Cape of Good Hope was first a photobook blog by David Nollet. It became an independent publishing house when David published his own book entitled « Façade Démocratique » in 2016. Two years later Cape of Good Hope offers us a new book whose poetry is reminiscent of the previous one.
Geert Van Den Eede is a Belgian photographer who brings us, throughout this book, in the Balkans. The photographs were taken from 2007 to 2015 in Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro. The title of the book refers, as much, to the state of this fragmented, disputed, broken territory, as to the photography itself and its own question of representation. Where are we now? of these borders, lines and continually changing patterns that have fueled all fantasies and generated so many dramas for centuries. Where are we now? of this ability to represent with the photography medium. In the foreword, Ognjen Lopušina compares these two statements with the Sisyphus ordeal, finally condemned to continually climb a rock at the top of the mountain without ever succeeding, so Where are we now?
Usually, I do not read the foreword of a book before seeing the pictures, I do not want to condition my perception by the considerations of another. Yet this time I did it, without really knowing why, so I already know a little what I’m going to find, especially since this text is a kind of caption of the photo on the cover: a structure of concrete terraces whose we do not know if it is a finished work, a work in progress, or a demolition site; a kind of perpetual movement which, like this country, never stops to reshape itself, to redraw itself, moving back and forward. So, actually, the photographic representation becomes a challenge. How by its immediacy could it show these turbulences, these movements, sometimes so subtle that a foreign eye would not succeed in discerning them.
So we turn the pages and move on to the book. Very quickly, we are touched by these ephemeral moments that get entangled. We walk with the photographer, we stop for a moment, then we resume the journey. We meet a few people, some suspicious, others distant and, everywhere, traces where an uncertain future stands alongside the tortured past. Geert Van Den Eede describes his work as a travelogue, a sort of wandering across the Balkans, with no purpose nor goal than to record everything that crosses his path, to try to understand this territory and its figures … and the form is successful. The layout is sober and a certain poetry emerges from these places that are not at first very attractive. They become touching or even fragile, even if they are embedded in concrete structures. Each image is rich and the frame filled. We stop and the drama begins, the actors are in place, the acts follow each other and are not alike, or maybe they are, since we read harmonics that hold the piece all along, which gives it its coherence. Each of these bits of history would be a pretext for a novel, point of departure or arrival of a story that would be built in the background.
Concrete is very present throughout the book, it give rythm to the sequences and punctuates the spaces, both public and private. It is subject, becomes scenery, sometimes disappears in rural areas to reappear further. It is the leitmotif of this country, a promise of a modernity to come which is already fading by turning to new futures, like this cosmonaut with the colors of America and its neoliberalism devastating trend. There remains, however, a certain grace in these modernist abstractions, but perhaps it is the same kind of grace that can be found in the photographs « underexposed on an expired 3200 ASA film from a forgotten East German stock », to quote Ognjen Lopušina.
So, I really do not know Where are we now? but with a certain humility, I got to know this country better now, and that’s not bad! Thanks to Geert Van Den Eede and Cape of Good Hope.
Softcover book published by Cape of Good Hope in 2018. 24 x 30 cm, 56 pages and 31 B&W photos. Essay by Ognjen Lopušina
More info : http://www.cape.ag/
The link for my previous review of Façade démocratique : https://whoneedsanotherphotoblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/16/facade-democratique-by-david-nollet/
We know, since the last century, that for Belgians, a pipe is not always a pipe ; so why a photobook that is not about Belgium might not be one after all ! Things are not always what they are supposed to be !
So this book is not a photobook about Belgium, once said, then we can move on. Maybe this book is a book about Belgians, but beyond that, it’s mostly a tribute to the joy of living through what might be called a resilient form of happiness. From the cover, things are affirmed: a squat in the dark, shouting in front of the European borough, a status : « façade démocratique » (democratic facade). People shall overcome technocracy, capitalism and « for profit » enacted rules. And the book takes us on a ride, from bars to bars, the Jupiler appearing in watermarks. Jupiler, the famous beer from Liege, is ubiquitous and its mere mention is enough to evoke the warm atmosphere of bars that remain privileged places of meetings. We walk the streets, we come across couples of all ages, we even see a sign that says, to the face of those who still doubt, that love exists! No tourism in these images but shared moments, moments of encounter, feelings, with the highlight of the famous carnival of Binche, popular festival that occurs in the public space of the town and mobilizes the whole population.
The photographs were made before the 2008 crisis, they are its cure. We meet Pier Paolo Pasolini who reminds anyone who will listen that « Isn’t it for Happiness that Revolutions are made ? ». Of course they are ! This is this kind of revolution that David talks about in his book, the need to fight against the consumerism that isolates people more than it gathers. Not the Revolution, but these daily actions, these touches of humanity that we all carry in us and whose it is our duty to reveal to others. The photographs are superb, imbued with humanism and the printing perfectly gives justice to the quality of black and white photographs (tri-X still remains brilliant). And on a more personal way, it tells about the whole Belgium I like (yes, but beware, this is not a photobook about Belgium). It talks of Ostend which I do not know but dream of visiting, we drink Jupiler, it smell chips and sausages with the more than fifty varieties of sauces that any chip shop must offer ; we hear the screams of children following the carnival, and then we pass in front of Peter Van Petegem’s Danscafé Mustang, hero of the Ronde and Paris Roubaix. It throws myself back in time, full of hope young cyclist, on the roads of the Circuit Franco Belge … That was years ago, well long before the crisis!
We also cross the absurd, a naturalized fish, a triple medalist, who knows what for, a frightened cat under the photographers’ spots, an aboveground abandonned boat ! And all along, this carnival atmosphere that comes sprinkle the book.
And then there’s this girl, isolated in a car show, dreamy. She reminds me so much of this photograph by Robert Frank, a young woman in an elevator. I just want to join Jack Kerouac who asked about that girl : « That little ole lonely elevator girl looking up sighing in an elevator full of blurred demons, what’s her name & address? » This image condenses all the tenderness and melancholy of David Nollet, his empathy that crosses pages and takes us with a hope constantly renewed. It is not for nothing than his publishing house is called « Cape of Good Hope » (we shall never give up !).
The book ends with a view of a circuit car ride. The kind of same as we were longing for, every year with impatience, when it came to settle on the village square. For a week or two, it was carnival, rides, children’s games, excitation, flirting teenagers, and at the end, hope and expectations, already, that this time shall return the following year. The quality of this work is that David has created a universal story, we can all appropriate it, because we have all experienced those kind of moments. In that meaning, it is not a photobook about Belgium! QED!
Hardcover book, 22,5 x 31,5 cm, 104 pages, 47 black and white photos, design Kaat Flamey, quotes by Pier Paolo Pasolini, Herman Selleslags, Rudy Vandendaele and a Citizen of Brussels.
More info/order : http://www.cape.ag/?page_id=985