Graciela Iturbide – El Bano de Frida

Copyright Graciela Iturbide 2008, courtesy Edizioni Punctum

It is always interesting for me to compare how two photobook publishers manage the design and layout of the same photographer’s body of work. In this case, it is the publication of Garciela Iturbide’s bathroom of Frida Kahlo by ROSEGALLERY titled El Bano de Frida Kahlo and Edizioni Punctum title El Bano de Frida. In June of 2009 year I reviewed Itrurbide’s project published by the ROSEGALLERY and recently acquired the Edizioni Punctum publication while in Italy this month.

On the surface, Itubide is using a documentary style to reveal the private bathroom of Frida Kahlo, the Mexican artist who also was the wife of Diego Rivera, also a renowned Mexican artist. How these two publishers curate their respective photobooks provides subtle differences in emphasis and how we might read Itrubide’s project as a whole.

As described in my ROSEGALLERY review, their book is actually two books in one, part literary, and part photography. From one side you encounter the photographs of Iturbide, and then you flip the book over for the short fictional novel by Mario Bellatin. There are 21 black and white photographs, which may be the entire project and provides a broader perspective of Kahlo’s bathroom environment.

The Edizioni Punctum photobook is entirely the photographs of Itrurbide without the literary story by Bellatin, with an introduction by Cristiana Perrella and afterword by Giovanna Calvenzi, both essays are in Italian and English. This book contains only 11 of her black and white images. For my taste, the 11 photographs selected are a tighter curatorial edit of the bathroom and the devices and articles that Kahlo depended on, both in her private sanctuary and for her public persona. There are few visual distractions in reading the intent of these medical devices, to see them as they are, to potentially understand what the function was and what it might mean to be the person who had to endure it.

As a result, I found that the Edizioni Punctum photobook provides a more succinct metaphor about how our outward appearances’ can contrast with our private conditions.  That we can construct elaborate masks for of our public person, yet we may be concealing inside a lot of pain and suffering. That underneath our façade, there are the back braces, the artificial legs, supportive railing, and the complicated enemas, but we manage to keep it cloaked and private, essentially the walking wounded.

Resolving one issue I had with the ROSEGALLERY edition, the Edizioni Punctum hardcover book is the same height, but 2 ¼” wider, allowing the interior square photographs to be displayed larger. The interior photographs of the Edizioni Punctum book are 5 ½” x 5 ½” versus the 4 1/8” x 1/8” in the previous book, which for me improves the readability of the photographs.

Also of note, the Edizioni Punctum hardcover is a glued sheet on thick boards, which creates a nice effect by increasing the books heft, but this is a delicate layering. The corners and edges can become easily damaged and frayed, thus requiring careful handling.

The Edizioni Punctum was curated & designed by the publisher, Marco Delogu.

by Douglas Stockdale

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