Book Review: Postcards from Europe 03/13

© Eva Leitolf

Postcards from Europe 03/13, by Eva Leitolf

Eva Leitolf’s book Postcards from Europe 03/13 appears at first to be simply that: a collection of 20 large cards gathered together and presented as a book. The cards have 10.5 x 13″ images on the front and text on the back. But instead of cheery notes, Leitolf supplies grim statistics about the hazards of illegal immigration into Europe. She recounts deaths, riots and other affronts to the migrants.

Leitolf’s images are often banal landscapes, which become filled with meaning as we move through the book. Sometimes there are clues in the images: a security fence, a pile of wooden ladders, chairs knocked over. Other times we see simply a desolate beach. Only on turning over the card do we discover that 24 bodies of would-be immigrants washed up on that beach.

The book is a collection of puzzles. Once we know that, our enjoyment of the images increases. Why are dozens of oranges on the ground under a tree in one image? What is the meaning of a humble wooden platform about 15 feet off the ground at the edge of a field? We know that we’ll have the answer once we flip the card.

Because the images in Leitolf’s book are not bound, they draw comparison to prints. This is unfortunate. The plates are printed using four-color offset presses, and are well made. But they do not approach the quality of inkjet prints or traditional color prints. (Of course one could not buy a collection of 20 prints for the price of a book — but the presentation invites comparisons between the two.)

Leitolf, a German photographer, made images in Italy, Spain, Greece and Hungary for this book. Postcards from Europe 03/13 is available from Kehrer Verlag.

© Eva Leitolf

John Viggiano

© John Viggiano

My work offers new ways to document and interpret the contemporary landscape. New visualization and surveillance technologies are changing who we are and how we perceive the world around us. The now ever-present use of satellites, drones, cell phones, GPS and numerous other sensing devices radically reshapes the very meaning of photography, and what it means to record the landscape. My current project — programming a drone to photograph for me — is an experiment to come to terms with these radical new ways to visualize the world around us, and how they affect our very sense of self. A photographer no longer needs to stand anywhere. The use of technology has provided an untethered eye to view with, and a new aesthetic for understanding what the future of imaging has to offer.

— John Viggiano, Asbury Park, New Jersey, USA

© John Viggiano

Magnus Bjerk

© Magnus Bjerk

I am interested in how we make divisions between our surroundings and ourselves and how borders and tensions exist in and between the psychological, urban or natural landscapes. Although we find nature savage, it is also where we find the sublime. This can be frightening, because we realize that something unobtainable and larger than ourselves lurks in the landscape. Perhaps it reminds us of our inherent, uncontrollable human instincts.

This perceived border between nature and culture is both diminished and increased throughout this series, as the inside and outside world seems to melt together in some images and appears more separated in other images. Some of the photographs are printed directly on acrylic sheets, increasing these optical illusions.

Even though some of the images are almost partially becoming abstracted and not containing visible traces of nature outside, it doesn’t mean that I am not interested in nature. I am also very interested in what’s “behind” the “forms,” or in other words, the “facade” that we consider to be reality. The way the trailer frames our scope is comparable to how human perception is constructed or “colored” individually.

The animal affects this distance between the viewer and the landscape outside, not only as a physical obstacle, but also because the dog is a domesticated animal that is somehow caught between nature and the human.

As the animals in the trailers are looking back at us, it can be asked whether it is nature looking back at us or if it is ourselves looking back at ourselves.

— Magnus Bjerk, Berlin, Germany

© Magnus Bjerk