if we can altogether.

—Alessandro Merola

All images courtesy of the artist and Kehrer Verlag. © Francesca Catastini

Ingvar Kenne

The Ball


Throughout the year, crowds of young people across Australia drive hundreds of miles to Outback fairgrounds known as Bachelor and Spinster Balls. Born out of traditional 19th century town dances, originally designed for isolated and loveless country people to find a life-partner, today the ceremonies have morphed into alcohol-fuelled binges and raucous raves.

With unflinching commitment, Ingvar Kenne, in his latest book The Ball, drags us into the very midst of these gatherings. By midnight, we find drunken party-goers, sporting boots and ballgowns, stumbling into clouds of dust and dye. Young men, sodden with beer, scuffle in the dirt whilst elsewhere a woman in a muddied wedding dress downs Victoria Bitter, a tin in each hand. Here is a world which is wild, chaotic and uninhibited – and unashamedly so.

Through such successive images which afford little respite from the inexhaustible antics of these Balls, Kenne’s book amounts to an overwhelming vision of decadence, presenting at once the continuation and upheaval of one of rural Australia’s most cherished ceremonies. It is this ambivalent relationship with the past that points towards the latent millennial angst which exists at the heart of The Ball. Whilst these celebrants’ seemingly proud castings of formalities serve as an expression of apathy towards tradition, their forging of something new, something theirs, is simultaneously infused with the apprehension of what the future holds. Are they coming-of-age rituals or mere hedonistic indulgences? With his characteristic humanist approach – most memorably displayed in his extensive portrait-series CITIZEN (1997–2012) – Kenne refrains from any judgement. Whether escapists, opportunists, or actually lonely singletons searching for the love of their lives, what brings these revellers together is their lust for the present.

In The Ball, Kenne has produced a documentation, neither glorified nor denouncing, of the modern state of an enduring Australian rite. Collectively, these scenes speak of an impulse that far transcends these Outback circuses. Ultimately these are places where strangers can arrive, connect and belong… even if only until the dust settles once the night is over. Yet, even this is not a given. Perhaps this is indeed the overarching spirit of these Balls: live like there’s no tomorrow.

—1000 Words

All images courtesy of the artist and Journal. © Ingvar Kenne

Talia Chetrit



Released in January 2019, Showcaller is the first monograph of New York-based artist Talia Chetrit. Published by MACK, the book was conceived, edited and designed by the artist following her retrospective exhibition at the Kölnischer Kunstverein, Germany, in early 2018. The volume retraces the artist’s production over a 24-year period, starting from her beginnings in the early 90s.

Though individual series can be recognised within the flow of the pages – candid shots of herself and her friends as teens during the years sexual discovery, bizarre staged crime scenes, family portraits, remote cut-outs of busy New York streets, along with excerpts from fashion campaigns – Talia Chetrit has deprived them of any temporal connotations in the process of editing. Instead it is driven by the purpose of re-examining her own archive from a present-day vantage point. Relics of the past are introduced in the sequence, even assigned a new date of birth – a short circuit, which highlights how the context in which images are presented is fundamental for understanding their constantly mutating meaning. Some of them were not even intended to go public at the time of their creation.

The artist has gradually taken control over the medium – a gesture marked by the frequent presence of the camera’s remote control held firmly in her hand – first exploring, then stretching the power structures underlying our perception of sexuality and nude throughout art history. As the theatrical term Showcaller suggests, the staging of a scene and the presence of an actor are at the core of Chetrit’s method. Here photography is conceived as an act of performance, where the relationship between photographer, subject and viewer is continuously challenged. By placing herself in front of the camera, Chetrit offers us a complicit and welcoming perspective on her intimacies, one in which no room is left for embarrassment.

While appreciating the genuine sexiness of Chetrit’s photographs, we are forced to reflect upon the urge for privacy we experience in our daily lives, a deeply arguable and contradictory one as it is usually determined by the “community guidelines” of social media. Malice is in the eye of the beholder, and the same applies to beauty. With this book, Chetrit generously allows us to admire our absurd, sensual and beautifully grotesque human body in plain sight, celebrating explicitness in its most elegant and poetic form.

