by Jonathan Blaustein
If, like me, you have a kid, you’re likely to have re-discovered your adoration for Dr. Seuss. That man, crazy as he must have been, could most definitely spin a yarn. And I just love the way his stories and sentences always seem to find a balance. (On the fifteenth of May, in the Jungle of Nool, in the heat of the day, in the cool of the pool…) Not too messy, not too clean, not to cutesy, not to tough. Just right. So with that in mind, I thought I’d follow up last week’s selection of big, cloth-bound, heavy monographs with a couple of small, taut, poetic little books. (And of course, they’re by female photographers to balance out all the previous guys. As promised.)
Just in time for Halloween, “Dondoro,” is a soft cover, perfect bound, slim little booklet by Estelle Hanania, published by Kaugummi Books. It’s a creepy, trippy set of images of Japanese masks, dolls and dancers that has the feel of a ancient funeral procession. A head stone image and the general melancholic tone hint that the color photos metaphorically depict lament and sorrow. As the French-only text offers up “En mémoire d’Hoichi Okamato 1947-2010,” I feel pretty comfortable with that guess. I’m not a scary movie guy, to be frank, and when I saw that Japanese horror flick with Sarah Michelle Gellar a few years ago, I almost crapped my pants. But this book is cool, and I’ve found myself opening it and closing it a lot since I picked it up from photo-eye. It must be the time of year, because everyone likes getting the heebie-geebies in late October, but this is a book that I think will stand the test of time.
Bottom Line: Disturbing, but in a good way.
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“Hurricane Story,” offered by Broken Levee Books, (via Chin Music Press,) is a colorful little hard cover by Jennifer Shaw. I confess that I really haven’t seen anything like this, and neither have you. Ms. Shaw, a New Orleans resident, was one week from giving birth when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. She tells the story of her and her husbands’ evacuation and subsequent displacement, which I admit is a tale we’ve heard before. And of course, there have been a hundred natural disasters since, each of which pushes Katrina a bit further into the background. In this book, however, the story is re-created using toy props, shot dreamily and lusciously with a Holga. Each page uses a single sentence to illuminate the narrative, and the technique enables the viewer to read the story both in words and pictures simultaneously. It’s lovely, witty, poignant and original. Definitely a book you want to have in your collection.
Bottom Line: Just right
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