Review by Douglas Stockdale •
While on a holiday it can be entertaining to purchase and send postcards depicting the local points of interest. To jot down a quick personal observation that can help the person receiving it to know a little about your experience. While working in Europe this is a way I tried to stay connected with my family, even if I usually did arrive home more than a few days before the delivery of the postcards. Nevertheless, what was depicted on the postcard as well as my hand-written personal observation created interesting family conversations.
Bootsy Holler’s artist book Treasures, a booklet of bound postcards, is attempting to create a bridge, which in Holler’s case is more of an endeavor to establish a personal connection rather than a document of a distant holiday vacation. Like there earlier aforementioned postcards, she provides a quick personal observation about the subject of the post card that appears to be related to family dynamics. There is also a common thread with the concept of distance, which for Holler, there is an emotional distance between her and her mother in ways that her mother appeared to be interested in those objects found in her home than with her family. Holler’s postcard captions hint at the potential issues in her parent’s relationship that could subsequently affect her mother’s relationship with her and that ‘treasures’ are in the eye of the beholder.
The book pages are designed as postcards, one side with a photograph of an object, usually floating on a white field. Her subjects are presented with minimal environmental context resembling catalog photographs from a 1960s five and dime store, mostly appearing cold and factual with minimal emotion content. The reverse side contains the object’s identity, a caption to provide information about the opposite object, a small graphic illustration by Holler of the object and text to facilitate mailing in conjunction with information about Holler’s book and contact email.
There are also micro perforations that would allow these postcards to be easily removed from this postcard deck. I found myself contemplating who I might actually send one of these postcards to? Many of the objects Holler documents resonate with my own parent’s household objects, the translucent green Tupperware that my mom brought at one the various neighborhood parties (to send to my sister?), the small penknife that my dad always carried in his front pants pocket, which now resides somewhere hidden in my grandson’s bedroom.
In retrospect, photographing in a documentary-style of her mother’s objects may have led to some enlightenment about their own relationship. The 44 objects that Holler photograph range from the omnipresent household inventory like a worn washcloth, vegetable ‘scrubby’, metal funnel, scissors, Tupperware bowl and lid in the ubiquitous shade of green, can opener, ashtray (for Aunt Jane to use), recipe file, cookbooks and to other objects that have a deeper family history.
There are objects that have a household commonality, such as the coasters that includes Hollers caption; “A wedding present to my parents. No watermarks since 1965”. The caption provides some vague information that appears to range from the factual (carefully taken care of after use), some implications of use (never used since 1965) or that the potential for watermarks on these coasters resulted in many discussions, arguments or other statements by her mother that lead to a perception of the greater importance of these inanimate objects than another person.
Not all of the objects are of her mom’s, such as her father’s hunting knife and pocket knife “to sharpen my pencils in the 1970s.” Nevertheless, there are objects that were found in her mom’s house, although related to her divorced husband, are still present. Relationships, even stormy ones, can be complex.
Her captions provide hints of the underlying tension in her parent’s relationship, a tension that has a way of creating anxiety in other aspects of the family’s relationships, which eventually led to their divorce, itself another tension-loaded family event. The implied information provided with The Kissing Figurines, “1960s figurines that have been broken and glued numerous times.” hint that these objects might not have been accidently broken and there was turmoil and sufficient tension to affect any and all relationships.
Other similar items that have an undercurrent of tension is the Sewing Basket; “Birthday present from my dad to my mom in the 1970s. My mom doesn’t like to sew”, family dynamics such as the King Tut playing cards; “1976, a gift from my dad’s mom, Lulabelle to my mom for playing bridge. My mom doesn’t play bridge.” And the recipe file, “1967, bought after my mom got married and dutifully started cooking.” The innuendo of ‘dutifully started cooking’ implies cooking was not something her mom enjoyed before she married, perhaps increasing the family tensions. There is the Lamp; “1966, my dad liked this lamp because of the carved wood, but my mom got the living room in the divorce.” Similar to the other items that are associated with her father, which yet still reside even after the divorce in her mother’s care.
She also shares some tenderness with one object, a green translucent ‘crinkle’ Vase, “Given to my mom the day I was born in 1969. It was filled with daisies.” A very meaningful occasion that has some strong associated memories.
While Holler’s mom is still alive and these objects are still residing at her moms, I found this book due to my own parent’s passing, bittersweet and wonderful if not melancholy Talismans for fond memories. Such is the multiplicity and a slow read of photographic books that readers can create and relate to the visual narratives in their own way.
Richard Chow in his review of MOPLA’s Photo Book Exhibition in 2019 published in this magazine singled out Holler’s book: “The simple and yet poignant images of her mother’s “treasures” resonate with my recollection of memories past. The book was cleverly designed as a book of postcards with a nice book cover/wrap in a foldable box. Holler shares her childhood memories on the back of the postcards, which add insightful and personal enrichment to the entire work. “
Holler provides post cards from the past, which will create stories for the future.
Douglas Stockdale is the Senior Editor (founder) of PhotoBook Journal
Treasures – Objects I have Known all my Life, Bootsy Holler
Photographs and illustrations: Bootsy Holler, born Pasco, WA and residing Los Angeles, California
Self-published, BearHeart Publishing, Los Angeles, California, copyright 2018.
Captions and Introduction: Bootsy Holler
Stiff cover, outer paperboard box-case with elastic strap, perfect binding, micro-perforations, four-color printing with black & white illustrations, 44 images, 96 pages, edition of 250 books, printed by Paper Chase Press, LA
Photobook Designer: Jason Adam
Articles and photographs published in the PhotoBook Journal may not be reproduced without the permission of the PhotoBook Journal staff and the photographer(s). All images, texts, and designs are copyright of the authors and publishers.