Review by Douglas Stockdale •
During a pandemic, during the worst of the chaos and angst, many of us must have found themselves reflecting on the past framed by the current moment. Sal Taylor Kydd in her latest poetic narrative, Yesterday, appears to pose an intriguing question, when might today start to resemble yesterday?
This body of work is ambiguous and subjective, not readily apparent where the location is situated, with hints as to a warmer time of year. There are few visual implications that this was created during the time of a horrific pandemic. The reality of the moment can be found in the written text by Aline Smithson, the ending poem by Kydd, as well as the closing photograph in the book of a woman on the ground appearing as one who might be in a stage of grief. Paradoxically, the limited-edition print that accompanies the book has a light touch of humor suggesting hope, which is a wonderful place to bring her narrative to an end.
Photographs by their nature, and subsequently photographic books as well, are always part autobiographical in how the artist/photographer has a strong hand in its creation. Thus, it may not come as surprise that the two opening photographic images of Kydd’s poetic photobook should include some very subtle autobiographical references.
The opening photograph following her book’s dedication is beautifully composed, her subject is framed behind what might the window panes of a house. The transparent glass allows the reader to look in, while concurrently the window’s reflections allows a metaphoric look back. Her subject’s eyes are closed as though in self-reflection and that when noting her meditative state, I become aware of another set of very subtle open eyes just off-center of the models, that of the photographer. She and her model have merged to become one.
The second photograph in the book has a similar autobiographic element. We appear to be within a house structure and though a pass-through we can view a truncated model whose hand appears to be in repose on top of the pass-through structure, representing a moment of self-reflection. In the foreground shadows is a bust of a woman, eyes open and engaging the reader, with a few highlights on the hair and neck to help call attention to this pictorial element. A very subtle reminder that Kydd is present through-out her book, if not hiding demurely in the shadows of your mind.
The sequencing of the body of work does not have an implied chronological order, thus allows a vague narrative that corresponds to moments of self-reflection to occur. Unlike the cultural and medical chaos that was engulfing her while creating this body of work, I find her book to be subdued and calming. There is no high drama or tension portrayed by her staged subject, nor distracting captions accompanying each image, with her model’s positioning and Kydd’s utilization of soft-focus delicate images representing moments of personal quiet reflection.
The physical book, similar to the attention of the design details of her prior book with Dalz Press, is wonderful to hold and read. The trim size, 8” x 11-1/4”, in conjunction with the Smyth binding, allows it to pleasantly lay-open in your hands. The lower contrast black and white images are warm toned and printed on a warm coated matte paper. The combination of these elements provides a nostalgic appearance that metaphorically recalls the past as suggested by the book’s title, Yesterday.
In her introduction Aline Smithson summarizes this body of work beautifully, “The work was created in the year of not knowing, during that maelstrom of apprehension. Through only her words acknowledge her personal turmoil, her photographs provide us with a soft place to land.”
Other books by Sal Taylor Kydd featured on Photobook Journal; Landfall (also selected by the PBJ staff as one of our Interesting Photobooks for 2020)
Douglas Stockdale is a visual artist and Senior Editor & founder PhotoBook Journal
Yesterday, Sal Taylor Kydd
Photographer/poet; Sal Taylor Kydd, born in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, U.K. and now residing in Rockport, Maine
Publisher: Datz Press, South Korea, copyright 2021
Poem: Sal Taylor Kydd
Introduction: Aline Smithson
Acknowledgments: Sal Taylor Kydd with a book dedication to Paula (Paula Riff)
Hard cover book with transparent printed dust jacket, Smyth sewn, List of Plates, book edition with archival pigment print limited to 200, printed by Munsung Printing, South Korea, ISBN 978-89-97605-70-5
Photobook Designer: Seyeon Kim
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