29.7cm x 21cm, portrait, 4 colour offset
80 pages open binding
First Edition of 500
I met Alex at a portfolio review that took place during "FotoPub" Festival in Novo Mesto (Slovenia) last August. What struck me about him was his young age and determination.
Alex certainly knows one thing or two when it comes to photobooks. In the field of independent publishing it is rare not to have ever heard of Fourteen-Nineteen, publisher co-founded by Alex Webb and Lewis Chaplin in 2009, which closed this year.
Alex was about 16 when Fourteen-Nineteen started.
If we take into consideration Webb's experience in the publishing area is well established after years of field work, we shouldn't be surprised his latest publication BLEU has been so successful. Flicking through the book, the first impression is certainly that nothing is left to chance.
The cover, a scan of a graph paper, immediately takes you to the idea of a tracking map of flight paths for aircrafts, satellites and spacecrafts.
The title BLEU stands for Blind Landing Experimental Unit, that between the 40s and the 60s was a unit of the British government tasked with creating an early auto landing system for military and civilian aircraft.
However, the book doesn't deal with that; the story is a reimagining of the 'Rendlesham Forest Incident' (also known as 'Britain's Roswell') the occurrence is the most famous of claimed UFO events to have happened in Britain, ranking among the best-known purported UFO events worldwide.
The work is comprised of a variety of 'types' of image that are derived from visual vernaculars associated with science and the military. BLEU explores themes of nuclear paranoia and rural mythology in relation to our understandings of evidence, classification and traditional perspectives of the otherworldly. Webb mixes the official record of events with contemporary accounts and subsequent conspiracy theories.
The images range from mere documentation of the territory to details and abstract forms, graphism and notes, as in a real military research, or how a real UFOs fanatic would investigate about the incident. Thanks to open archives in Britain, Webb had easy access to all documentation on UFOs and drifts, he could search thoroughly and lay concrete foundations for an accurate visual story, never dispersive. Perhaps even all too calculated.
Everything is measured to perfection, never boring, flawless tones that blend with the mysterious atmosphere, the choice to mix black and white to colour, taking us straight back to the archival material.
We talk a lot (maybe too much) of photobooks in this historical moment, the question that most often we are asking is: Does this work make sense in book form? I think BLEU is a fitting example and a very good point of arrival, a project created to be materialized that makes complete sense in book form.
As the author himself admits "I began the project in the Autumn of 2013, most of the work was shot and made at this time, but the work, moreover the book, was only completed in July of this year. For me the book is the work so only now do I truly feel that this project is complete."