Claudia den Boer – To pick up a stone

Review by Gerhard Clausing

Stones, rocks, and mountains come in endless sizes and shapes and are composed of a variety of materials. They are the building blocks of the earth, its very foundation. Leave it to Claudia den Boer, an innovative photographer with a sense of place, to photograph these “stonescapes” and to work with a talented designer and production team to combine them into 120 fascinating pages in an unconventional and appealing presentation.

Claudia den Boer is a Dutch photographer who describes herself as “captivated by places which are open, vast, and ungraspable, where man is void, like deserts and mountain landscapes.” She was intrigued by the stone shapes and landscapes she encountered in the Moroccan Sahara, the Tibetan highlands, around the Montserrat in Catalonia, and the Georgian Caucasus. Evaluating her analog materials, she discovered many relationships between and among the surfaces and shapes of the rocks and stones she had recorded.

To combine these in an intriguing way that is fascinating to the viewer is quite a task. Here the team met the challenge beautifully: we encounter many appealing shapes and sizes, to the point that we are confused about what is large and what is small; this is truly an experience that tests our sense of scale and spatiality. The amalgam of shapes, sizes, and textures hits us like a symphony (mostly Beethoven, with a little bit of Mozart) – we are immersed in this journey through the world of stones from beginning to end, and viewing the sequence is a captivating experience.

The images display a pleasant and surprising variety of shapes and sizes as well. The texture of the paper they are printed on varies throughout the photobook: some are on stock that is a nod in the direction of the rough nature of the stones depicted, while others are printed on paper with a semi-glossy surface. Monochrome images predominate, with warm or cold tones added where it enhances the effect of the depicted stonescapes. Occasionally there is a splash of color, for instance, to show emerging or existing vegetation. As shown in the sample pages below, another positive feature are the interspersed half pages that contribute to the tactile involvement of the viewer. The design and presentation dovetail beautifully with the subject.

This is a book that communicates with the user not only through the visuals, but also by eliciting the viewer’s additional participation. The lifting of sheets, peeking what is behind them, and around them, causes a participatory stance to evolve: there are no essays in this book, only stones, rocks, and mountains for your visual and tactile journey. The absence of essays and other texts causes the viewer to confront and sort out the visuals on his or her own, without explanations or analyses by others. Makes you rethink your relationship to the earth a bit … a highly recommended assignment.

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Claudia den Boer – To pick up a stone

Photographer:  Claudia den Boer (born in Oosteind, lives in Tilburg, Netherlands)

Publisher:  The Eriskay Connection, Breda, Netherlands; © 2020

Text: English

Hardcover, illustrated, stitched binding; 120 pages, unpaginated; 9.25 x 12.25 inches (23.5 x 31.3 cm); offset printed and bound in the Netherlands by Wilco Art Books and Patist. First edition: 500. ISBN: 978-94-92051-55-4

Photobook Design:  Rob van Hoesel; lithography and production by Marc Gijzen and Fine Books / Jos Morree (NL)

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

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