Ilaria Speri

All images courtesy of the artist and MACK. © Talia Chetrit

Stephen Gill

The Pillar

Nobody Books

Falconry almost automatically came to mind the first time I saw images from Stephen Gill’s The Pillar, his second book since his move to rural Sweden. For this project, Gill hammered one wooden pillar into the ground in an open field next to a streamlet not far from his home, and a second just opposite, upon which he installed a camera with a motion sensor. Birds coming down for a rest or a feed would set off the camera and without much fuss or awareness of the act, their picture would be taken. The results are absolutely stunning, providing us with an often full-frontal view of their magnificent presence.

Falconry, because Gill says he “decided to try to pull the birds from the sky”, a phrase that briefly generates an image of the photographer standing in that empty field, wearing a leather gauntlet with food on it, his hand raised towards the clouds. Falconry, mostly because of H is for Hawk, the captivating memoir in which British author and experienced falconer Helen Macdonald writes “that there is a world of things out there – rocks and trees and stones and grass and all the things that crawl and run and fly”; that they are all things in themselves; and how you feel more human once you have known, even in your imagination, what it is like to be not.

How categorically human we are and how inherently removed we are from the animal world, is what lies at the very heart of The Pillar, and of Night Procession, Gill’s other Swedish book, about animal nightlife in the forest, in which Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgård writes: “What I see is the world without me. (…) the animals and the world that is theirs when they are on their own and undisturbed by human presence.”

Falconry may have come to mind, but in fact The Pillar has nothing to do with it. In a most crucial way it is quite the opposite. Just as falconry exists within the sphere of hunting, so does the sport of wildlife photography. Gill’s images, however, mechanically made from close range, completely lack the sniper-like feel that most bird photographers evoke while aiming for razor-sharp images with their long telephoto lenses.

Gill doesn’t want to shoot a trophy or claim a prize; he doesn’t want to defeat, dominate or conquer the animal; he is no photographer-hunter. What Gill is after, is the same wonder and joy he experienced as a child in Bristol, trying to photograph garden birds from the bathroom window with a 10-metre release cable. And to find that fascination and enchantment again, he resorts to similar boy scout-like techniques. Ultimately Gill presents us with a beauty that is inextricably linked to the natural world, its beings and its all-encompassing harmony; a beauty, however, that will only truly reveal itself in our absence. That is the paradox in which we find ourselves, the parallel state in which humans and animals exist. This is the realisation that both Night Procession and The Pillar offer.

Stefan Vanthuyne

All images courtesy of the artist and Nobody Books. © Stephen Gill

Top 10

Photobooks of 2018

Selected by Tim Clark

An annual tribute to the most exceptional photo book releases from 2018 – selected by our Editor in Chief, Tim Clark.

In association with Spectrum.

1. Carmen Winant, My Birth
Self Publish, Be Happy Editions

My Birth by Carmen Winant is perhaps this year’s standout title from Bruno Ceschel’s famed Self Publish, Be Happy enterprise. Yet it is also utterly unlike any other. Deftly fusing image and text, the book – a facsimile of the artist’s own journal – combines photographs of Winant’s mother giving birth to her three children alongside found imagery of other, anonymous women undergoing the same experience. This visual strategy aims at “the flattening of cross-generational time and feeling”, while the title is a nod to Frida Kahlo’s 1932 painting of the same name. Immediate, precarious and utterly vulnerable, Winant’s project, which coincided with an on-site installation at MoMA’s Being: New Photography 2018, is also bold and fearless. Sensitive to the world, and to the world of images, My Birth asks probing questions that move beyond transgression to open up a space for considering childbirth and its representation as a political act.

2. Zanele Muholi, Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness
Aperture Foundation

What really matters now are the needs that art answers, and visual activist Zanele Muholi always delivers with great rigour. Having first emerged as a photographic spokesperson of members of the black queer community in South Africa and beyond, her long-awaited monograph sees Muholi turn the camera on herself to powerful effect. This arresting collection of more than 90 theatrical self-portraits first reclaim and then reimagine the black subject again in ways that resist, confront and challenge complacency to racism – both historic and contemporary. During these times when violence, misogyny and even white supremacy are rife, the photographs’ accumulative presence flies in the face of stereotypes and oppressive standards of beauty.

3. Raymond Meeks, Halfstory Halflife
Chose Commune

This is the kind of pleasurable photography that approaches something so eloquent yet understated but which we cannot altogether grasp. Master of the quiet photograph, Raymond Meeks is also a prolific photo book maker. Meeks’ current collaboration with Chose Commune bears all the hallmarks of his lyrical explorations; strong narrative and occasional riffs off poetry and short fiction, all the while concentrating on the symbiotic relationship between family, memory and a sense of place. Here, black and white photographs of young men, making their way through openings in hedgerow to access prime spots for river-jumping in the Catskill mountain region of New York, are both visceral and spontaneous. Their pale bodies fling themselves into the dark void, frozen as if mid-flight, pivoting from the point of view of an adult seemingly remembering a moment of fledgling sexuality and uncertain future.

