Subterranean river, by Łukasz Rusznica

Let’s take advantage of the beginning of the year to come back to a very beautiful book published last year, which, if it had not already been mentioned by others, would surely have appeared on my end-of-year list.

Making a photobook has become a pretty easy thing nowadays. As anyone in this little world, I can only admit that I am submerged every day under new announcements, new requests for crowdfunding campaigns, pre-purchase, and I do not complain, however, it becomes more and more difficult to detect works that stand out and surprise us. Making a book nowadays is no longer simply adding page after page of good quality images, but it’s much more about sharing an experience, told through a series of photographs, sketching a narrative in which the reader will be snapped up and whose he will only come out changed.

Well, Subterranean river is this kind of book, a one in which I enter with caution, a one which I sees to understand without going straight to the explanations of the author. Whether it’s a photobook, a novel or an essay, I never read the preface before entering the book, I do not want to know what I have to wait for and I prefer to stray on side roads to to fully live my own journey. So obviously, the book of Łukasz surprised me completely as much as it confused me. As a symbol, the first image shows us a nature in disorder, as a way of telling us that what is going to follow is no longer commonplace, so it only remains for us to let be taken in charge. The color images are very strong, we look for a meaning, we detect traces. Other images printed on a very fine paper come punctuate the narration, like telling us another song.

And suddenly, these two songs come into resonance as we discover a new series of photographs printed on red pages, characters, as ghosts appear in baroque compositions. Within this complicated nature, we finally crossed paths and established a communication. The book seems to be a spiritual research in the meaning of what Kandinsky said in his book « On the spiritual in art » about the different relationships between movement, form and color, in the artistic practice.

In a text, at the end of the book, Olga Drenda reveals part of the mystery and explains the quest Łukasz has made across Japan. We are here dealing with a spiritual journey, no anecdotes about the Japanese society, no sort of Orientalism as we have known for centuries. This trip could have taken place in other places, but if Łukasz chose Japan, it is, as he explains, because «  When travelling to Japan, I knew one thing only — I wanted to take pictures based on Japanese mythology; I wanted to photograph the Yokai — the monsters of legend. Photography came as the result of working in new surroundings; it was the end process of meeting people and building relationships — this is surely why so many of the pictures (and the intimate ones in particular) are of my friends or the people who trusted me — of humane people. The non-human world is more than a background or visual filler; it is of equal importance. I understood that what interested me most here was nature. Man is a part of it… ».

It only remained for him to let be guided … and for us to do the same …

Harcover book published by Fundacja Sztuk Wizualnych / Palm* Studio in 2018. 23.5 x 31 cm, 120 pages. Print run : 500 copies

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Tobiko, by Gabriele Harhoff

What a strange name that little word « Tobiko ». My first reaction was to googlize it : it means « flying fish roe », as mentioned in the back of the book. A food popular in Japan, especially for the production of sushi. But what is most amusing are the photos found associated with this word: small piles of eggs with incredible colors. Originally, the eggs are orange, but we find some green, flavored with wasabi, black, with squid ink, or orange-red tainted with soy. Well, it is a festival of color. And thus, knowing Gabriele, we understand the reason for the title of this book. Her first book was titled Pelikan, from the boxes of the famous brand of water painting for children. Let’s bet this one will also deal with color matters…


Gabriele is what can be called a colorist. The colorful pattern prevails over all other considerations. After a previous work in Thailand and Malaysia, she now, turns her camera to Japan where she realized the photographs for this book, mainly in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. But what I especially appreciate in Gabriele’s work, is the delicacy and subtlety of her use of color. Her work remains delicate, as these little fish eggs. What stands out is both vibrant saturated colors and tranquility of desaturated monochrome, enhanced with a touch of light or shades of gray …


To guide us, Gabriele has added to her book a little map of the Tokyo subway. Entirely in Japanese, it is impossible for a foreigner to understand anything whatsoever! But it rather works as a color-code to help our moves. It uses the same colors that are in the photos and one wonders if it is possible to find a scheme, if this work would not be, finally a stroll through the streets of Tokyo, with for sole guide, not the language, but the color.


Gabriele manages remarkably well to give us back the atmosphere of the city. We see no monuments, no spectacular sights, but the everyday world of Tokyo inhabitants. Little things we see every day which gradually disappear from our eyes. Far from any anecdote, we walk the city aimlessly. Our attention is drawn to an object on a piece of wall. The city is petrified, it seems deserted and the only characters that are crosses stood still like statues, frozen in a pose that seems eternal. It is not known if they live in the city or have been left behind in a polite waiting in front of a pedestrian crossing, transforming themselves in a sort of urban furniture.


It should finally be noted that this book is beautifully handcrafted. The folds and binding are of a Japanese elegance. 56 copies only, then there will not be for everyone!

« Tobiko » is published in an edition of 56, signed and numbered. 31 x 23 cm, French fold, hand bound with Japanese stab binding, digitally printed on 150 g Profimatt.

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Read Gabriela’s review :