Review by Steve Harp •
When I saw the title of Paulo Nozolino’s newest monograph, Loaded Shine (Steidl, 2018), I immediately was reminded of Daniel Lanois’ song Shine, the title track of his 2003 album. An idiosyncratic connection, no doubt, elicited by my love for Lanois’s music and Shine is one of his most achingly beautiful songs.
In the end the thing that keeps me walking is your shine . . . your shine inside the laughter and the ghosts.
- Daniel Lanois, Shine
Loaded Shine is Nozolino’s fourth book published by Steidl, following Far Cry (2005), bone lonely (2011) and Makulator (2011). (An earlier monograph, Penumbra, was published in 1996 by Scalo.) In considering these four volumes, one does not get the sense of four different bodies of work so much as the evolution and paring down of a particular way of seeing the world, a process of looking and extracting and reducing. A process of condensation into a very specific visual expression.
Loaded Shine continues the exterior visual style of the previous Steidl volumes – title text simply embossed on the cover. Far Cry, the earliest of the tetralogy is also the most physically substantial – 76 images distributed over 136 pages. Images are captioned and dated underneath and the book concludes with a collection of prose fragments by Rui Nunes. The two volumes from 2011 are significantly slimmer and terser. bone lonely is 72 pages with 32 images followed by 32 poems by Rui Baiao. Makulator is a slight 22 pages containing 12 images, ending with the text “my mother died one year, one month and one day after my father.”
I go to some length describing Nozolino’s previous books here to give context for Loaded Shine. Like bone lonely and Makulator, the volume is slim: 20 images presented over 48 pages. Unlike the earlier books which include horizontal as well as vertical images and often present images as full bleeds butting against each other, such that the viewer has to closely examine the gutter to know whether the spread features one image or two, Loaded Shine is presented in the classic “American style” of layout: vertical image on the right surrounded by a generous white border facing a blank white page on the left. No pagination.
The photographs in Loaded Shine speak the visual language Nozolino has used and refined throughout his career – beautifully murky, opaque images, verging on the indecipherable in places, dominated by shadow and darkness. A language heavy in melancholy in its depictions of the forgotten, overlooked, rejected. We see images of decaying interiors, litter, empty bottles, a pair of hooves, a dangling light bulb. It’s a peripatetic record, a book of noticings. The book opens with a photograph of a landscape painting, the angle askew, a slight glare shining across the painted surface revealing the textures and cracks in the canvas. And the viewer realizes, in a subtle departure from his earlier books, that this volume is printed on a glossier stock. It especially contrasts with the beautiful, creamy matte paper used in bone lonely. The overall effect is that through the darkness a kind of . . . shine emerges. The highlights glimmer out of the sadness and abandonment of the scenes depicted. In a 2013 interview with Toni Hildebrandt, Nozolino equates darkness with a ”contamination of the soul.”
The overwhelming feeling of emptiness and loneliness in these images is somehow redeemed by this shine. The visual starkness resolves into a kind of purity. In a departure from the previous volumes there is no overt orienting text provided, simply a list of places and dates at the end – where and when the scenes were recorded. These are the images of a wanderer, a looker, a flaneur moving through a domain of night and dream, seeing what’s there. And what’s not there. Ghosts.
Which returns me to my opening observation, perhaps an association that isn’t so idiosyncratic after all. Lanois’ song opens:
I have wandered far and wide
All the way from Paris to Mexico
‘Til I was gone and didn’t know
In the end the thing that keeps me walking is your shine . . .
Loaded Shine offers the same aching beauty and the shine that I like to imagine keeps Paulo Nozolino walking.
Loaded Shine – Paulo Nozolino
Paulo Nozolino, born Lisbon, resides Portugal
Publisher: Steidl Verlag Gottingen, Germany, copyright 2018
Hardcover book, clothbound, Tritone, printed by Steidl in Germany
Book designers: Paulo Nozolino, Bernard Fischer, Gerhard Steidl
Cover designer: Shona Nozolino