Lists of 2017 best books are flooding my Facebook news feed these days, and, among all these lists, many titles are recurrent, others more or less unexpected or more or less incisive. Some of these lists are interesting, especially the ones made by other photographers, others are quite boring and predictable. But I have to admit, I never make incredible discoveries out there: this excess and photo-circle dynamics contribute to this uniformity of taste and judgement. Or perhaps, there are not that many other interesting titles worth mentioning in a list of best books.
Said so, I want to make use of this occasion to introduce you to one of my personal best of 2017: Corbeau by Anne Golaz (MACK publishing). Many of you probably have already had the chance to browse through this book in the second half of this year, but for those who didn’t, I think it is worth to say a few words about it.
Let me start by quoting the book’s statement: “Part memoir, part tableau, Corbeau is a multi-layered narrative collage tracing life and death in the rural farm on which Swiss artist Anne Golaz grew up.” In such a short sentence it is possible to read some of the key elements that made the anthropological development of mankind over the centuries. Corbeau is about life and death, it is about simplicity and complexity, it is about love and hate. Corbeau is a book of contrasts, it is a visual novel where the author’s experience, memories, relationships become part of a broaden narrative lost between fiction and reality. The protagonist of this story, which takes its title from a famous Allan Poe’s poem, is a young man working in the farm. He questions himself about his life and the relationships he has both with the land and his family, with his duties and his doubts. A book made of contrasts, where future and past merge into a new and suspended level.
Personally I felt so transported by the imagery created by the author; there is a tension and a sense of melancholy that runs along with you from the beginning to the end. A fascination that becomes repulsion. You can almost smell it. There is a certain kind of poetry in the documentation of the life in this farm, where slowly the main characters are presented, revealing relationships and symbols.
The construction of the book is coherent with the construction of the images. Photographs, beautiful texts, video stills and drawings are all filled with tension, and the narrative generated by the way they are arranged and sequenced recalls some of the main features of a gothic novel. The object per se is enriched by the extraordinary quality and the exact design choices capable of generating another layer of contrast between the form and the content.
Symbolism supporting memory, fiction supporting facts. This book brings within itself some of the main topics debated, presented, studied, hated, loved in contemporary photography. And it does it amazingly thanks to the attention to detail and the ability of using the right languages to create and support the narrative.
As I previously said, one of the best books of 2017 – and beyond.
Buy the book: MACK