A woman sitting on a sofa, a deserted road, a painting on a wall… and many more. Apart from being in Spain, what do those photographs have in common ? Maybe a certain sense of quietness or the praise of an appeasement. I love the title of the book : country fictions. It can both means a documentary about rural life or a representation of the countryside by the distorted imagination of a urban citizen.
Everything here is about contemplation and slowness, we almost hear the time passing. People are lying, sitting or staring at the camera or at something out of the frame. There is a romantic representation of the landscapes which reminds us the painters from XIXth century like Caspar David Friedrich (the old woman at the end of the book contemplating the valley or the view pasted on the cover) and an utopian one, which refers to the writings of Henry David Thoreau, particularly in “Walden or, Life in the Woods”.
What we never know in the book is the reason why those persons are living in the countryside. There are houses but also trailers, caravans and tents and we can’t avoid to have in mind the economic state of Spain and the very high rate of unemployment. The country fictions are probably made of urbans who wanted to find more place and time, but maybe also of poor people who found an alternate way of life: unemployed and working poor people could not afford to stay in cities where rental costs are prohibitive. It is also about a regained pride, the values are not the same, and whatever their homes are, they feel comfortable and happy at home.
We feel a strong empathy for those people, because they seem to be “available”. When we cross their sight, we feel they were waiting for us. We could have a chat, share some moments and maybe learn a bit from them. Learn how we can use the time differently, learn what are valuable things in regard of life.
This book could be the complete opposite of Paul Graham The Present. The photographic process is very similar, building some strongly composed photographs. Working on the concept of street photography (which is a urban concept), the photographs of Graham define some gushing views, we can’t enter them, they are already fulfilled by enough people and no one care for each other.
The book ends with a poem about the quest for something better… in the future…
The book has been released in November 2014 by the new Spanish publishing house Fuego Books. Green hardcover book with a pasted photo on the cover, 21 x 24,3 cm, 80 pages and 34 color photographs, 500 copies. Afterword by Eduardo Momeñe.
And another review : http://colinpantall.blogspot.fr/2015/01/country-fictionscountry-hell.html
On Paul Graham The Present : http://www.thegreatleapsideways.com/?ha_exhibit=the-folding-of-time-paul-grahams-the-present
All images copyright Juan Aballe and Fuego Books.
The bronze sculpture of a lion’s head, probably coming from a sunken Greek or Phoenician ship, was found off the Calabrian coast, in southernmost Italy. Carbon dating is currently in progress (Libération, 21st August 2012). To me it sounded like a rendez-vous. To see the lion behind the window once more. Embraced.
This extract from the text page 34, opposite to the picture reproduced on the cover tells the complete story of the book. Reading those lines, I now, feel the same urgence to explore those traces… This is one of the particularity of the book which is made of an association of black and white photos with texts. The texts are not captions, but some short stories, which may have been lived by the author… or not, to accompany the photos or to resonate with them. That’s, in my opinion, the best guide ever to discover a city.
I have never wanted to go to Venice, but Eric’s work may have changed my opinion. I want to see « the lion behind the window », and this is what this book is about. A few references come instantly in mind : the journeys of painters in XIXth century (particularly the ones of Turner going through Europe and Venice), or the lions standing to face the cossacks on the stairs of a city close to another sea, Odessa, in Potemkine.
In his book, Eric has remarkably succeeded his evocation of what could be considered as a « cultural heritage ». The book is about the Mediterranean culture, about what the sea has built as a common heritage, through six historical cities which, in different times and different locations have all been very important in the construction of our civilization : Venice, Istanbul, Jerusalem, Alexandria, Sarajevo and Cordoba.
We walk through the cities, focus on a detail, are drawn by a form. There is no picturesque in the photographs, but this is neither an aimlessly collection of street photography. If you expect to find a view from Piazza San marco in Venice or the Blue Mosque in Istanbul you will be disappointed. On the opposite, you will discover the best part of those cities, the ones that remain hidden to the tourists groups in a hurry. You will stare for hours at a column, or an icon touched by light, you’ll pick up a stone on the floor or discover an abstract landscape through the window from the train.
After reading the book, I get the fantastic feeling of « knowing » the cities, and by knowing, I also mean the will to know more and more, to go again and again on those traces, maybe… to see the lion behind the window once more.
Oops ! I forgot to talk about something essential : the book comes with a CD inserted in the back cover. The disc becomes the original soundtrack of the journey. You can listen the 13 tracks while turning the pages and it will emphasize your own perceptions. You’ll be transported from a place to another, flying over the Mediterranean sea.
Hardcover book, beautifully crafted, 18 x 24 cm, 160 pages, 67 black and white photographs, texts and photos by Eric Le Brun, foreword by Anouar Benmalek, includes a CD with songs interpreted by Emmanuelle Bunel. All texts in French, English and, city by city, translated in the language of the country.
All images copyright Eric Le Brun and Editions Light Motiv.