Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Review of Larry Towell's Book Afghanistan in The New Yorker

"'Afghanistan' is itself an extraordinary object, a limited-edition coffee-table book—massive to the point of ungainliness—bound in heavy cloth and stamped with a map of the country, lusciously printed on heavy stock, weighing more than five pounds, and priced at a hundred and fifty dollars. As an artifact, it belongs to the world of high art or high fashion rather than to the lower depths that it depicts—all the more so because the book is designed, in a sort of scrapbook style, to look like a dummy for a book rather than the finished thing. The photographs appear to be attached to the pages with photo corners or with tape; on many pages, several pictures vie for attention, sometimes laid out contact-sheet style on a grid, sometimes in collage; scans of found artifacts are interspersed throughout; captions are hand written, occasionally jotted notebook style across the images themselves.

Although there are color photographs, Towell is a devotee of black-and-white film photography and a painstakingly artful printer. In creating the impression of a work in progress, he is anything but slapdash: he is showing us his process with a polish that few can compete with. The aim seems to be to create a cumulative effect through the book that is greater than the impact of the singular images—and there is no escaping the overwhelming sense of Afghanistan’s blight. As Towell writes in his introductory essay, 'War is completely natural, which is what makes it so appalling.'" - Philip Gourevitch for The New Yorker

Read the full review here: www.newyorker.com

Larry Towell Artist Page: www.bulgergallery.com

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