Copyright 2015 Kurt Simonson
Photographer: Kurt Simonson (born St Paul, MN, resides Long Beach CA, USA)
Publisher: Flash Powder Projects (USA)
Essay by George Slade, Poem by Franz Wright
Hardcover book, sewn binding, multiple gate-folds, tipped-in tri-fold page, four-color lithography, printed by Bigger Dot in South Korea
Photobook designer: Kurt Simonson, David Bram, Jennifer Schwartz
Notes: Kurt Simonson’s Northwoods Journals was one of the immediate standouts while I was judging the Photo Independent Book Competition last month. Even now after the first impressions formed during the book judging process have faded, I find his body of photographs to appear both factual, in a documentary style, as well as mysterious, as to the potential content, creating an interesting, although at times dark narrative. I realize that Simonson’s ambiguous photographs allow me the room to fill in some spaces from my own Midwest upbringing, a personal layer that I can add onto to his story. I like when that happens.
The body of work opens with a photograph that might be his grandmother’s envelop and unopened letter, a sly node to the late Roland Barthes. Simonson follows with a playful twist to include a tipped-in tri-fold page with a photograph of a hand-written text that contains his own introduction, as a surrogate of his grandmother’s letter, which may also have been hand-written, similar again to Barther’s photograph of his mother; we don’t know. Nor does it really matter.
Playful, mysterious and a ample ambiguity that allows the reader to make the story their own. Nice.