Review by Gerhard Clausing •
Collecting can easily be very intense, perhaps more so than other pursuits. But then other kinds of activities including photography have been known to become highly ritualized as well. Need I remind you of the meticulous pursuits of water towers in order to present them in tomes of typologies, or attempts to document photographically all the ‘representative’ people of a particular ethnic group or background or century, or several of these in combination? The business of collecting knows no bounds and boundaries either, as evidenced, for instance, by my bulging collection of photobooks, to which this valuable one has just been added.
Anna Strand has turned her attention to documenting and being inspired by the process of collecting as well. She has visualized one such artistic collection in this remarkable book, which has a large vertical format, with a solid black cover, kind of like a thesis at the university, or an official government proclamation, so we had better pay close attention.
The everyday objects themselves and their juxtaposition with thought-provoking texts generate a sense of wonder in us. Anna Strand wrote me that she “photographed parts of someone’s real collections. I have the deepest respect for I. and for the stories, rituals and memories connected to the collections, that have inspired titles and texts in the book. – I see this way of collecting as an act of resistance (and as a way of creating a space of one’s own) opposed to what are generally and institutionally collected and valued.”
Given this intent, we start to also sense the differences between private collections and publicly valued and curatorially sanctioned art displays. No one can take away the meaning that individually collected items have for a particular collector, while some of the collections displayed in public institutions can be less personally relevant and/or less applicable to the specific needs and sentiments of any of us in particular. The objects shown – such as egg shell assemblages, water-logged books, nutshells, and oddly shaped baked goods – are presented and photographed with the same attention and stature as exhibitions in a museum.
And on another level, perhaps this project can also serve as a metaphor for life itself. The eggs have been consumed, and merely their shells survive as a kind of artful assemblage. A book is shown that has been affected by water – can its message still be decoded, or do we need to immerse our very own selves in the book instead, put ourselves in it from beginning to end to inject it with some real personal meaning, as a grandmother suggests? Memories about one’s own life also flood in … Are we as consumers so attached to goods and objects that we apply an insatiable urge to gather and pile elements that are without their former purpose on top of other such units, ad infinitum? And in this contemplation, do we achieve new levels of self-reflection and a more expanded contextualized self-purpose? Even the unorthodox pagination of Strand’s project makes us pay attention and ponder the cyclical nature of life.
Excellent personal art and recollections raise excellent additional questions, and Anna Strand’s photobook Collecting I certainly does a superb job of making us think about all of these layers of meaning. We all collect something, and this project serves us very well in letting us get in touch with ourselves through what we gather around us, as we observe our own rituals, preferences, and associated memories.
Gerhard (Gerry) Clausing, Associate Editor of the PhotoBook Journal, is an author and photographer from Southern California.
Anna Strand – Collecting I
Photographer: Anna Strand (born in Lund, Sweden; lives in Gothenburg, Sweden)
Editors: Anna Strand, Eva-Teréz Gölin
Publisher: Sailor Press, Malmö, Sweden; © 2022
Texts: Anna Strand
Language: English; translated by Elizabeth Clark Wessel
Hardback, cloth cover; 48 pages, creatively paginated; 8.75 x 11.75 inches (22.2 x 30 cm); printed in Denmark by Narayana Press; ISBN 978-91-986244-5-8
Photobook Designer: Matilda Plöjel
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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