Review by Gerhard Clausing •
As we face the end of yet another difficult year, contemplation might be a very good thing. Do we feel comfortable and welcome where we are? How separated do we feel from those around us? Do things feel familiar or strange?
Here we have a photobook with a cover that references light, in form of a question that is lacking its question mark – already a quandary to contemplate. We look at the cover, pure white, with the title seemingly black. But wait, it is etched out completely; we can look right through it into what might come next. Indeed, as we all know, light is a fickle commodity and plays games with its opposite, darkness. When light shines from a different angle, such as from behind, things look substantially different:
Next, the book leads us to the opening spread that also serves as the inside cover, as well as to the many inside pages with photographs and poetic language, a journey the author/photographer asks us to share:
Bob Farese Jr. was faced with a new city which seemed unfamiliar and strange to him, without support from family and friends, and he experienced separateness in the midst of other people. He sublimated his feelings into words and into images reflecting what he saw and felt in his new environment, which he is sharing with us in this book. The format is unusual too: 160 French-folded mini-sheets, fastened down, like a one-sided accordion, to create a continuity of more than 300 pages that trace the thoughts and feelings of the author.
The sequence of words and pictures cannot be described easily – you need to flip the pages and experience it yourself.
Words and pictures are interspersed; they are reminiscent of many details and mixes of environmental and emotional impulses that we ourselves have also seen and felt here and there. The combination of tangible and abstract elements, well photographed, forms a sequence that allows us insights and enlightenment to understand his situation as well as our own – we follow his thoughts and feelings, and we have much leisure to get in touch with our own experiences that they remind us of as we contemplate the presentation.
The words and images are generously spread apart, so that we don’t feel rushed, but also have many moments where our own eyes and minds can take time out to get in touch with ourselves and let our imagination come into play when facing blank pages. The photographs show a creative attention to detail and exquisite compositional talent; the few humans that appear (himself and others) are treated with a respectful distance and in a positive yet mysterious light, yet almost like shadows. It seems that warm colors increase as the book proceeds, which may point to an acceptance of perhaps inevitable circumstances. The self in relation to others is a universal preoccupation throughout our lives.
Solitude does not need to equate loneliness, and a creative involvement with details around us can contribute greatly to a therapeutically healthy way of dealing with such situations, as Bob Farese, Jr. has exquisitely demonstrated in this photobook.
Gerhard Clausing, PhotoBook Journal Associate Editor, is an author and photographer from Southern California.
Bob Farese, Jr. – Am I Not Light
Photographer: Bob Farese, Jr. (born and lives in Boston, Massachusetts, USA)
Publisher: Lecturis, Eindhoven, Netherlands; © 2021
Texts: Bob Farese, Jr.
Hardcover with French-fold sheets, Japanese binding; 320 pages, unpaginated; 17 x 23 cm (6.625 x 9 inches); lithography by Colour & Books, printing by Jos Moree Fine Books, binding by FopmaWier (Netherlands); ISBN 9789462264199
Photobook Design: -Syb- (Sybren Kuiper)
Articles and photographs published in the PhotoBook Journal may not be reproduced without the permission of the PhotoBook Journal staff and the photographer(s).
Love these images. Surprising and sophisticated.