The relationship between men and horses goes back to the origins, when the strength of the second was placed in the service of the former for the needs of agriculture or for the necessities of transporting distances which the march would not have permitted. The welfare of the one depended on the well-being of the other, and the roads were punctuated with relays where animals and men could find rest and food. All our imagination is fulfilled with stories of horses : love stories, wild stories, sad stories…
Brenda Moreno chose to use the metaphor of this relationship to dig back in search of her identity. B to B is a book about memory, and therefore about what shapes us throughout life, but also about memories that we have.
The book begins on the cover with a « mise en abime » of a identity picture, decadred that would have « slipped » out of its housing. We open the book to discover a series of identity photos of Brenda at different ages. The identity photo is the document that attests our existence. This is the document we have to show to prove who we are and, most importantly, that we are indeed the one we claim to be. It has even been amplified recently when the regulation of these small photographs has become hardened, standardized to the extreme, without allowing any expression on the face, thus pointing the fact that we have to be as neutral as we can !
Well this book is quite the opposite, it synthesizes the existence of emotions and memories more than any official notion of identity. Through the book, Brenda searches for herself, in a Proustian approach where every memory is a brick of the building she is trying to reconstitute. The horse is recurrent, like a subliminal image, perhaps of another life, reincarnated in her present body, with the pain that comes out of this forgotten past. The memories are sometimes imprecise, or childish; Brenda experiences collage to express her ideas, it is a work in progress, or, to better say, in the making, in reconstruction.
The book is a vast psychoanalytic collage in which Brenda poses mental images, collages, juxtapositions, as well as family photos including their ghosts. The ghost in a family history can often be the source of disorder that must be fought. Sometimes we catch a glimpse of it in this book, or at least we think of it, in the suture of an image, or the blur of another. Dreams are present, nightmares too! We have to unravel all this, pull a thread, follow it and see where it leads us. We leave the book exhausted, filled with an impression that we are missing some keys, but that, nevertheless, Brenda has opened us doors to rooms that still have to be explored. The impression that Brenda gave us a lot and that we know her a little bit better, like having spent the afternoon with a friend, talking about the time passing, about ourselves, memories, hopes, well… life.
When the book is finished, we close it, but there are still pages : a fiery black horse arises in the frame, rebel to any appropriation, and two pages where, then, identity photos have disappeared. We no longer need them, no answers in these small documents, it is elsewhere, probably in the pages that preceded.
At the end of this book, I remind a film of Bela Tarr : The horse of Turin. The film begins with the Turin episode of Nietsche’s life, and then evokes the life and destinies of a farmer, his daughter and their horse. Of course, it is another story, but maybe this is one of the doors half-opened by Brenda Moreno?
Published by Witty Kiwi, softcover, 88 pages 17 x 21.5 cm, text by Carmen Dalmau. Edition of 900 copies.
More info : https://www.brendamoreno.com/book
How to start talking about this book? Perhaps noting that this book is one of the weirdest that I have seen recently. In 2014, when Bruce went round the publishers, the answer was quite unanimous: this book cannot be published… too strong. What a strange answer! It is true that many publishers have become very cautious and unwilling to take any risks, despite the fact that it is their role. Some even ask photographers to participate in the production of their book through crowdfunding campaigns. We are far from a Robert Delpire who, against all American reluctance and with a resolutely avant garde editorial approach, published “Les Américains” by Robert Frank and “New York” by William Klein.
Let’s be back to our subject. No clues about the suject when we discover the book. A black linen cover with just the photographer’s name : Bruce Connew, followed by the title of the book : Body of work. We open the book on a new black page before arriving to the title page, inserted on a special light blue paper : this blue used by parents to repaint the room of the boy to come. The last page of the book, which includes a text from the author and the colophon is … pink, the same pink with which parents repaint the bedroom of the girl to come. Two ribbons to mark pages are of these same colors. I always like, when I discover a new book, to look at the title page, and then go through the colophon before interesting myself in the content itself.
We then return to the beginning of the book and, between two white pages, we find inserted a small photograph of wildflowers, like a torn page of a notebook or a diary like those used to note the daily tasks. And the first image appears on the following page. A large dark image on which we recognize the hoof and lower part of the leg of a horse and his erect penis. A slow rythm will settle through the pages, double pages alternating with blank ones, all in a certain dim light. Muscles tense, we are witnessing a beautiful ballet between the stallion and the mare. The book is violent and intense. He tells us about the reproductive process within the equine world. But beyond this, it is also the story of a fascination Bruce Connew had since a former photograph he saw a long time ago already. His first approach was still uncertain and one can imagine the surprise of the owner of the barn when Bruce told him about his plan! This is the way a new work emerges, there is a kind of intuition of the subject that is often difficult to formulate; this is classic, the subject will be built slowly. In the case of Bruce Connew, the idea of documenting the world of horse-breeding was full of presupposition, but after spending months scrutinizing the horse breeding process, he became attentive to every detail! And from that patience was born this superb book. You could almost miss an important aspect of the work, focused on the formalist photographs, shapes and light that glides on the fur. But taking the time to look at pictures, back and forward, you may discover all the sensitivity of this work that appears in the amazing gazes. Everything happens in the dark, you have to be constantly attentive to detect these tiny details. If the eyes are the mirror of the soul, Bruce asserts: Through mournful eyes, they would make known an understanding of their peculiar predicament.
The book is beautifully printed, which is necessary to render this special atmosphere of the barn in a dim light, we come to smell the musky smell of horses, the sweat, the semen. What was formerly related to economic issues simply becomes sensitive. For those who followed horse races and bets at bookmakers, you know the importance of filiation in the racehorses world, the temptation of a genetic optimization for the “perfect” animal with “absolute” qualities. But all that is set aside here and Bruce well says : I wonder now whether this was my construction, and sprang from somewhere other than what I witnessed in the breeding barn. His work is convincing because, at the end of his book, we ask ourselves the same question! I will probably never look at a mare the way I did before this book. And to be honest, it has taken me some time to really enter this book, but it is definitely worth a review.
And by the way, the 38 images of the series (size 800 x 532mm, frame size 830 x 562 mm) are available for international exhibitions, and I would love to see them, because, even if the book is beautiful, I would so much appreciate to see the large prints.
Hardcover book self published in 2015 in New Zealand ; 24 x 35 cm, black linen cover, 68 pages with 38 black and white photos. Signed and numbered in an edition of 600 copies.