Review by Douglas Stockdale •
I recently received another self-published photobook by the prolific photographer and photobook publisher, Havery Benge, titled Sri Lanka Diary, February 2011. This book is the latest in his “Diary” series and results from his recent visit to Sri Lanka earlier this year.
The color photographs appear to be detailed and created in documentary in style, perhaps made with a normal lens, as there is little apparent visual distortion that would result from either a very wide-angle or telephoto lens. The vast majority of the photographs are made directly in front of the subject with the objects tightly filling the frame. Occasionally a larger perspective landscape photograph is included and these are usually printed across a two page spread.
Being a fan of Benge’s photographs, I also find a consistency in his compositions, but even more some with his handling of color. In fact it is his use of color that finally became evident to me after reading his 2010 All of the Places I’ve Ever Known hardcover book published by Kehrer which is now equally evident with Sri Lanka Diary. Benge is a colorist, and secondary is how he uses them in combination with patterns to create rich, complex and interesting photographs.
Benge’s color palette is mostly monochromatic with either a pattern of complementary color that harmonizes or a dissident color that creates an emotional and unstated tension. As an example, the cover of this book is a sea of bluish taupe framing black, gray and white. Within the subjects tie on the bottom edge, there is a subtle hint of blue in the stripes, mixed with the taupe, which creates an interesting harmony and essentially make the photograph complete.
Likewise in the third pair of photographs below, in the photograph on the left, the brown in the picture frame is echoed by a similar hue in the wall’s baseboard running the width of the photograph. This same color is a key component in the colors of the photograph on the facing page, another monochromatic color scheme of a sea of yellow surrounding white and browns on a floor of dark brown. This same dark brown color can then be found in the hand rail on the photograph of the facing page. These two photographs continuously play off of each other.
Perhaps the most interesting set of photographs to me are the pair that are found on one of the early spreads, the first image below, where one photograph is of a religious shrine of worship and on the facing a page, what appears as a wall of riotous color. I found the religious shrine to again be monochromatic of reds and whites with areas of gray, but the red color is very similar to, but inversely located, to the facing photograph. In both photographs, there is a color blend and gradually shifting change from the top of the photograph to the bottom. I also sense that there is a very subtle message from Benge with this pair of photographs; that the viewers need to slow down and contemplate their surroundings and enjoy the complex play of colors and patterns that exist in our every day lives.
Sri Lankra Diary – Harvey Benge
Photographer; Harvey Benge, born and passing, (1944 – 2019) Auckland, New Zealand
Self-published, FAQ Editions, Auckland, NZ, Copyright 2011
Stiffcover book with saddle stitch binding is available in both a trade edition and as a limited edition.
Design: Harvey Benge