The distances between us, by Sarah Pollman

From memory after death, Sarah Pollman gives us, in this book, a series, like a documentary work, about the remaining memory of the missing ones and the role of the graves.

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Throughout the world, cemeteries are places of collective memory and each grave allows individual recollection. One comes to remember the moments spent with the deceased and, perhaps, to try to establish a relationship, a form of communication. Perhaps each one secretly hopes an answer to the questions he could not have asked…

In front of these tombstones, the work of Sarah Pollman, divided into two parts, refers to the notion of anonymity and universality. Except in case of cremation, graves are everyone’s ultimate residency. The first part was shot in New England cemeteries, graves whose only inscriptions refer to the notion of parents : « father » and « mother » for the sole mention of the memory of those whose status was to have been parents. No epitaph, but their only condition of couple, whose last will was probably to be buried together. Photographed in the dawning light that reveals the delicacy of the memory engraved in the stone, as a last attention by the children. These graves remain anonymous for anyone other than their descendants, but they become universal, as the parents of everyone of us. This work reminds me the old series of Sophie Calle, shot in California in 1978.

The two series are enclosed with a double blank page, a space of recollection like the silence that seizes us when we approach a grave, a mix of embarrassment and pain.

The second series is a succession of black and white photographs, showing numbers on different supports, metal, wood, concrete… slight remaining traces of forgotten graves. Again, all sign of identity disappears, and it just remains a file number. Sarah Pollman focus here on the cemeteries of hospitals, prisons and hospices, where are buried persons whose body has not been reclaimed. These photographs are touching because, those persons have been forgotten in death as they were during their life, these images evoke the sadness of a life of solitude (or at least at the end). No one will come to mourn on these graves, and yet this one idea would make me want to do it, as if to testify to these anonymous people a kind of last tribute.

In the middle of the book, a text separates the two series of photographs. It is writen at the first person and seems to be a personal experience of Sarah Pollman, revealing thus, the title of the work, when it is evoked what remains, finally, weeks later, when the snow falls… the distances between us.

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A last thought comes to my mind as I go through this book. This is the quality of printing which is rather weak, as for, once again, to emphasize the previous idea and to gives us, here, photos « without qualities » in the sense of Robert Musil book or in the form of a « book poor » as proposed by Daniel Leuwers.

Hardcover book published in 2016 by Trema Förlag. 20 x 28 cm, 56 pages, 28 photos color and black and white. Print run 400 copies.

More info : http://www.sarahpollman.com/the-distances-between-us

 

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InselWesen by Mila Teshaieva

In 2013, the superb book « Promising waters » took us around the Caspian Sea to discover new post-Soviet states located around this inland sea. The new work of Mila Teshaieva reverse, this time, the proposal to make us discover an island and its inhabitants. Result of a two-year residency at the Museum Kunst der Westküste on the German island of Föhr in the North Sea, with this new series, Mila tries to understand what gathers and unites the people in their insularity (the title of the book is literally « being insular »).

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It is never easy to arrive as a foreigner on an island, to enter a community without having acquired the codes. Thus you should take your time, give pledges to be accepted, and clearly, Mila has earned the trust of the islanders. She met locals and began his photographic work. A text, written by Marcus Lenz, in the book sums up this way to depict a territory : « The darkness sharpens your senses, suddenly you can hear the tiny sounds and you know where they’re coming from. You can see at night ». This is how we enter this world, Mila chose to literally paint with light his subjects. The photographs are made at night, they are very dark and we have to pay attention to explore the scene with characters and objects that are, in the darkness, revealed by a light brush. The photographic time is long, the image stretches and we are transported back in time. The characters are frozen, beyond all eternity, each focused on its task as if generations mingled to tell us the island. At no time we will cross a look and if sometimes it seems that one of them stare at us, his gaze pierces us and is already far behind us.

The choice of costumes and the use of light transform those images into paintings, particularly due to the effects of light and shade as found in Caravaggio or in some Flemish painters, but the reference to the painting also appears in a sense of déjà vu, like in Cezanne Card Players or Women at their toilette by Picasso, a sort of revisiting the history of painting ! Representation is clever, there is no need to show everything to say things. On the contrary, to represent is already taking sides, choosing what will be seen and deleting what is of no interest, putting in light, to finally understand what unites these men and women, to reach this timeless dimension, which, from universal becomes singular on this island and wwhich were the fundamentals of the community. A dimension that appears only to the one who will take the time, who will remain silent in the middle of the night to watch every gesture, every movement, to listen to every sound. The characters are revealed and nature comes to life, we discover the ancestral activities that were hunting and fishing, seasons, events, everything that was specific to the island despite the development of a seaside tourism resort in the early XIXth century. Any modernity is erased, as if the light only reveals that what lasts.

