Hortus Botanicus, Rafael « Tanaka » Monzo

Hortus Botanicus, one might think that everything is said in the title. This term refers to a botanical garden, and in this case, the one in Valencia – Spain, town where Rafael lives. For it to be factual, the title remains mysterious, precisely by this reference to Latin, the official language of the « plants and trees » world, although it often remains a linguistic approximation.

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However, this is not to a guided tour that Rafael invites us, but rather to an imaginary journey. This work takes us back to those moments of childhood during which we slept in the grass to watch the canopy and let our imaginations wander. No way here to recognize the garden of Valencia, it is in a dream world that Rafael takes us.

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To do so, he chose different methods. The first is the use of superimposed photos. Carefully cut out, the shapes in black and white, mix and recompose. We see shapes appearing and disappearing from a page to another one. We hear the sound of leaves together rustling. A tree, already seen, draws itself in the background, becomes tangled in the leaves of another to create a mutant species that remains to be determined. Herbs have the thickness of a trunk. At the end, we don’t know if these images are representations of reality or reconstructions of our memory.

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The second process is related to the printing conditions. Rafael chose a silver paper with a metalic render for the cover and a semi-mate paper for the inside, which gives an extra dimension to photographs by the brightnesses and nuances that appear when leafing through the book. Shapes emerge from the fog of our dream. The images are very soft and gray background makes them immaterial, we find it hard to discern the shapes and to recognize them…

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To photograph vegetation is not an easy work. You can easily tend to some superficial aesthetics which is only « nice » but without any background spirit. This book is the exact opposite, Rafael has found the perfect distance and appreciation to render the spirit of trees.

That reminds me one of my absolute favorite song :

Come closer and see
See into the trees
Find the girl
If you can…

A Forest, by The Cure, a recommended soundtrack to listen while reading the book !

Shirokuro Edition, softcover book, 32 pages, 13 X 20 cm, digital printing, edition of 60 copies signed and numbered . The book somes with a small print.

More info : http://tanaka-clan.tumblr.com/

And another very good review : https://gabrielacendoya.wordpress.com/2016/01/27/27-de-enero-2016-hortus-botanicus-rafael-monzo-tanaka/?blogsub=confirming#subscribe-blog

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Ukraine, what’s up ? Presentiment by Yulia Krivich and Holy water by Christopher Nunn

In February 2014, the world turned their eyes towards the Maidan in Kiev, which became known as Euromaidan. The population rose up to chase a corrupt leader in the pay of Russia. Many photographers were there to testify, and during Paris Photo in November of that year, we discovered beautiful photobooks that came out of this popular experience. Then Russia annexed the Crimea and there was (is) a war in the Donbass … And then nothing!

This is one of the problems of Western society that has the ability to ignite quickly to support people, but that has, too, the same ability to forget them once the crisis has passed, even if the problems remain.

This is why these two works are remarkable. Both are confronted with the reality of everyday life, and thus, they’re confronting opposite approaches of their origins. Yulia Krivich is of Ukrainian origin and currently lives in Poland, while Christopher Nunn is an English photographer who shares time between England and Ukraine. And finally, both have produced a book, both from works in progress, which are as fragile as the current Ukrainian society.

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Yulia Krivich choose an innovative form for her book. It is a newsprint, folded and stitched inside a hardcover binding. Her vision comes after the Ukrainian crisis, and we feel all of her cultural impregnation. She returns to her homeland to face this changing society. This is a committed book she proposes, concerned, not here in the sense of the denunciation of a problem, but rather as an expression of a deep feeling that she will try to share with us: her own feeling, facing with the reality that she finds again during each trip in Ukraine. Hence her title of Presentiment! Her photographs go through various states, sometime contemplative and peaceful, sometime charged with an underlying violence, like these armed men or a scar of unknown origin.

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Yulia manages efficiently to share with us her anxieties. If one begins his book with calm and serenity, tension is gradually seizing us, distorting the meaning of images and making us doubt their significance. Any attempt of appeasement is systematically offset by a factual return to reality of violence. We finally don’t know anymore if we feel our own anguish, or the result of the unstable situation in this society, transformed by violent changes. The form itself of this publication reinforces this feeling: the fragility of newsprint in its protective hardbound case.

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Christopher Nunn has chosen to show us the Ukrainian society through the prism of Christianity.

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His work does not take place after the revolution, neither has a real connection with it. He began his series in 2013 and his work is still in progress, but it is impossible to look at this series without having in mind the recent troubles.

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The main interest of this work is to send us backward to a forgotten humanity. The medias have focused on land issues, the annexation of the Crimea, Donbass war questioning the Russian border, but beyond these questions of territory, there are human beings, people who share time together, having fun or being sad, who speak or who stand proudly… Well, they’re living!

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With Christopher’s help, we enter into the intimacy of families. We are not here as tourists but rather friends visiting, who came to share a moment. I particularly like the lighting that gives us Christopher Nunn on the Ukrainian society. This is the kind of work that we need, to continue to understand a society subjected to changes, to inner or outer attacks, and which finally shows the resilience of the human being.

Presentiment by Yulia Krivich, published by Fundacja Sztuk Wizualnych in 2015. Newsprint 24 x 32,5 cm folded in a hardcover binding 17 x 24 cm. 40 pages, 20 colour photographss. 300 copies signed.

Holy water by Christopher Nunn, published by Village in 2015. Softcover 23 x 32 cm. 40 pages with 23 colour photographs. 500 copies (first 100 come with a C print).

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More info :

http://yuliakrivich.com/presentiment-1/

http://www.shop.sztukawizualna.org/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=250

http://www.christophernunn.co.uk/holy-water-publication/

http://www.villagebookstore.co.uk/products/holy-water/