Review by Rudy Vega •
Photobooks come in all different shapes and sizes. Generally speaking, they adhere to more or less standard configurations. A foreword and an introduction, followed by photographs in support of a concept. A typical photobook might be organized around a central theme or it may consist of series of images investigating typologies as one example. Whether a photobook pursues a narrative track or documents an event, there is an assumed structure at play–a tradition a reader/viewer can confidently expect from a photobook. Then there is an art object that announces to its audience its non-conformist intentions. The Sniper Paused so He Could Wipe His Brow by Sean Lotman is one such book/art object. The title intrigues one, as it manages to dodge easy classification as to what lies in store.
A brief description is necessary to provide one with the physical attributes of this endeavor. Measuring 12 inches by six inches and oriented vertically or in portrait mode, it consists of color photographs, with the center grouping of images accompanied with captions or more precisely speaking, poems. The so-called brief description I’ve offered tells you and reveals to you; nothing. Then why not elaborate on the structure and organization of Lotman’s book? A cop out explanation might suggest the over used phrase that one has to experience it to get full value of The Sniper Paused so He Could Wipe His Brow. I submit that much is true and I’ll explain. Since this is no ordinary photobook, I’ll act in kind and produce an un-ordinary book review.
The Sniper Paused So He Could Wipe His Brow was published as an edition of four-hundred and ninety, forty of which are special edition books coming in a slipcase with one of eight prints handmade by Lotman in his darkroom. It is project fifteen years in the making. The book is enigmatic in its organization, producing a number of possible juxtapositions of images. It asks the reader/viewer to vest him/herself to undertake an investigation in order to decipher suitable meaning or interpretation.
The first sixteen “pages” are made up of 32 discreet images. The images start off as pairs organized in top/bottom fashion. Turning to the second page reveals four individual images each measuring six by six inches. This in turn allows the viewer to experience the aforementioned possible combination of juxtapositions. And this is where the fun begins, for Lotman has produced an opportunity for the reader/viewer to directly engage and participate in producing a “reading” of his images in an attempt to interrogate meaning–both in a literal sense as well as in more metaphorical or symbolic or yet still from applying a more philosophical stance.
It’s a challenge for one to draw up and create effective associations from the potential pairings and I would suggest there is no right or wrong interpretation. What Lotman has done is create an ingenious vehicle of a photobook-and-art object if you will, that gives those who vest themselves in journeying into a veritable looking glass of photography to its surrealist roots.
The images themselves are of places and people. Fragments of memories, sometimes blurred with the passage of time. Sometimes peaceful and still, while others are filled with kinetic energy-a restlessness to get there already. And then there are the poems. Ruminating on a life lived. Observations on the everyday and the metaphysical. They are read as a continuum, separated by the individual pages or as one-line sonnets each with their own snippet of meaning contributing to an overarching narrative. Here in the center portion of Lotman’s book the images are rendered as full two-page spreads and adding three gatefolds as well. Its an exercise in efficiency. It’s a dizzying array of images at once revealing and yet ambiguous.
The Sniper Paused so He Could Wipe His Brow will invite multiple viewings and will reward those who put forth the effort. To say Lotman has produced something unique in a post original world we inhabit is high praise indeed, and that is why I refer to it as an art object. Not that it can’t inhabit both realms of the photobook and art object. It just feels right as art.
Rudy Vega is a Contributing Editor and resides in Irvine, Ca. He is a fine art photographer and writer.
The Sniper Paused So He Could Wipe His Brow, by Sean Lotman
Photographer & Editor: Sean Lotman, born Los Angeles, CA and resides Kyoto, Japan
Poems: Sean Lotman
Hardcover book, off-set printing, 96 pages, 6×12 inches, printed in Barcelona, Spain; ISBN-13: 979-10-95424-24-6
Photobook design: Laure-Anne Kayser
Articles & photographs published on PhotoBook Journal may not be reproduced without the permission of the PhotoBook Journal staff and the photographer(s).