Review by Douglas Stockdale •
In their introduction the Albarran Cabrera partnership expand on the premise of mankind’s thinking about our inability to accurately recall past memory as a potential way to consider future memories. As humans we are unique in our ability to plan ahead and that the forward-thinking process is probably as flawed as the ability to remember the past. To remember a future (memory) that hasn’t happened yet.
How does one then photograph a future memory? They provide a clue that what is seen is not rendered accurately and we are provided only a basic framework to work from, using what I might term realistic abstractions. Their subjects appear plausible and potentially accurate while yet visually unsettling, in that something does not appear “right”. The framing of their subjects is very truncated which eliminates much of the environmental context. The images subsequently appear disorienting as to what is it we are looking at; is this the dappled skin of an apple or are we peering into the heavens above?
The tonal range of some images are likewise truncated into very graphic photographs that are more abstract than a representation of “reality”. Throughout the book the image color of the black and white photograph continually shifts, hinting at impermanence while questioning reality, thus also memory. Their artistic practice entails working with a number of alternative processes that has unique color signatures and this book is a mashup of those attributes.
I am reminded of the work of Wynn Bullock in how their photographic images are a combination of straight renderings, negative (reverse) images, inverted images and images presented perpendicular to the subject’s horizonal plane. The reader is not offered any contextual clues but needs to find his/her own visual way might like a visual puzzle. The realistic subjects with their deft handling became abstract, metaphoric and representational while still remaining poetic.
The book’s text block opens and closes with the same vertical image; the opening photograph is printed as a positive image in a creamy split-tone and the closing photograph is a darker split-tone negative (reveresed) image, the appearances resulting from the platinum/palladium printing process. Either rendering appears feasible that in turn questions the reality of photography as well as memory itself. What is true, what is “reality”, and in one sense does this question really matter?
The book includes for a number of the plates a unique two-step process that utilize printing an undercoat of gold tone and then over this either the black & white or color image. This printing technique reduces the overall contrast of the resulting photograph as it is lacking a “white” highlight, which in turn creates a very warm and almost glowing image that appears three dimensional.
Each book spread offers a variation on the image layout of the printed plates that provides a sense of dynamic movement within a static environment. Likewise, each spread provides a very complementary paring of images that requires the reader to slow down their pace of progression and flow; the book’s visual rhythm is more suited to a poetic contemplation.
Individuals are rarely seen in this body of work. Two light colored hands are observed being extended into the pictorial frame in juxtaposition with a black object. The second is a view of a women walking away into darkness with a flowering tree hovering overhead, which I find to be a very haunting image. Both of these images are visually troubling in that these do not appear to connect with the remaining body of work, while realizing a potential Edward Ruscha moment as these two images are meant to be disruptive to the visual flow of the book. Another aspect of the inclusion of these two photographs hint at the non-specificity nature of memory.
I have enjoyed how this book reminds me of my need to slow down and quietly observe.
Note: Winner of The Best Book in the national category by PhotoEspaña 2019
Two optional book covers to chose from:
Photographers: Angel Albarran, born Barcelona, Spain & Anna Cabrera, born Sevilla, Spain & both reside in Barcelona, Spain
Publisher: RM Editorial Verlag (Madrid, Spain & Mexico City, Mexico), copyright 2018
Introduction: Amanda Renshaw & Albarran Cabrera
Text: English & Japanese
Hardcover book (two optional covers), sewn Smyth binding, four-color lithography, printed by Brizzolis in Spain
Photobook designer: Gregoire Pujade-Lauraine