Katherine Longly – Hernie & Plume

Review by Douglas Stockdale

This book is about an enduring love story between two individuals, Blieke and Nicole, with a few twists. As they tell it, they met at a mental institution, as we later learn, Nicole has severe anxiety attacks, while we surmise that Blieke met Nicole while he was visiting his lover who was at the same institution as her. Perhaps not the best of circumstances but it did eventually lead to a twenty-five-year relationship.

The resulting narrative that Katherine Longly creates draws upon her past artist book practice of mashing together her photographs with those of the archive of her subjects. Her subjects participate in the resulting exchange by providing background images while photographing their current daily experience, such as their “wacky parties”. Longly intertwines these two viewpoints, extending the story-line boundaries while creating visually complex layers within this documentary. 

This is a long-term personal project that appears to have evolved after a chance meeting while Longly was photographing another near-by subject. It is hard not to miss the intimacy and sincerity of a personal relationship in Longly’s photographs; she is intimately part of this family, not aseptically documenting at an arms-length distance.

There is a non-judgmental element about this documentary project that allows her subject’s voice to be heard. Her subjects who live honest, yet perhaps simpler lives, are photographed straight forward in an unflinching manner. The couples underlying humor is characterized in their arrangement on one shelf of the small sculpture of the nude couple in a romantic embrace while upon a higher shelf, they had situated two cat sculptures which are gazing down on this romantic event.

The captions are provided in French with English translations stemming from interviews and text messages between Longly and her subjects. The book has an informal look and feel, as though somebody had rolled up the newspaper and quickly ran a stitch down the center. The text block has not been trimmed, thus extends slightly beyond the book’s covers, a nice physical metaphor that hints that the book’s story is perhaps not neat and tidy. The photographs by Blieke and Nicole are in a section of the book, printed in a brown and white tonality that appears very different from Longly’s color photographs. I am actually unsure of this different visual treatment other than to differentiate the two viewpoints.

This is a wonderfully bittersweet love story that integrates Longly’s subjects personal viewpoint with that of her own outsider perspective. With a very poignant ending that I did not anticipate coming.

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Katherine Longly’s artist book featured earlier on PhotoBook Journal: To Tell My Real Intentions, I Want to Eat Haze Like a Hermit 

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Hernie & Plume, Katherine Longly

Artist: Katherine Longly, born Arlon, Belgium and resides in Brussels, Belgium

Publisher: The Eriskay Connection, Breda, Netherlands, copyright 2020

Interview: Katherine Longly with Blieke and Nicole

Text: French & English

Stiff covers, stitched binding, offset printed and bound by Wilco Art Books, Amersfoort, Netherlands. ISBN: 978-9492-051-54-7

Lithography: Colour & Books (Sebastiaan Hanedroot)

Concept development: Katherine Longly, Yumi Goto, Jan Rosseel

Photobook Designer: Rob van Hoesel

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Articles & photographs published on PhotoBook Journal may not be reproduced without the permission of the PhotoBook Journal staff and the photographer(s).

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