Review by Douglas Stockdale •
Alice Jankovic has created an introspective and poetic artist book inspired by a recently found family archive that includes a worn copy of Thoreau’s Walden. It may have been Thoreau’s book that was the inspiration for one of her early family members to make a pivotal decision to live in the wild among the trees. A diary page from September 1923 provides a vague grounding as to some of the early family events, itself another layer in the mystery of this personal narrative.
In Yet I Was a Tree in the Woods she intertwines found family archival photographs that have a vernacular appeal with those photographs of her own making. To this are random layers of ephemera, perhaps part of the archival or found to be inspired for this narrative. In a non-linear way, these elements build upon and strength the overall reading of her story. There is a mash-up of the natural landscape with urban elements, early ‘selfies’ of individuals in the woods, a woman’s portrait, of whom we can only guess and a closing gatefold of a night time event, be it the stars overhead or perhaps lightening bugs freely roaming a forest.
The intricately designed book with multiple gatefolds, interleaving various size pages is a complex printing endeavor that showcases her current artistic studies. A point I frequently belabor is the tight binding of a perfect bound book, which I don’t think helps her publication. The text is in Italian and adds another layer of mystery for me, that perhaps frees me up to react to the visual elements of this poetic work. There are no captions, and even if there were, provided in Italian these might as well be Greek to me.
As a personal note as the editor of PhotoBook Journal, I try to discourage artist book submissions in which the quantity printed is less than 50, as there are so few copies to realistically share with the press. I also realize that in turn this becomes a double-edge sword; how do you sell the few copies printed if there is insufficient third-party social media and press coverage? Which in turn has convinced me to print, as well as to recommend to others, producing at least 99 copies for an artist books edition.
Case in point is Jankovic’s artist book in an edition of three, which appears that the copy I received to review is an artist proof (neither signed or numbered). Perhaps in conjunction with this review, this small publication will obtain enough reader traction to enable a larger printing or the interest of a book publisher. Time will tell. Nevertheless, this is a carefully designed and intriguing artist book worthy of a much larger audience.
Yet I Was a Tree in the Woods, Alice Jankovic
Photographer: Alice Jankovic, born Genoa, and resides in Milan, Italy @alicejankovicphoto
Self-published, Milan, Italy copyright 2020
Essay: H.D Thoreau, from Walden
Stiffcover book, perfect bound, three gatefolds, edition of 3
Photobook Designer: Alice Jankovic
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