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.
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.
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.
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…
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/