Review by Gerhard Clausing •
Many of us have more than one national and ethnic background, and some of our derivation may be recognizable from our physical appearance, habits, or knowing more than one language, and familiarity with more than one culture. Some of us have a sense of affinity to several different cultural worlds at the same time; we live in one and have the other in our hearts and minds, to whatever extent possible. As one who belongs to such a group, I have a special appreciation for the work of the talented photographer Jonas Yip and his renowned father, the poet, translator, and scholar Wai-lim Yip.
It is the task of multicultural individuals to combine the best of each world that they belong to into a feeling of having an existence “somewhere between.” When such individuals are creative, they are able to engage in visualizations and musings and analyses that are cross-functional and cross-cultural, and a fascinating photobook with mysterious visuals and poetry, such as the present one, can result. This is a quest that may also get you involved in longing to belong.
Jonas Yip creatively photographs impressions. Whether he is in Paris, in California, or in China, there is a modern pictorial quality to his depiction of moments and moods, markers and symbols. These powerful images in turn inspire Wai-lim Yip to write poetry, in Chinese and English. The subtitle of this book is “Toward the Middle Space Between Images and Words,” and we do indeed find ourselves enchanted by the fruits of their collaboration.
Fleeting moments are illustrated in a dream-like manner, and the verbal stimuli and thoughts that use the images as points of departure transport us into a realm of memories and shared human values in a gracefully integrated way. We share feelings and thoughts, impressions and opinions, a world that takes us into ambiguity, as all great art should; the presentations marked by many “indecisive moments” are an invitation to lose ourselves in these multi-faceted realms. We are thus privileged to participate in the authors’ mutually inspired travel through time and cultural settings, with all the memories, recognition, and surprises that they may offer.
The visuals/poems sections are divided into four parts – Paris Dialogues, Paris Meditations, A Fertile Darkness, and Memories Displaced. While the first three sections contain duotone images, the last section, photographed in China, contains color work, with tones that are somewhat muted, as if to suggest a more gentle approach to wondrous subjects, a lighter, more tentative touch. Poetry accompanies all sections and is inspiring and thought-provoking.
The preface by Leo Ou-fan Lee is entitled “Seeking Forgotten Time and History Among Trembling Light and Shadows” and eloquently sets the tone for viewing and reading this innovative book. Providing a strong background for the study of these collaborative projects, there are two extensive essays by Wai-lim Yip, a foreword and an afterword. These offer a thorough scholarly overview of contexts and connections – historical, literary and philosophical, personal and international, well worth a careful study. All poetry and all essays are presented in English and Chinese, and there are many gems to be discovered.
I spent several months pondering this book, and I must say that the Yip team has succeeded in producing an engrossing experience. I find myself opening it again and again! Also available as a set with an original print. Highly recommended!
Photographer: Jonas Yip (born in Princeton, New Jersey; lives in Los Angeles, California)
Poetry by Wai-lim Yip; essays by Leo Ou-fan Lee and Wai-lim Yip
Languages: English and Chinese
Publisher: National Taiwan University Press, Taipei, Taiwan; © 2017
Stiff cover sewn book; 350 pages with pagination; 15.5 x 21.5 cm; 80+ duotone and color images with poetry