Elisabeth Tonnard

In this Dark Wood

This book is a modern gothic. It pairs images of people walking alone in nighttime city streets with 90 different English translations I collected of the first lines of Dante’s Inferno. The images, showing a crowd of solitary figures, are selected from the same archive as used for my book Two of Us (the extraordinary Joseph Selle collection at the Visual Studies Workshop which contains over a million negatives from a company of street photographers working in San Francisco from the 40’s to the 70’s).

The book is set up in a repetitious way, to stress a sense of similarity, endlessness and interchangeability. The images are re-expressions of each other, and so are the texts.

Self-published, Rochester, New York 2008. B&W, perfect bound paperback. 196 pages. See more images. Also see the related book that was published a year earlier: Two of Us.

The last copies of the artist edition are now available. Priced at 50 euro, plus shipping. Order through webshop.  Order through email.

A new trade edition was published by J&L Books in October 2013.

Incisive review by Jeffrey Ladd on 5b4.blogspot.com. Ladd also included the book in his top ten of best books of 2009. The book received an award in the Fine Art category of the 2010 Photography Book Now Competition. It was shortlisted in the 2012 Artists’ Books of the Moment Award, Art Gallery of York University, Canada.

It’s so rare that a book has a conceptual structure like this with the result being so genuinely affecting. Charles Gute (private correspondence)

In this Dark Wood [...] is a haunting collection of photographs and text, compiled by the author. [...] The concept is simple and clinical, but the result is a powerfully emotional read.
Jason Fulford (IANN magazine Vol. 7, 2011)

Selle’s unsuspecting subjects walking alone and caught in the light of the flash, become the multitude of alienated souls wandering “the dark woods” of the city. What is amazing about this work is how, accompanied by the suggestion of the text, the environs surrounding each subject heighten the metaphor. Movie marquees caught in the upper corners of the frames read movie titles of violence and doom; “Ring of Fire,” “Hell is a City,” “…from Hell,” “Petrified World, “Nightfall,” “Corridors of Blood.” Jeffrey Ladd, 5b4 blog, November 14, 2009

The book is included in the collections of Bibliothèque Kandinsky (Centre Pompidou), Bibliothèque nationale de France, Centre des Livres d’Artistes, Cleveland Museum of Art (Ingalls Library), Columbia University, George Eastman House, International Center of Photography Library (New York), Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Nederlands Fotomuseum, Otto G. Richter Library (University of Miami), Tate Library and Archive, The New York Public Library, The Poetry Library in London, Yale University Library, and the Zürcher Fachhochschule.

Written by tonnard

September 29, 2008 at 12:22 am

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