Review by Gerhard Clausing •
Not too long ago, the term “abandoned moments” meant images that we would toss aside: subject not significant enough, not sharp enough, some blurring or out-of-focus areas, camera movement, and more. Well, nowadays that is the stuff that the finest photographic art is made of; they are the central techniques that allow us to visually highlight or deemphasize, or otherwise display and convey the emotionally laden processes of life as they unfold before us. These features allow the pictures to show ambiguities that add suspense and mystery: the chaotic amalgam that characterizes our lives as interpreted in the visual arts.
Ed Kashi’s new photobook is full of such magical moments. He is a renowned photojournalist who has successfully and faithfully documented life around the world for several decades, generally using expected straight-forward techniques. Recently surveying his work, he discovered many magical off-moments that allow multiple interpretations. As we contemplate the selections he presents in this volume, we cannot help but discover bits and pieces of our own chaotic existence reflected in his stellar observations. Not only that, Kashi also lets us in on his own personal stages of development as a photographer, such as his need to overcome trepidation in photographing strangers; this honest sharing of common feelings makes the project even more appealing.
Deviating from the staid ‘decisive moment’ concept of the past, which was often marked by extensive planning and contrived composition, Kashi here emphasizes the unplanned, indecisive moments that flash by, unpredictably and full of confusion. Naturally, the photographer’s great skill in capturing such moments of situational abandon is paramount. As an excellent observer of unfolding situations with humans and other creatures, Kashi demonstrates both speed and full command of equipment and techniques. Sometimes a slightly longer exposure is required, or the camera needs to move in the same direction as the action, so that the image highlights what’s primary and assigns the surroundings to the somewhat less important peripheral context.
The image of the mother with her two children, on their way to catching their transportation, shown below, is an excellent example. You can compare it to a musical composition – some of the elements are sharper and more pronounced, more prominent, while other parts of the melody float along and are less distinct, either showing part of the motion, or receding into a lesser level of illumination, and, therefore, attention. The overall effect is a superb visualization of movement, urgency, and interdependence.
Or how about that magical moment of the two monkeys, two captives who even in their limited circumstances still find diversion in their own monkey business? The special composition is enhanced by Kashi’s view and combinatorial acumen, showing interconnection and emotional differences of three individuals in a compact space, in a scene that will never be repeated in the same manner. I will leave the rest of the interpretation to you, the viewer. Same for the rest of the images, and the whole book.
Beautifully printed on large pages, as all Kehrer products are, the project is also enhanced by Alison Nordström’s insightful essay, by Kashi’s definitions and personal observations in handwritten style, as well as by a complete index showing locations and dates. This photobook is a milestone; most highly recommended!
Gerhard (Gerry) Clausing, Associate Editor of the PhotoBook Journal, is an author and photographer from Southern California.
Photographer: Ed Kashi (born in New York City; lives in Montclair, New Jersey, USA)
Publisher: Kehrer Verlag, Heidelberg, Germany; © 2021
Texts: Alison Nordström, Ed Kashi
Hardcover, illustrated; 128 pages, paginated, with 68 images; 12 x 9.75 inches (30.5 x 24.5 cm); printed and bound in Germany; ISBN 978-3-96900-044-1
Design: Michael Curry, Mallika Vora in collaboration with Kehrer Design (Nick Antonich)
Articles and photographs published in the PhotoBook Journal may not be reproduced without the permission of the PhotoBook Journal staff and the photographer(s).