Review by Douglas Stockdale •
Food. For some a real love – hate relationship. For others it’s just basic fuel to keep the carbon bio-mass moving that day. It’s a complex subject with volumes written about it each year; from describing the preparation of complex epicurean delights to the many ways to manage a diet and hopefully inspire someone to become a slimmer new person. For Katherine Longly, her past issues related to food created some emotion baggage and the reason behind the concept for her artist book. Essentially poking the food boogie-man right in the eye.
First, this is a complex artist book, in part using curated photographs created by Longly’s subjects as they use an inexpensive disposable camera to document their food and eating experiences. The twist is that that their camera use analog film, not an instant feed-back digital capture; first the camera’s are used by her subjects in Japan, then mailed to Longly for processing in Belgium. No careful visual editing by her subjects, thus many of these photographs have that rawness in composition and framing we think of when viewing vernacular photographs. In our current camera-phone or digital capture cameras age it seems we have become very conditioned to view the immediate visual results and then make some instant on-the-fly compositional adjustments for the next exposure.
Next, her subject’s photographs are then mashed up with some contextual photographs made by Longly who then creates a visual juxtaposition by the inclusion of magazine and newspaper articles and clipping that are overlaid with Longly’s diagrams and charts as a visual collage. She then added some more emphasis with yellow highlighters on some text, as though this was a school assignment or to provide quick notes to study by. Much of the additional context is hidden behind small gatefolds (second and third photographs below) of her subject’s photographs that creates another layer as to how to read the top level photograph while revealing additional information about the environmental conditions facing her subjects in Japan.
One quickly realizes that in Japan, as in many developed cultures, there are social norms related to one’s physical appearance, which can create food problems and perceived eating disorders. Each of her subjects photograph and write about their on-going experience with food and eating, creating chapters for each of her subjects; Healthfulness, Shelter, Emptiness, Obsession, Silence, Strength, Judgement, Heritage, Inspiration, and Empathy.
Longly’s artist book confronts some of many aspects of eating food. Eating may not always be a simple act, but potentially loaded with emotional baggage or helping to create a sense of freedom and joy. She provides a symbolic voice to the angst that many individuals have with the complex culture issues surrounding food, as it is not just a Japanese issue. By investigating how food issues haunt those of a different culture, perhaps this project provides Longly with the emotional distance to deal with her own past, and maybe still lurking, food issues, as well as a path forward for others to walk with her.
The folding and unfolding of this complex and layered artist book is a visual and visceral delight.
To Tell My Real Intentions, I Want to Eat Haze Like a Hermit, Katherine Longly, Copyright 2018
Artist/Photographer; Katherine Longly, born Arlon, Belgium, resides Brussels, Belgium
Self-published artist book, 280 pages, many, many gate-folds, edition of 61 hand-made copies, signed and numbered
Essays and found text: Katherine Longly with essays and correspondence by Luca, Ren, Yuki, Martijn, Marina, Kenichi, R.P.K., Mina, Tomoko and Rika.
Text: English, with some French & Japanese
Stiff-cover book, hand-sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed by PREFILM in Ixelles, Belgium.
Photobook designer: Katherine Longly with Welmer Keesmaat
Concept, edit and art-direction developed by Katherine Longly in the 2018 Atlas lab photo book making workshop by Alex Bacchetto and Yumi Goto, in collaboration with AKINA and Reminders Photography Stronghold.