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.

Published by J&L Books
196 pages, B&W, hardcover
ISBN: 978-0-9895311-0-8

An earlier version of the book was self-published in Rochester, New York, 2008 as a B&W perfect bound paperback. See some images. This artist edition is sold out.

Incisive review by Jeffrey Ladd on 5b4.blogspot.com. Ladd also included the book in his top ten of best books of 2009. The self-published 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. The J&L edition of the book won the runner-up award in the Maribor photobook award 2018.

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 the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Beinecke library, Bibliothèque Kandinsky (Centre Pompidou), Bibliothèque nationale de France, Bodleian Library (special collections at Weston Library), Centre des Livres d’Artistes, Cleveland Museum of Art (Ingalls Library), Columbia University, George Eastman House, International Center of Photography Library (New York), Jan Michalski Foundation for Writing and Literature, MoMA Library, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, National Library of The Netherlands (Koninklijke Bibliotheek), Nederlands Fotomuseum, Otto G. Richter Library (University of Miami), Tate Library and Archive, The New York Public Library, The Poetry Library in London, University of the Arts London (Chelsea College of Art and Design), Yale University Library, Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte (Munich), Zürcher Fachhochschule.

Written by Elisabeth Tonnard

September 29, 2008 at 12:22 am