At some stage over the past two years or so, something happened to photobook making. Things seem to have become considerably more complex, resulting in a flurry of books that have moved way beyond the simple gallery-show-on-paper format. Photographers started to mix colour with black and white, say, or combined seemingly different types of images; images started to move across the spreads - and nobody felt compelled to talk about it. Instead, the medium itself (meaning its makers and viewers) seems to have just leapt to a more complex level, with seemingly endless possibilities opening up. Another case in point is provided by Patrick Hogan’s (self-published) Still (which you can order directly from the artist).
It is much harder to describe what the book might be about than it is to experience it, looking at the succession of images. The pre-dominant atmosphere in Still is one of stillness and fragility, of beauty and loss. Themes recur, as do images of the same people or things, even a colour (red). Images are repeated, they occasionally become mere shadows of themselves, or they are blurry or grainy. The book clearly presents a very specific world, without ever being obviously specific. It’s all in the shadows.
Ultimately, Still shows what photography can do when it is given proper treatment. All that talk of photography being “over” or “dead” seems childish (at best) when seen in the light of books like this one. As a matter of fact, photography is not only not over, we’re actually just at the beginning of a deeper understanding of what images can do when they are made to interact with each other. And with photobooks now being a medium that is easily available to anyone interested in making one, I am sure we will see more and more examples of photographic story telling that go way beyond the simple ideas so many people are still attached to.
Still, photography by Patrick Hogan, essay by Colin Graham, poem by Dermot Healy, 96 pages, self published, 2012