Review by Gerhard Clausing •
Nathaniel Grann, who grew up in the Midwest of the United States, raises three major questions in the introductory remarks to this photobook: “What makes a family click? – What holds a family together? – And, what allows for a family to move on from a troubled past?” As a young man he travels back in time and spends an extended period in his childhood contexts, and he realizes that the answers to these questions are most elusive: The places still look similar, the folks are still the same folks, maybe a bit older, the places are similar yet different, but most of all, he himself has changed and moved beyond what once was, and perhaps still is. And indeed, any looking back through the eyes of the present encompasses both joys and difficulties within constellations of shared family memories.
As the author wrote us: “With this project, I am interested in exploring the idea of Family and my relationship to those who make up my own. Love, sadness, and humor are at the core of this project for me, as I engage with my family through photography to ask questions about the bonds that hold us together, … I had naively hoped to find answers while working through this body of work, but instead it accumulated into a collective exhale of momentary release and reflection.”
In a well-sequenced series of astute observations, Nathaniel Grann shows us a bemused but loving look at his surroundings of origin and the folks that now populate it; at the same time we see feelings for the complicated life that the eyes of a child might have considered to be global truths – the charms of the home that once was his origin. The relatives and friends are depicted with respect and care, and were collaborators in creating this glance into the past through the eyes of the present. They are ensconced in their lives, and the depiction is through the eyes of the son who has explored the expanded horizons of the wide world that bursts the cocoon of origin. It is charming to see his careful recreation of that life as it now strikes him: remnants of the long existence that his elders have lived, with some bittersweet sense of future loss behind it all. We see knickknacks and mementos, things that may only mean a great deal to those whose world they still adorn, and perhaps not so much to anyone else. Heredity and environment act as a major blanket that protects and can also be a damper, but the youngest generation is also around, and full of optimism. The sum total of this carefully selected and sequenced set of 33 images adds up to a coming-of-age journey we all have taken and identify with: the particulars may vary, but the mix of nostalgia and newly found self-actualization is a universal experience.
The images from the book shown here were selected to represent the overall narrative rather than the smaller subsequences, which will be yours to ponder when you get the book. Highly recommended!
Photographer: Nathaniel Grann (born in Minneapolis, Minnesota; lives in Los Angeles, California)
Publisher: Peperoni Books, Berlin, Germany; © 2018
Introductory Remarks: Nathaniel Grann, in English
Hardcover, sewn, textured wood imitate with tipped-in image; 64 pages with 33 color images; 22.5 x 28.5 cm; printed in Germany by Wanderer
Photobook Design: Nathaniel Grann