We leave this book as an imaginary world. We do not know if the story told was real or if we were asleep, just for a moment, while our imagination wandered. It remains however a few pictures, slightly unclear, of these bodies and objects that can be seen in the dark, and the feeling of coming back from a long journey in time.

The only frustration that remains at the end of this book is the desire to see the photographs in a larger size and high print quality. As for paintings, after seeing the book, we would like to see the work for real, to appreciate all the details and finesse. Of course, the offset process has difficulty to render the subtleties of lighting used.

Hardcover book published in 2016 by Kehrer Verlag, 23 x 21 cm, 96 pages, 38 color photos, texts in German and English by Marcus Lenz.

More info : http://www.milateshaieva.com/books

And : http://www.artbooksheidelberg.de/html/en/program/detail.html?ID=1027

A previous review of Mila Teshaieva’s Promising Waters : https://whoneedsanotherphotoblog.wordpress.com/2014/09/20/promising-waters-by-mila-teshaieva/

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David’s House, by Alex Ingram

St Davids is a small village, at the end of the world (1841 inhabitants) where Alex spent a part of his childhood. Well, in fact, St Davids is a city ! I remember years ago, talking to an English friend about what is the difference between a city and a town, and he told me a city is a place with a cathedral. So St Davids is the smallest city of the United Kingdom, located at the westernmost point of the Pembrokeshire in Wales. The place takes its name from the settlement around the monastery that David, Saint Patron of Wales founded in the VIth century. The Welsh name « Tyddewi » means literraly David’s house, which is the title of the book.

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As often, the places in recluse areas are like islands, and the people who live there form an united community surrounded by a strong landscape, mainly of rocky coasts facing the sea. The landscape is both a constituent element and a unifying element. The landscape and the people become one. The community consists of a delicate mix between a landscape that shapes men and men who shape the landscape. There are however no struggle here, but rather a sort of ballet, a dance of seduction, a common love between Man and Nature.

As a native from this city, Alex returned to his hometown to meet the locals. A neighbour, Dai Turner, was the starting point of this work : a desire to go to meet the people and to better understand them. During a slow work, we go side by side with Alex. We stop for a chat with someone we met, a proud man standing in his workshop, his tools on a wall, talking about his former life as a coxswain on a lifeboat, and who can, now, spend hours looking out at the sea ; or a retired farmer explaining his first date with the girl who’s gonna become his wife, on a boat to collect seagull’s eggs ! Both the portraits and the texts are touching and full of empathy. The portraits are very successful, and the texts provide some « extra time ». They are a complement which creates a synergistic effect. The quality of Alex as portraitist makes them beautiful, but mostly manages to make us understand that community. Photographed in situation, we perceive a link, something intangible that makes them part of a whole. All generations mingled, from older, settled on the land for generations, to younger, who have recently moved and have chosen this place by love. All of them stand proudly and look straight at us and say: yes, we are here and nothing will make us leave this city.

And between these portraits, we traverse the moor, we walk through the countryside, we follow a stream … and always come back to the sea. It must be said that three quarters of the area are made of rocky coasts. Life here is punctuated by the tides. We leave the Cathedral and we go to the fields, pass by a housing estate, we see an old abandoned caravan, toilets close to mobile-homes, farms… There is no doubt that this work is a representation « from the inside », which is offered by someone initiated to roads and detours. Again, the texts come back to mind, they form a kind of soundtrack that accompanies our walk and then, some words become evident : how could it be otherwise ?

The main economy of the town is tourism, but we do not perceive tourists, neither the area around the cathedral or some souvenirs shops. St Davids, as presented to us here, is the one those tourists who spend breezed along the beautiful coast of Pembrokeshire, will probably never see. They will not take the time necessary to understand this place. They will never see the bulb on a ceiling, or green beans freshly picked from the garden beside a cup of tea. Neither they will see all the villagers gathered in the village city ballroom around a mulled wine and the Welsh flag proudly hanged on the wall. Then the night finally falls on St Davids when silence settles. We perceive a light behind the blinds of a house, we look at the starry sky above the village and the sea remains in mind, as it all began and where it ends, as a final tribute to the missing at sea, common tragedies for such territories.

