Review: Eastward Bound by Marco van Duyvendijk


Book Reviews, Photobooks


Whatever it is that can happen between a photographer and another person whose portrait is being taken might be undefinable (though one can try), but when it’s there you can see it in the picture: It is as if somehow the viewer is becoming an accomplice of sorts, someone who is entering a very intimate space to which access usually is denied. And you can’t pull back the curtain - so to speak - to reveal how it’s done, because the levers and smoke and noise are not the essential parts needed to get that good portrait (even though pretending you need all that bits makes for a colourful narrative). Marco van Duyvendijk’s Eastward Bound (which you can order via the artist’s website), a retrospective of ten years of his work, beginning in 1999, offers a few cases in point. (more)

Retrospectives, of course, are just that: Collections of photographs that were taken in some period of time, which usually means they contain good work plus, well, the other stuff. Which parts of Eastward Bound you will end up liking probably depends at least in part on your personal preferences. I mostly gravitated towards the portraits - of which there are lots in the book.

Eastward Bound covers photography taken in places such as Romania, Mongolia or China. In many cases, the photographer revisited a location year after year, which produced some very interesting results. For me, the clear center piece of the book is a series of portraits of a very young woman called Oana, who lives in Romania. Over the period of ten years you get to witness Oana being pregnant and/or nursing or tending to young children. Of course, photographers have done this before, producing a series of photographs of the same person over a long period of time, but (sorry Rineke and Nick!) I’ve never seen it done so well. And by “so well” I don’t mean the technical aspects, I mean the emotional quality of the images. They’re just stunning. Unfortunately, I can’t find the images on the photographer’s website.

In terms of the portraiture, in most cases the one-on-one portraits in Eastward Bound for me clearly stand out. For those alone, you want to buy the book. If you didn’t have those portraits, the book still would be something I could easily recommend. As I said, it’s a retrospective, so some work you might not find that exciting. But all in all, Eastward Bound is filled to the brim with great photography.

The book can be ordered through the website, but it seems larger parts of the site are only in Dutch. It’s pretty straightforward to go through the process (but then I can read Dutch very well, so I might not be the best person to say something about this). It’s probably easiest to email the photographer if you have trouble finding your way around…