Winterwald, by Emanuel Raab

Emanuel Raab’s book opens with a photo that includes a tree in the middle distance. It looks like it would be easy to enjoy climbing, with a thick trunk and low branches. But between the viewer and the tree is a screen of leafless vines and brambles that makes it almost impossible to approach.

Throughout Raab’s book (Winter Forest in English) these kinds of screen occur. We are in the “natural” world, but nature is blocking off access to herself. Raab presents streams, trees, and unknown bodies of water that are hidden behind impenetrable growth. There are no paths or trails in his photographs. We are unable to walk into the forest of our dreams — with large trees, clear paths and little undergrowth. Instead we are stuck in an impenetrable wilderness.

Eventually my focus moved toward the screens themselves, which are beautiful in an unconventional way. Flecks of red brambles, green moss, small leaves and curving vines create a surface of abstract delight. Raab photographed sometimes at dusk, resulting in a murky background that fades away from the viewer. He usually throws the background out of focus, increasing its distance from us.

Winterwald will not be available for sale in the United States, but may be purchased directly from its German publisher, Kehrer Verlag.

— Willson Cummer