I might as well continue, talking about each image, listening to these stories, but the best is to preserve a little mystery. You will need to take the time to discover Tyddewi ; and with Alex Ingram as a guide, we can feel we have all grown up here!

Limited Edition Hardback (edition of 20) + 10″x8″ archival print, handmade , 21,5 X 28,5 cm , 114 pages, 55 colour images and paperback edition of 50, perfect bound.

« David’s House » has been shortlisted for the South West Graduate Photography Prize! The project will be exhibited alongside 6 other photographers at the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane between 13th-16th October, with the opening night on Thursday 13th October, followed by further exhibitions in Bristol and Falmouth.

More info : http://www.alexingramphoto.com/

Another book by Alex Ingram previously reviewed : https://whoneedsanotherphotoblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/09/the-sociology-of-football-an-unconditional-love-by-alex-ingram-and-fc-volga-united-by-sergey-novikov/

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More cars, clothes and cabbages, by Torsten Schumann

Torsten Schumann is a German photographer, born in 1975 in Dresden. Thus, until the age of 14, he grew up in German Democratic Republic. It has been said a lot about the communist bloc countries, but I have absolutely no idea what it could have represented to live in one of these countries. However I think that having experienced the transition of the unification of Germany leads to a very personal way of looking at the world. He started photography in the 90s, following various courses and began exploring public space, mainly in Germany.

Torsten could be considered a humorist, which is the sense of the foreword written by Hannes Wanderer, who published the book through his excellent publishing house Peperoni Books. Torsten likes to play with reality. He walks through the city, like everyone else, but it seems not to see the same things. He’s the kind of guy who, when you point your finger to show him something, turns his head to look at the other side. Nothing is more boring for him than the obvious!

This way of looking at the world transports us into a fantasy world. I can not help but think of Lewis Carroll’s Alice, in which Torsten would be the mysterious rabbit that we want to follow and let it guide us in this mysterious world that is behind the scenes. It is a story passer, a revealer of the world. He allows us to understand what hitherto remained mysterious to us, what we do not see because of lack of understanding. We look at the world with distance, as spectators behind the mirror, and thus we discover the « behind the scenes » of these public spaces we travel regularly without paying attention.

There is a kind of minimalism of the ordinary in the photographs in the book. And yet the compositions are very sophisticated. One wonders how the photographer have gotten there, and what patience it took him to capture these moments. The colors are right, framing affirmed. Everything or everyone finds his place. Obviously, this work questions once again the relationship between beauty in representation and beauty in life. The subjects of the photographs are not beautiful, far from it. This is an apology of nooks, waste, poorly finished bricolages, all the little abandoned places that bother us, that « spoil us the view », to turn them into paintings with precise compositions that we think just coming out of the workshop of a painter who would patiently reconstructed the scene from still moments. The captured characters are timeless, frozen for eternity in this pose somewhat ungainly and clumsy, but that makes them so endearing.

Torsten is a precise colorist who manipulates color values subtly, from a shimmer of bright colors to images of such neutral gray that you would think they’re black and white (one of my favorite is the one of a lower part of a building and garage with a bent woman who melts into the gray values of the building). And of course, he also cleverly uses the light that comes to saturate a detail or reveal the transparency of a shadow. Each photograph is so « rich » that it takes time to read and reread this book. With each reading, we discover a detail that we had not noticed before. We have to take the time to fully understand this representation of the world.

Really, this little facetious rabbit still holds some surprises!

Published by Peperoni Books in 2016. Beautiful pearl effect hardcover book, 24 x 28 cm, 96 pages, 55 color photographs.

More info : http://torstenschumann.de/

And the publisher’s site : http://peperoni-books.de/cars_clothes_cabbages_en.html

 


Body of work, by Bruce Connew

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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.

More info : http://www.bruceconnew.com/books/#12-body-of-work

And : http://www.josefchladek.com/book/bruce_connew_-_body_of_work

 


From Russia with love, part II

For the last few years we discover more and more photographers that came from Eastern Europe, especially Russia. This is certainly one of the positive effects of globalization that we can access this production. After my previous post, I wanted to come back on two great books recently discovered, which have in common to question the functioning and building of memory(ies).

