Review: Sunday by Paul Kooiker


Book Reviews, Photobooks


Paul Kooiker is on a mission. I don’t know what kind of mission it is, but if you look at the books he has produced you realize he’s on a mission alright. After Crush or Room Service, there now is Sunday, a book of nudes, or maybe more accurately photographs of a nude woman, balancing precariously on a wooden table in a rather unattractive backyard of sorts. (more)

I’m not the biggest fan of dragging out obligatory and thus tiresome references, but there is a big echo of Hans Bellmer and his photographs of self-assembled and rather strange looking dolls. Much has been written about Bellmer (here is an example if you really want to subject yourself to that). Maybe me not knowing enough causes me to be a bit weary of some of the explanations and/or theories. But many just seem to embellish what actually might just have been a somewhat unhealthy idea of sexuality, quite independent of the Surrealist background and of whether or not the Nazis approved of the work (of course, they didn’t).

That’s the problem with references, they don’t necessarily always teach you quite as much as you think. Which is why I’m going to throw in yet another, very different one: Irving Penn’s Nudes. Initially, I looked at Sunday back to front, and the Bellmer reference seemed to make a lot of sense. But looking in the actual direction, and looking at how the sequence mirrors the model’s movements, Bellmer seems like a red herring, to throw us off.

Well, whatever it is, the book of course needs to be seen against the background of photography over the past, let’s say 100 years, with elements of the photographic nude, images of the human body, imaging the human body (in photography almost inevitably men taking photographs of naked women), sexuality, voyeurism thrown into the mix. It’s not obvious where Sunday fits in there. If it was obvious, the book would merely be illustrating a concept (maybe it is, and I am now embellishing?). So I’m not entirely sure what to make of the book, which is good: I’ll have to come back to it.

Sunday, photographs by Paul Kooiker, 84 pages, Van Zoetendaal Gallery, 2011