Review by Gerhard Clausing •
The use of the leporello technique for presenting a continuity of visuals has a long tradition. In picture postcard presentations, for example, there are interesting varieties going back to the end of the 19th century that present little fold-outs emerging from flaps that show various views of an area. In photobooks, there has been a recent revival of this technique; the PhotoBook Journal has presented several excellent examples of books using accordion folds to great effect: I. Kuwajima’s Tundra Kids makes an excellent case for cultural community and continuity, D. Stockdale’s Middle Ground uses the technique to effectively present a seemingly endless continuity of traffic dividers as a metaphor for other kinds of separation, and T. Markowski’s The Flow depicts the continuity of life along the Brda river in Poland.
To give a visual impression of the Rhine River (German Rhein, French Rhin, Dutch Rijn) is a much more substantial assignment, it being the second-longest European river, with a length of 1233 km (766 miles). Naturally, such a long river requires TWO leporello sections to cover all of that, starting at its origin in the mountains of Switzerland, winding its way along various borders and then mostly through Germany, and following it all the way to the North Sea in the lowlands of the Netherlands.
Christiane Haid and her design team have edited sequences of her Polaroid photographs to give us a visual journey that covers all these sections of the river. The project is billed as “A reflection on time and transience, the irretrievable moment in photography as well as in life.” The color images thankfully avoid all the usual stereotypes, but rather give us glimpses of landscapes, resulting in visual ease and contemplation. The colors are relatively muted, which creates a very calm and peaceful effect. They have a pictorial and nostalgic look to them, and this is also reinforced by whimsical quotes from a work on guidelines for interpersonal behavior (kind of like the old Emily Post book), as well as some other verbal stimuli. The fan folding method of image presentation allows many comparisons of different areas, from the mountains to the sea, to get acquainted. The uncoated heavier paper stock reinforces the invitation to a more leisurely contemplation, as might have been more customary in less stressful times.
In fact, Christiane Haid’s project is set up like an encounter with an old friend, seen from new points of view. Some of the well-known views are absent or recede to the background (such as the Cologne Cathedral), and we are asked to look at all of it again. The book also presents a series of key words that are reminders of some of the folklore, popular culture, and other concepts associated with the Rhine; for example, “WINE” reminds us of the many vineyards along the German parts of the river and all the drinking songs; “GOLD” might remind us of the myth of the treasure of the Nibelungs from centuries ago, still commemorated in the town of Worms on the Rhine; “SHIPPING” emphasizes the Rhine as a commercial route; “POEM” recalls the many volumes of literature associated with the river, and so on. The index showing the location of each image enhances the visual journey.
So this book is really an invitation to get acquainted with the grand river Rhine as a friend, whether it is a new friend or an old one for the viewer. It may also be taken as an invitation to treasure our environment and treat it as well as you would your best friends and acquaintances, because all moments are fleeting and should be treasured. As the book states, “Longing and transience against a backdrop of nature. Time emerges when time passes.” An invitation to a delightful journey indeed – visual, emotional, and intellectual!
Christiane Haid – RheinRevue
Photographer/Artist: Christiane Haid (born in Ravensburg, Germany, resides in Berlin)
Self-published and hand-made, © 2018
Texts: German, with an English insert – prose by Christiane Haid and some quotes from Haller, Der gute Ton
Stiff illustrated cover, double wrap style with two leporellos (fan/accordion folds, blank verso); 80 pages with some 70 color images; index of locations; 6.5 x 8.25 inches (16.5 x 21 cm); printed by Ruksaldruck in Berlin, Germany
Photobook Design: Ulrich Pohl, Gerald Geffert
All images © Christiane Haid