The first is “Old family photographs and deep sky objects”, by Alla Mirovskaya. Superb self-published book that combines old photos from family albums with pictures of space made by the Hubble telescope and from Chandra Observatory.

At first sight, one might wonder why associate these two series, especially as Alla Mirovskaya mixes the captions. But it’s ultimately how we begin to find meaning. We realize that to be figurative as these two series are, they nonetheless unknown to us. Whether the constellations or the characters are only known through their representations. They contain the same vagueness while the images overlap and intermingle. Something appears in our imagination, which is not without recalling the montage of attractions theorized by S. M. Eisenstein. One does not only remain a spectator of the story, one seems to remember, alongside Alla when turning the pages of the album. Alla also explains that it is a bit to perpetuate the family tradition that she has done this work. One way to include this memory on paper, now abandoned to the computer.

What is also touching is this association of the closest and the further. This intimacy experienced through the families stories from which Alla Mirovskaya takes her matter, and the absolute distance that no human being will ever experience of the faraway space. It’s a big gap in the history of mankind.

This book is also a piece of the history of Russia and the Soviet Union. We see young pioneers at the Komsomol, leisures, community activities, groups. And also, the shadow of the Cold War with the choice to combine the intimate pictures of Russian families with the US space observation. Like was the twentieth century, two opposing cultures which both needed each other to exist. This past century  is also reminded to us by the use of a few red tinted photographs which emphasizes the memory of the communist era !

One of the greatest quality of this book is, in my opinion, the opportunity for everyone to find his own story. This is somewhat a puzzle that everyone will have to rebuild, with different pieces of stories.

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Hardcover selfpublished book published in 2016, 15 x 20 cm, 128 pages, 100 copies signed and numbered.

Buy the book at Tipi.

 

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The second book I want to talk about here is “Lookbook” by Anastasia Bogomolova. Old boxes stored in a barn where memories will emerge from. Old clothes from her mother and elder sister, from the eighties and nineties, bought in Soviet stores or sewn at home with the help of patterns found in fashion magazines.

As a child, Anastasia liked to wear these clothes, skirts, blouses and shoes are the symbol of femininity to become for the pre-teenager girl. So Anastasia takes out, from these boxes, these old clothes to begin a journey in time. It becomes a role play to revisit these outfits. The poses are sophisticated, like in those old fashion magazines. Her hair combed, made-up, dressed, she poses in front of old colorful wallpapers from the Soviet era. The colors are acid, both for the clothes and the background. The two will meet in a shimmer of colors.

Just like in those old magazines, poses are supposed to be natural but they are not. Sometimes smiling, sometimes seductive, sometimes dreamy, Anastasia alternately charms us, seduces us, or stare at us with distance. She became actress of that first idea that she had of beauty, discovered in the fashion magazines of the seventies and eighties, questioning the social vision of femininity and sexuality. We find these magazines in the book as small reproductions interspersed, which bear witness to this past history. But where the old fashion photos, are only … fashion photographs, the photographs of Anastasia Bogomolova become canvas in a way like Cindy Sherman did before her. Anastasia is on stage to better look at herself in the process of comprehension of her memory, a way to recreate and to stage his memories. The intriguing effect is that the same woman appears on these photos, as was sometimes the same models found in the pages of these old fashion magazines.

From a personal point of view, this work also resonates with my own history. Indeed, I knew these magazines in the seventies, when, to raise me, my mother quit her job to be a seamstress at home. All around, at home, were these magazines, these pieces of fabric, these patterns, and I got used to the rhythm of the sewing machine …

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Finally, and not least, this book is very funny. One goes through the pages with delight, it is a cure for melancholy (literally since this book is anything but black). We end it with joy, especially since it includes a poster: silk summer dress with blue and white strips, 1989. This is just what we need to prepare for summer.

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Self-published softcover book, published in 2016, First edition of 90 signed and numbered copies, Design by Julia Borissova, Photographs, archive & texts by Anastasia Bogomolova, 21×28,5 cm, 40 pages+32 pages of inserts, Including poster 42×59,4 cm.

Read more : http://anabogomolova.viewbook.com/books

And Colin Pantall’s blog

And a good ressource for Russian books : http://store.fotodepartament.ru/


Façade Démocratique, 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 !

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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!

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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