Familiar places by Ovidiu Gordan

The old-fashioned charm of post communist Romania is the first impression we feel with this book of photographs taken between 2007 and 2017, by Ovidiu Gordan. A bit like the feeling of going to see a friend who takes us through the streets and alleys of his village, then to the countryside.

As familiar as these places are, they are none the less singular. Ovidiu, with his camera, meticulously notes everything he meets and « finds ». He guides us through his country with a certain pride. He tells us his memories, the table of a restaurant he frequents, the cat he often meets on his daily journey and tries in vain to approach. Without knowing Romania, we can let ourselves be carried away by the narrative, this book tells us stories, it leaves priority to in our imagination, like this old Dacia, a copy of the French Renault 12 owned by a person who was dear to us… what has become of her?

We see nothing of the country, or perhaps, on the contrary, we really see it, in the sense of understanding it. No postcards or clichés, the photographs follow the rhythm of our wanderings. When a couple passes by, Ovidiu whispered to us the singular story of these two people. Old photos on the wall, hanged on a decayed wallpaper tell the story of a time when Romania was under the yoke of Ceausescu couple. The photos alternate scenes of incredible precision, as frozen timeless, and other moments vaporous, bathed in blur and fog. Things do not come out spontaneously, you have to make yourself available, give them attention, to find their preciousness. We meet people too, of course, some people who we dare to approach and others we do not want to disturb.

Time passes and we have to leave this friend. The book goes on and familiarity sets in, and becomes our own. We recognize signs, the local culture permeates us, a woman, met on the road, smiles, we are no longer strangers.

The book is endearing in many ways. The principal is certainly the generosity that he transmits which remains in us, after having traveled through those « Familiar places ». There is a need in Ovidiu to seize these moments, to tell their reality, as if we need to be convinced of our own existence. Capturing these little non-events, this collection of little things that we collect every day to keep them preciously in a notebook of memories, until we meet them again, a bit like the book « I remember » by Georges Perec that he presented as: « small pieces of daily life, things that, a year or another, all people of the same age have seen, lived, shared, and which then disappeared, have been forgotten; they were not worthy of being part of history, nor of being included in Memoirs of statesmen, mountaineers, and sacred monsters. Sometimes, however, they come back, a few years later, intact and tiny, by chance or because they have been looked for, one night, with friends. »

Hardcover book selfpublished in 2018. 23 x 23 cm.,108 pages with 52 black and white and color photographs.

More info : https://www.ovidiugordan.com/

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Hortus Botanicus, Rafael « Tanaka » Monzo

Hortus Botanicus, one might think that everything is said in the title. This term refers to a botanical garden, and in this case, the one in Valencia – Spain, town where Rafael lives. For it to be factual, the title remains mysterious, precisely by this reference to Latin, the official language of the « plants and trees » world, although it often remains a linguistic approximation.

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However, this is not to a guided tour that Rafael invites us, but rather to an imaginary journey. This work takes us back to those moments of childhood during which we slept in the grass to watch the canopy and let our imaginations wander. No way here to recognize the garden of Valencia, it is in a dream world that Rafael takes us.

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To do so, he chose different methods. The first is the use of superimposed photos. Carefully cut out, the shapes in black and white, mix and recompose. We see shapes appearing and disappearing from a page to another one. We hear the sound of leaves together rustling. A tree, already seen, draws itself in the background, becomes tangled in the leaves of another to create a mutant species that remains to be determined. Herbs have the thickness of a trunk. At the end, we don’t know if these images are representations of reality or reconstructions of our memory.

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The second process is related to the printing conditions. Rafael chose a silver paper with a metalic render for the cover and a semi-mate paper for the inside, which gives an extra dimension to photographs by the brightnesses and nuances that appear when leafing through the book. Shapes emerge from the fog of our dream. The images are very soft and gray background makes them immaterial, we find it hard to discern the shapes and to recognize them…

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To photograph vegetation is not an easy work. You can easily tend to some superficial aesthetics which is only « nice » but without any background spirit. This book is the exact opposite, Rafael has found the perfect distance and appreciation to render the spirit of trees.

That reminds me one of my absolute favorite song :

Come closer and see
See into the trees
Find the girl
If you can…

A Forest, by The Cure, a recommended soundtrack to listen while reading the book !

Shirokuro Edition, softcover book, 32 pages, 13 X 20 cm, digital printing, edition of 60 copies signed and numbered . The book somes with a small print.

More info : http://tanaka-clan.tumblr.com/

And another very good review : https://gabrielacendoya.wordpress.com/2016/01/27/27-de-enero-2016-hortus-botanicus-rafael-monzo-tanaka/?blogsub=confirming#subscribe-blog