Digital Wondering 10

Digital Wonderings are a series of online speculations around the curatorial theme of TRUST. They can take any form, from a conversation, a short statement, a film or a photographic series. Invited contributors come from a wide range of disciplines and can respond and react to the theme and the format as they wish.

Photobooks on Trust

Text by Nina Strand

When in Paris, you should visit Delpire & Co, located in the St Germain district just behind the famous Café Flore. Delpire & Co is a space dedicated to the photobook and printed matter, situated within the historic gallery and publishing house Delpire. When the bookshop opened last year to present a selection of books, prints and artists’ installations, it marked a new chapter in the history of the Delpire publishing house, in continuity with the spirit and approach of the renowned publisher Robert Delpire, who published the cultural review Neuf, and books on photography through Éditions Delpire and Photo Poche. Delpire was the first to publish Les Américains by Robert Frank, along with other iconic books.

On the Wednesday in April when I was there, I looked through the small space and found five different books that in some way deal with our festival theme of trust. The current vitrine exhibition is filled with books that deal with dreams, and these books, most of which were published at the end of 2020/beginning of 2021, are directly linked to our newly fragmented, nostalgic and exhausted world. They also recount the disillusions of those who make perilous night crossings in search of a better life, or the traces of a landscape that has lost its splendour and is attached to its traditions.

The first book that stands out for me is PORTRAITS AND DREAMS by Wendy Ewald, published by Mack, 2020. As we learn from the description of the book, when Ewald arrived in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains in 1975, she asked mountain children to photograph their dreams and: ‘Through intriguing transcriptions and photographs, we discover the lives of families as seen through the eyes of their children. The realities of life – love, loss, violence, death and new life – are given [… through] the camera.’

I am also intrigued by the book SISTER SISTER by Liv Liberg published by Art Paper Editions, 2021. Liberg was ten when she started to photograph her younger sister, and their collaboration is described as: ‘a game between sisters where fashion, disguise and photography obeyed their own rules. What started as a child’s game became a real obsession. Liberg directs her sister in different contexts over a period of fifteen years, mainly wearing their mother’s clothes as the young girl becomes more and more aware of herself and the world around her.’

A last book from the vitrine that also deals with trust is the book FACE TO FACE by Seiichi Furuya & Christine Gössler, published by Chose Commune, 2020. Furuya met Gössler in 1978 and began to photograph her continuously, in their Graz home and on all their travels, with their son, and at work. Since Gössler’s suicide in 1985, Furuya has continued to revisit her archive, discovering that she often took his portrait while he was photographing her, making the work a truly reciprocal project.

On the shelves inside the bookshop I find a volume with the word ‘trust’ in its title. Delpire & Co hosted last year’s Aperture Paris Photo Photo Book Awards and among these is the winner of the first photobook award, LIVING TRUST by Buck Ellison, published by Loose Joints Publishing, Marseille, 2020. As the jury explains, Ellison’s book investigates the visual language of privilege. Photographs range from overtly staged Christmas cards and portraits, to still lifes of food and flowers and upper-middle-class activities, such as lacrosse, rowing and golf. Taken together, these series offer a sustained, almost anthropological examination of the ways in which whiteness and privilege are broadcast. ‘Living Trust emerged in our conversations as something that focuses really well on what many take for granted’, jury member, the independent curator and historian Oluremi C. Onabanjo stated: ‘It is important to consider and make visible the silent violence and security of whiteness as it is continually maintained. This book does that precisely.’

And finally, the small Mexican book that curator Anna Planas shows me truly embodies trust. RECETARIO PARA LA MEMORIA, described as a gastronomic, photographic and social project, is a memorial, a photobook and a cookbook in one, containing the favourite dishes of 30 people who have disappeared in Sinaloa, Mexico. Part of the proceeds from its sale goes to the group of Las Rastreadoras – mothers, daughters and sisters who are looking for their missing relatives. The photographer, Zahara Gómez, who has been with the group since 2016, explains in an interview with Animal Político that after taking documentary photos of the search carried out by Las Rastreadoras for four years, she felt that it was time to create a project that had a more intimate format and ‘that put the issue on the table’. The group – formed in 2014 in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, after the disappearance of Roberto son of Mirna – cooked the favourite dishes of their missing relatives for the book. As the photographer writes: ‘You talk to the mothers and their worry is whether their missing are hungry or cold; to be hungry is to be alive, so the food takes on another dimension – it is to keep their loved ones alive.’ Zahara went to the house of each of the families to photograph the dishes and talk about how they prepared them. Memories emerged in the course of the chat, and were shared around the table with the families. A self-published project, the book can be purchased through cookbookparalamemoria.com, and 50% of the profits go to Las Rastreadoras.