Clayton Cotterell – Unarmed

Photographs copyright Clayton Cotterell 2012 published by Ampersand Gallery & Fine Books

This photobook is a mashed up narrative that intertwines the lives and family of two brothers, one brother is the subject, the unarmed solider, while the other is the unseen brother, who is the photographer. In this photobook, Clayton Cotterell provides a series of portraits of his brother Ian from young adulthood to that of a seasoned solider. Cotterell has a unique view-point as well as one that could create a bias that might hinder him, in that he has intimate knowledge of his subject over a very long duration. Thus this book is indirectly a narrative about a relationship between two brothers.

It appears that Cotterell is shaping a story about the identity of a young man who has opted for a career pathway in the military service. Questions arise as to how the decision to engage in military service has shaped this young man, how might it leave a lingering stamp on how he defines himself as well as others might define him. I find interesting the last portrait of the book as the one brother, who does not directly confront the other’s lens, reveals the enduring marks of identity.

I am left to reflect on the averted gazes of these portraits. As stated by Myles Haselhorst in the Introduction “More profound, however, is the quiet, unarmed demeanor with which he faces the camera up to the last photograph. Here he is shirtless & looking askance. The tattoo on his chest, which is the ultimate mark of transition, says little about the destruction of war & a lot about live, declaring in reverse that art saves.”

As a book object, this photobook by Ampersand Gallery and Fine Books is printed in color in a larger size than most of their previous publications. As a glued print on demand design, with stiff covers, it still exhibits some of the similar issues in regard to readability, but to a much lesser extent, a welcome difference. The interior photographs are printed on a semi-luster stock and exhibit a full range of tones and details making for a nice read. The introduction is by Myles Haselhorst, with a list of captions in an ending index.

by Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook

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