Copyright Laura Curran, 2014 self published/After Image Publishing
From the moment that I first saw the photographs from Laura Curran’s photobook Lots of Cake!, her project resonated with me. The project was made all the more delightful in the layout and design of this photobook object.
Curran uses a documentary style to investigate her family, with her mother as the focal point of this introspective study. She focuses in on small details to identify for the reader the various talismans for this family’s memory.
She includes a series of four hand-written family recipes printed on a semi-translucent sheet of vellum and sequenced in conjunction with photographs of what the resulting recipe may create, an interesting layering of this narrative. The recipe for the Easter Bunny Cake (aka Easter Carrot Cake) faces a page with a photograph of two bunny shaped cakes on top of a table with English china. In turn, this translucent page provides a hint of the photograph on the following page, of someone, whom we might guess is her mother, sitting at a table perhaps eating the ears of one of these wonderful Bunny Cakes.
As the photographs sequence through the book, her subjects appear to be more and more involved in the celebration, holding up glasses for a toast, sitting a bit askew on a chair and other hints of evidence that a good times are occurring. Likewise, the first recipe appears orderly and clean, but subsequent recipes appear more and more distressed. The final Chowder Recipe is almost illegible due to something liquid falling on the recipe and creating a large lake of ink. As an autobiographical narrative, this hints that sometimes her family and events become similarly messed up.
I find a subtle undercurrent of humor in her photobook, perhaps of my own making as I recall the times when my great aunts, also of Irish descent, would get together in the kitchen to cook, gossip, laugh and tell family stories while preparing some delicious meals. The photograph of the broken egg on the floor with the two pair of legs & feet in the background is wonderful, full of suspense as to what might occur next; a torrent of laughing or some evil eye followed by quick scurrying to clean up this little mishap. In our family it was going to be the former, hearty laughing which was always a good reason to begin to recounting the endless other funny stories of similar past events.
There is more than enough ambiguity to allow the reader to relate to their own family history and memories that for me always seem to be linked to the preparation and consumption of meals.
As a book object, this is a little more complex stiff-cover book that is perfect bound (nice to hold and read, but terrible to lay out for display or photograph), includes two gatefolds and four recipes printed on velum. This photobook is printed in four color, with ample white margins, but no captions. The layout of the photographs on each page appears to be in a random position located on a different part of each subsequent page. This image layout provides a bit of dynamics implying that even when the events could seem routine, such as baking a cake, serendipity can create some unanticipated, if not dynamic, results. The introduction is provided by Curran.