Anne Morgenstern – Macht Liebe

Review by Gerhard Clausing

This photobook is quite extraordinary – it took me a number of months to figure out what to say about it that would go beyond the obvious. Perhaps you know the old “September Song” with the line, “Oh, it’s a long, long time from May to December…” (Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson, sung by Frank Sinatra, among others). Well, I’m a couple of months ahead of the waiting game, since it’s only October. And those who have looked at some of my images know that my own body also definitely changed as time went by, and that I do not shy away from documenting that process.

Anne Morgenstern is a meticulous observer of people, places, and things. What makes her current project Macht Liebe (“Power Love”/”Make Love”) so refreshing is that it dispenses with contemporary expectations and invites the viewers to assess and value their own definitions of beauty and desire.

How much anguish has been caused by societal ‘norms’ that have acted as straitjackets for what was or is considered handsome or beautiful, with shaming and ostracism often attached to those whose appearance deviates from the expectations of the majority (and I include shades of skin color and aging here)! And how much hatred and venom has been spread from all sides because of these so-called norms? An atmosphere of tolerant observation of variations in appearance without finger-wagging and attempts at indoctrination are a welcome and refreshing approach, as practiced in this exciting project by Morgenstern.

Her images and juxtapositions are full of thoughts and emotions – the sequences are designed to elicit responses. Most of all, the clever editing that mixes images with patterns and shapes from the greater world of vast natural and constructed environments with those depicting bodies and body parts of all kinds gives us a feeling of liberating acceptance and joyful celebration of all that exists. It allows the viewer to make connections that may not have been so obvious previously: beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and desire is a very individual process, full of surprising idiosyncrasies.

Printed on folded-back pages, also known as French fold, yet again colored silver within the folds, we get a sense of valued connectedness, universality, and general continuity of shapes and colors. The cover is elaborate, embossed, and with the words representing the book’s title printed in special ink that becomes quite iridescent when light hits it a certain way – it was the most difficult book cover I have ever photographed to share with you. The erudite essay by Danaé Panchaud provides further valuable perspectives.

A photobook that lets you get in touch with preconceived perceptions and makes you come back repeatedly to discover more connections is very special indeed. Morgenstern effectively connects our external and internal worlds. Highly recommended!

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Gerhard (Gerry) Clausing, Associate Editor of the PhotoBook Journal, is an author and photographer from Southern California.

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Anne Morgenstern – Macht Liebe

Photographer:  Anne Morgenstern (born in Leipzig, Germany; lives in Zurich, Switzerland)

Publisher:  Hartmann Books, Stuttgart, Germany; © 2022

Essay:  Danaé Panchaud

Languages:  French, English, German

Embossed softcover with Japanese binding; 96 pages, unpaginated, with 136 images; 12 x 8.5 inches (30.5 x 21.5 cm); printed and bound in Germany by DZA Druckerei zu Altenburg GmbH; ISBN 978-3-96070-082-1

Photobook Designer:  Claudio Barandun, Zurich

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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). All images, texts, and designs are under copyright by the authors and publishers.

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