Review by Douglas Stockdale •
The title of Massimo Nolletti and HX’s artist book, Sea Change, sets the stage for the black and white seascapes of Nolletti, but this does not leave one prepared for the juxtaposition of HX’s series of black and white portraits. That her portraits are all printed on gatefolds allows these photographs when extended to create other possible juxtapositions with the seascapes. It is with this extended page layout that one realizes that this artist book’s title is a homophone. As a reader, we can observe and create different narrative combinations.
The series of seascapes are meditations on nature, each photograph has the horizon in the same location within the pictorial framing similar in effect to the mesmerizing seascapes of Hiroshi Sugimoto. His compositions lean into minimalism, echoing the publisher’s imprint name, with few details included in each seascape beyond that of expanse of waves; a singular cloud, a pair of round buoys, a pair of silhouetted paddle boarders, an approaching storm front, or an evening in which the seascape appears like a dark slate.
Perhaps in a similar manner, the black and white portraits of women are also minimized. Her subjects are frequently moving, blurring their features, shrouded with layers of translucent material or incorporating multiple exposures. These photographs capture the gestures of her subjects and provide an emotional presence of an individual rather than in a factual documentation style of the Nolletti’s seascapes.
This artist book is an unusual visual collaboration. Moving between these two stylistic renditions creates an interesting emotional flow, perhaps similar to the ups and downs of ridding out the waves. When all of the gatefolds are fully extended, looking at the edges of the pages simulates the appearance of waves. This is another wonderful aspect about this artist book as to how the concept informs the book’s design and supports their artistic intent.
I found the book’s design to be fascinating; each page is a gatefold and while the pamphlet stitch binding is tight, the extended horizontal pages allows an almost lay-flat presentation. None of the visual content is lost in the gutter, with the fully extended gatefolds creating a wide-spread of approximately 25 inches. As a series of gatefolds, thus depending on which folds are open, the visual reading is altered.
Douglas Stockdale is a visual artist and Senior Editor & founder PhotoBook Journal
Sea Change – Massimo Nolletti and HX
Photographer: Massimo Nolletti, born in Abruzzo, Italy and based in Brighton, UK
Photographer: HX, born in the USA and based between NYC & London
Publisher: Minimalist Works, Brighton, UK, copyright 2020
Stiff cover, screen printed on textured papers, pamphlet stitch, 15 x 23 cm, edition of 50, printed in Brighton and bound in East Sussex, UK
Photobook Designer: Massimo Nolletti
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