Florian Bachmeier – In Limbo

Review by Gerhard Clausing

Uncertainty and anxiety mark the life of the people of Ukraine, especially these days. Getting international attention, it is a crucial moment in the progress of a country that has been through so much already. The suspense is evident and well caught in the images in this project by Florian Bachmeier, and the design and format of the book are a strong contribution to conveying the plight of the people and their strife.

When you first pick up this photobook, it gets your attention with its unusual format. The images are printed on matte paper, and are presented as a physical continuity from cover to cover. It is like an accordion (leporello) that has been glued down on one side and has been given gatefold-like cover flaps on each end that enclose the sequence like a capsule:

The presentation of the images gives us the feeling that things go on forever and ever without much change; the photographs are often divided across each particular French fold to continue on the next page, providing a stunning design continuity that matches the feeling conveyed by the photographer’s images. The end fold-outs, when extended on either side of the book, provide views of the vast landscapes of a country that needs to be rediscovered and that holds great promise, currently in limbo:

The images give us inside views from the outsider’s perspective. Much is left over from military and social upheavals of the past. Things are in a state of disarray, the young people, though full of zest, are anxious, while the old folks, who have seen it all – World War II, Soviet Union days, and much more – show that they are not expecting much of anything to change and that they might find some solace in their religious traditions. The overall impression is that there is so much promise that needs to overcome the baggage from the past as well as to respond to present and future threats. An ominous feeling about what may come next confronts us.

In her astute essay about the country and this project, Kateryna Mishchenko directs our focus to the questions, “… who has priority here? Who has the final say?” Her description of Ukraine, especially as depicted here, is that it is “a place which disturbs, alarms, and confronts” (p. 165). She makes reference to the scenes of ever-present ruins, a place marked by war-torn continuity and a simultaneous unwillingness to yield to the temptations of capitalism. “Too many questions are up in the air, and it’s still not clear if or when they will be resolved.” (p. 167). Detailed notes on all the images, provided in the appendix, give us many further insights regarding the resilience and endurance of the people of this country.

That leaves us with the wish for a better future for Ukraine. May this photobook play its part in a process of solving issues through negotiations rather than through military violence, so that the people of Ukraine can look forward to better things to come.

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Other books about the Ukraine situation that I have previously reviewed: Maxim Dondyuk’s Culture of Confrontation and Andrii Dostliev’s Occupation.

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Gerhard Clausing, PhotoBook Journal Associate Editor, is an author and photographer from Southern California.

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Florian Bachmeier – In Limbo

Photographer:  Florian Bachmeier (born in Tegernsee, Germany; lives and works in Munich and vicinity, as well as in Madrid, Spain)

Publisher:  Verlag Buchkunst Berlin, Germany; © 2021

Essay:  Kateryna Mishchenko

Languages:  German, English, Ukrainian

Illustrated softcover with Japanese binding; 180 pages, paginated, with 111 images; index of notes on all images, in three languages; 21.5 x 28 cm (8.5 x 11 inches); printed and bound in Germany by Wanderer Druckerei; ISBN 978-3-9819805-4-7

Concept and Design:  Thomas Gust and Ana Druga

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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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