Review by Douglas Stockdale •
Regina Anzenberger’s Roots & Bonds is a self-published book that appears to be a mash-up of Paul Caponigro photographs and Abstract Expressionism artwork while reading like we are peeking into an artist’s private sketch book. Even more so when we find images with her hand-written notes in the margins of the image. This is an older book, published in 2015, prior to her 2020 self-published Shifting Roots. This is one of those books that when it was initially released I wanted to obtain a copy, but regretfully that never transpired. That is until recently. After reviewing Shifting Roots, my interest in obtaining Anzenberger’s Roots & Bonds really increased. Done and thank you Regina, having help me obtain one of these out-of-print books. Thus, I am able to provide a review of this earlier book to help establish the artists practice.
This is a series of photographs of her subject, a grove of trees near Vienna, including a small river situated within the boundaries, with a particular vine infestation that creates other worldly appearances. The vines drape, fall and become intertwined amongst the trees creating something short of a dense jungle. Nevertheless, there are visual and physical limitations as to how far one can venture into the forest due to the resulting entanglements. The adjacent grassy walkways and telephone wires provide clues that we are probably not far from civilization while this location provides a natural refuge from the busyness of the world’s events.
This forest creates an opportunity for contemplation, where the intriguing lines of the vines in the forest break-up a normal forest perspective. The resulting artwork, whether ‘straight’ natural landscape photographs or her semi-abstract multi-media pieces are poetic. We can become lost in our gaze of the artwork.
Her black and white photographs are from a mobile-phone camera, occaisonally applying an Instant-film (in camera via an app) frame to some images, are meditative and remind me of the work of Paul Caponigro and more recently, the walk about photographs of Paul Gaffney, abet a black & white version. The black & white photographs are predominant in this monograph with a few color or desaturated color photographs to create a break the pace of the reading. Many of the black & white plates in the book appear slightly low key with warm tonalities that are inviting to read. There is a casualness to the photographs and resulting book that put the brakes on a busy life. Much like Anzenberger’s walk, it is asking us to slow down and take it all in. Breathe in. Exhale.
The semi- abstraction of the natural landscape photographs is created by extending the boundaries and borders with line, layering with paint and juxtapositioning with found objects than re-photographing the resulting artwork. The additional working of the print image extends the depth and reading of her artwork and creates another layer in how one approaches nature.
In the Shifting Roots review I delved into her methodology for creating her multi-media artwork, as her artistic practice is more expansive though-out that subsequent book. In Roots & Bonds, there are some hints of what was yet to come, with a broader mashup of color and black & white photographs and intermingled with a few of her multi-media artwork. She will continue to extend that aspect of her artistic practice for a later day that is found in her next self-published book, Shifting Roots.
For a number of her compositions through the book, she provides a black and white photograph and then on a subsequently page spread is a multi-media version of the same composition. Both versions are stunning objects in the framing and lighting of her subject, while I find the painted version to be a more poetic version of the two alternatives.
Likewise, she provides a similar treatment with her photographs, first a black & white version, followed by a color version. It reminds me of the questions I am constantly asked by a number of photographers; which version do I like, the black & white or color? Many times, the answer is that the two versions have very different qualities and each take me to a different place, thus both could be equally acceptable, depending on the narrative you wish to create. Color has more of an ability to ground one to reality while a black & white image is more abstract. It is just rare to find two different treatments of the same image arrange adjacently in a monograph. Especially when the monograph is predominately black & white.
As benefiting an artist who owns a photographic gallery, photo book store and sponsors book design workshops, Roots & Bonds is a masterclass in design, layout and sequencing. The pacing is varied, an interesting mash-up of full bleeds, multiple images, two-page spreads, paired images, staggered image positioning interspersed with photographs that have ample classic white margins. Overall a very wonderful read that allows your mind to drift while enduring a crazy pandemic.
Other Regina Anzenberger photobook reviewed on PhotoBook Journal; Shifting Roots.
Roots & Bonds, Regina Anzenberger
Artist; Regina Anzenberger, born and resides in Vienna, Austria
Self-Published (AnzenbergerEdition), sold thru her gallery, AnzenbergerGallery, (trade edition out-of-print) copyright 2015
Essay: Regina Anzenberger
Text: English and Austrian/Deutsch
Hard cover, printed boards, with dust jacket, thread binding, signed and numbered edition of 350 copies, printing and production by Tea Design, Sofia, Bulgaria. ISBN: 978-3-9503876-9-8
Photobook Designer: Regina Anzenberger
Articles & photographs published on PhotoBook Journal may not be reproduced without the permission of the PhotoBook Journal staff and the photographer(s).