4. Michael Schmelling, Your Blues
Skinnerboox and The Ice Plant

Taken between 2013 and 2014, and shot while on commission for the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Colombia College Chicago, Michael Schmelling’s photographs in Your Blues are our guide through the city’s vibrant and eclectic music scene, where “the dominant form is hybridity”. Musicians and revellers, parties and recording studios, lovers and strangers all collide, depicted through casual views and with feelings of familiarity. This then forms a ripe photographic account of the varying degrees of individualism within this community. Blues, punk, hip hop, psychedelic jazz, emo, hardcore and house music are all part of Chicago’s cultural inheritance and encompassed here via Schmelling’s vignettes and reflections on niche and local performers in unconventional venues. Akin to a novel of images, Your Blues provides a noteworthy contribution to this year’s offerings.

5. Max Pinckers, Margins of Excess

A response to the ‘post-truth’ era, Max Pinckers’ speculative documentary work revolves around the narratives of six protagonists who all momentarily achieved infamy in the US only to be ousted as fakes or frauds by the media. Such highly-idiosyncratic stories range from a self-invented love story set in a Nazi concentration camp to a man compulsively hijacking trains. With fever-dream urgency, Margins of Excess brings together fragments of these lives through staged photography, archival material, interviews and press clippings: the explicit folding of imagination into imaging “in which truths, half-truths, lies, fiction or entertainment are easily interchanged.” Pinckers’ take on embracing reality in all its complexity via this particular strand of storytelling offers an interesting reminder: that contemporary documentary practice might be more productively considered as small arguments, gestures or even critical methods.

6. Michelle Dizon and Việt Lê, White Gaze
Sming Sming Books

Readers of 1000 Words will recall the recent magazine feature on this gem of a photo book from collaborative duo Michelle Dizon and Việt Lê, which deserves much wider recognition in light of its poetry, playfulness, acuity and, most crucially, decolonising strategies. Intellectually energetic, White Gaze repurposes imagery from National Geographic to confront notions of white privilege and Western-centrism by reworking and negating image and text from the publication’s original pages. Countless uncomfortable truths hidden at the bottom of every lie, every act of denial or white complicity, come to bear through the interplay of the two languages, critiquing how meaning is constructed to administer imperialist narratives and racist histories.

7. Mimi Plumb, Landfall
TBW Books

As far as great discoveries go, the case of Mimi Plumb’s resurfaced archive has been a fairly recent but major breakthrough. Having taught photography throughout much of her career at San Jose State University and San Francisco Art Institute in the US, it has only been during the past five years that her work has really come to light following the 2014 exhibition of her Pictures from the Valley series. Now, a collection of images taken throughout the 1980s have been published by TBW Books under the title, Landfall, containing black and white photographs full of foreboding and unease, yet always delicate and beautiful in register. They appear to encapsulate a time when the world at large seemed out of kilter – with obvious parallels to our present moment. Stylistically, too, there’s a whiff of Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand and Henry Wessel to these images that certainly will not fade quickly.

8. Chloe Dewe Mathews, Caspian: The Elements
Aperture Foundation and Peabody Museum Press

It’s heartening to observe this renewed period for Aperture Foundation’s photo book publishing arm, albeit still very traditional in format. One of its many great, recent titles comes courtesy of British photographer and filmmaker Chloe Dewe Mathews who spent five years roaming the borderlands of the Caspian Sea, where Asia seamlessly merges into Europe, to come away with a compelling record of the region’s complex geopolitical trevails. Much of this of course is largely bound up in the singular importance of gas and oil reserves and the disparate economies of bordering countries – Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan – but it’s Mathews’ receptiveness and examination of the ties between people and the landscape, as well as the religious, artistic and therapeutic aspects of daily life, that are so intriguing.

