After defeating Polyphemus on the Cyclops island, Ulysses, in an excess of arrogance, reveals his identity to the giant who in rage asks his father Poseidon to inflict the worst torments to Ulysses during his journey back over seas.
One eyed Ulysses, by JM Ramirez-Suassi is a fable, a contemporary odyssey, and the transposition is successful. For four long years, the photographer evolves around Madrid and its suburbs. No explanation accompanies the photographs, it is up to us to find a meaning … or not. The rythm is slow and we focus on small things, small people, small here having the sense of ordinary and not value. There is no broad view, the horizon never appears, as if to hide the final goal, or to tell us that the road will be long. Sequences are constructed and deconstructed to better lose us.
One of the great qualities of this book lies in its lack of explanations, but also and especially in the sequencing. The author could have easily fallen into a compilation of beautiful pictures, a collection of views. But on the contrary the story makes sense, recurring patterns return to the rhythm of pages, bottles, dead animals, people. All these elements stand at the margins of our society, they form signs that show us the hidden face of what surrounds us. All these little details that we no longer see, either because they are without value, without interest, or because we are in a hurry, because the goal matters more than the way.
Then JM Ramirez-Suassi challenges us and shows us that the journey becomes an experience in itslef. We get lost to better wonder what the next moment will reveal to us. We struggle in our progression, barriers, gates, strings strew our way, we must make detours. Associations are made, as in a dream, a broken windshield gives place, on the next page to a delicate spiderweb revealed by the morning dew. We must then abandon our preconceived ideas, leave the presuppositions aside and let us be guided by our imagination. Memories arise, a moment that we had already glimpsed, elsewhere, on another path, that we had not captured, but which our unconscious remembers.
The book reminds us of the montage of attractions theorized by SM Eisenstein. The sequences cannot be the result of chance, they must have a meaning, it could not be otherwise. We must cling to something that makes sense, reassures us and so, everyone will find their story by filling the gaps. This succession of small encounters becomes touching. We find ourselves in the middle of the story and it seems to us to belong to these places, we recognize ourself and we move in there with facility. Our ability to appropriate our surroundings reassures us and makes this environment safe in a resolutely resilient nature.
After being through this wandering, the book ends with a contemporary metaphor of our societies. The odyssey ends facing a wall surmounted by barbed wire which evokes the fences on the borders of Europe, and what we finally discover behind this wall, which, perhaps, was the goal of this quest, remains cold and scary. And now remains the bitter taste of what is inside and what is outside, wether it is in our societies or in a globalization context.
I finally want to add that everything written above is just a personnal interpretation due to the sequencing and the choice of the photographs. Everyone will have his own perception and his own reading when opening this book. And I really encourage you to do it by your own…
Harcover book published in 2018 by NOW photobooks. 24 x 30 cm, 144 pages, 91 color photographs. Very limited print run of 175 copies which may sell fast !