9. Thomas Demand, The Complete Papers

While there is obviously no equivalent experience to viewing a Thomas Demand artwork at its intended size and scale, this new volume on the oeuvre of the acclaimed German artist more than makes up for it in scope, depth and scholarship. Edited by Christy Lange, and with texts from voices as diverse as the novelist Jeff Euginedes to curator Francesco Bonami, The Complete Papers provides a hugely comprehensive view of Demand’s past three decades of artistic production. Known for using pre-existing images culled from the media, routinely with political undertones, which he then recreates from cardboard and paper at 1:1 scale before photographing the assembled scene, admirers of the work will no doubt appreciate hitherto unseen pieces from the early 1990s when he first started making paper constructions for this sole purpose of photographing them. With the customary bibliography and full exhibitions listing, this is a researcher’s dream. A catalogue raisonné of the highest order.

10. Sunil Gupta, Christopher Street, 1976

Sunil Gupta’s Christopher Street, 1976 performs an act of personal remembrance by bringing together photographs shot in in New York when the artist spent a year studying photography with Lisette Model in between cruising the city’s streets with his camera; part of a burgeoning, proud and public gay scene prior to ensuing AIDS epidemic that subsequently sent it underground. The photo book is minimally designed, presenting one black and white photograph on each right-hand page in a spiral-bound volume, marking the latest release in Stanley/Barker’s small but judicious selection of titles. It celebrates both a key moment in Gupta’s identity and the political value embedded in the struggle for LGBT liberation, the consequences of which were far-reaching.

Tim Clark is a curator, writer and since 2008, has been Editor in Chief and Director at 1000 Words. 

Sarah Piegay Espenon

Humanise Something Free of Error

Loose Joints

From the critique of science which arose in the field of post-human studies and in writing about the anthropocene – those studies which bring to bear a consciousness beyond the human of forces natural, animal, technological, or, in the case of artificial intelligence or technological singularity, still somewhat hypothetical – we have come to take the notion of scientific measure as a complex if limited means of apprehending the world. Science gives us forms of measure, but it also appears a strikingly arbitrary mode of knowledge production, reductive in places and unnecessarily abstracted in others. To critique science is not to dismiss it entirely, but to know its capacities and limits. We know that science takes the frenetic instability of the lives of things and, in the place of that messy reality, identifies constants, patterns, and control conditions – measures from which variation might be observed and knowledge deduced. But whilst it produces facts, science leaves behind questions of how we come to understand the place that we inhabit – a space with unbounded complexity, affected by different actors human and non-human. What, for example, can science’s role be when it attempts as a central method to omit the human from its processes of deduction? When it fails to acknowledge its own constructs and impacts?

Sarah Piegay Espenon’s Humanise Something Free of Error, published by Loose Joints, is a collection of images in which photographs of natural phenomena – for example, the strange formations of materials – mix with scientific experiments, acts of measurement and study. On the surface, it recalls iconic projects exploring and disassembling the systems and politics of technology – from Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel’s Evidence, through Lewis Baltz and more recently Trevor Paglen. It begins with an echo of Baltz’s Sites of Technology, in the dustless room of computer servers. But you sense quickly that Piegay Espenon draws attention to something a little more essential, away from Sultan and Mandel’s comedy, Baltz’s silent detail, and Paglen’s geographic scrutiny: she observes the peculiar distance of the human from the world.

Throughout the book, human subjects are seen as observers – looking at strange rock formations, debating over long sheets of printed data, standing atop the edges of collapsed bridges, and scratching heads in offices full of folders. They are testers, taking samples or acting as guinea pigs. It might appear momentarily that humans are subject to natural phenomena, observers at a distance. But closer observation and consideration reveals they are making the world in their image. The world has come to revolve around the scientist – an example of manifest anthropocentrism – but alongside its population of scientists, the books shows the wake of their labour in specimens captured, disciplined and then discarded. The marks of human impact are everywhere.

The protagonist of the scientist is a gateway to Piegay Espenon’s concerns, standing for our encounter with the world. Our approach may be curious but it is also threatening; capable of understanding, it also risks alienating or undoing the nature that it claims to value. Objects of scientific and military study pierce and wound the landscape, disciplining nature and bringing it under control. Humanise Something Free of Error shows that if the anthropocene is to be comprehended, it should begin with how we push and pull the world we occupy, whilst placing it at a misleading objective distance. Piegay Espenon suggests that beyond our control, we might and think and act in the world. She places a small book in our grasp at a scale that is not overblown or reactionary, but both present at and ready to hand.

Duncan Wooldridge

All images courtesy of the artist and Loose Joints. © Sarah Piegay Espenon

Stefanie Moshammer

Not just your face honey

Spector Books

The American band LCD Soundsystem often sound a lot like Joy Division, or David Bowie, or The Fall, or innumerable other bands. But they also sound great, and unmistakably like themselves. Current C/O Berlin Talent awardee Stefanie Moshammer’s photo book Not just your face honey is also a lot like many other things. Like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, it starts with a letter, which may or may not be ‘epistolary fiction’. It matters not, because in either case the letter serves as an intriguing set up.

The rest of the book – a series of photographs which echo the text of the letter or symbolise related themes – is an edgy study of attraction and obsession, studded with strong sexual metaphors (such as a suggestively female kiwi fruit, an equally erotic orange, a cock-and-balls cactus and a giant cock rock). It is also – like the latest LCD Soundsystem album – about the death of the celebrity-obsessed American dream. This is subtly inferred throughout, but most memorably by a ripped tyre fragment in the dirt, its colour and shape mirroring a subsequent dead bald eagle, nailed to a mast. Figuration, direct reference, allusion, subtext, metaphor – this book has all the layered depth of a good novel, never mind a good photo book.

There’s something of Sophie Calle in all the surveillance and the stalking tendency. One or two cinematic pictures have a touch of the Gregory Crewdson aesthetic too. And in many ways – with its letter and a map introducing a warped love story told in both colour and monochrome, its road trip, telephones and tyre tracks, its mash-up of photographic styles, and its sprinkling with studio set pieces – it is more than a little like Christian Patterson’s Redheaded Peckerwood.

Smart and millennial, Moshammer’s mix-and-match art is deft in its lightness of execution. However, as it occasionally wears its influences a tad heavily, maybe it misses greatness with little lapses in idiosyncrasy. But this is a picky criticism: Not just your face honey is a deeply ambitious and generally very successful work by an early-career artist. If she continues with this much imagination, sophistication and skill, many more awards should follow. Talent indeed.

Simon Bowcock

All images courtesy of the artist and Spector Books. © Stefanie Moshammer

Susan Lipper

Domesticated Land


The female body has always been conflated with visions and narratives of the land. There are all of the same old tropes, of course; that women are intrinsically linked to nature – even governed by it – in a way that men aren’t, and that the mounds and sweeping curves of the landscape mirror those of the female form. Indeed, Susan Lipper’s Domesticated Land opens with an image of sand dunes in the Californian desert that look more than vaguely reminiscent of the female body, but something entirely different is going on here too.

The notion of gendered landscapes is upturned in Lipper’s Land pictures. On the one hand, she shows us images such as one in which a woman lies face down with her head in the dust in front of a black hole that’s opened up in the ground before her, and another where we see the detritus of kitchen goods strewn across the sand (which may be somewhat symbolic of the author’s thoughts on the notion of woman as homemaker). On the other hand, we have the backdrop of the American West – cracked, fractured, historically male-driven terrain in which military bases and operations are nestled, and where countless male writers have famously journeyed in search of themselves. In some of Lipper’s pictures we see army men and tanks and brutalist concrete structures cutting through the landscape. Though personal and artistic journeys through this place are not new, Lipper navigates this land from a personal, female slant, making images that oscillate between document and fiction, and “putting female subjectivity into relief.” The desert as a land of mysticism, self-enlightenment and spiritual opportunity, roamed by healers and medicine men across decades, is probed too and homes appear abandoned, in one image a single serpent writhes in the ground, in others barbed wire snakes through the frame.

Domesticated Land is the third instalment in a trilogy of books for which Lipper spent nearly thirty years travelling the USA from East to West in search of ‘true’ America. Sun-bleached and washed out, Lipper’s black and white vision of the desert transforms it into a sort of stasis, unnervingly quiet, as if everything that was supposed to happen has happened, and now all we can do is wait. People are tiny in most of the photographs, swallowed up by the landscape and often looking outwards, to the sky or the horizon, watching for the arrival of something unknown. From time to time, the words of women punctuate the images. At the very end of the book, an excerpt from Catherine Haun’s 1849 diary A Woman’s Trip Across the Plains talks of an evening spent singing patriotic songs and celebrating the Declaration of Independence with the firing of a gun or two. ‘…three cheers for the United States and California territory in particular!’ it reads. Most potently, Domesticated Land seems to offer a timely sense of foreboding about the current state of America and its politics, and a possible harbinger of things to come.

Joanna Cresswell

All images courtesy of the artist and MACK. © Susan Lipper