Nothing But Home
by Sébastien Girard
Sébastien Girard, 2009
Reviewed by Shane Lavalette
After a positive response from Jeff Ladd on 5B4 and having been selected as one of Markus Schaden's top ten photography books of 2009, it seems that Sébastien Girard's Nothing But Home has begun to receive the attention it deserves. Self-published in an edition of 500 copies (with a special edition of 100) and beautifully printed in Girard's hometown of Toulouse, France, the book itself takes on the personal charm of the photographs within.
It opens to a quote from French poet Francis Ponge: “The simplest way is to take up everything again from the beginning, lie down on the grass, and start over, as if one knew nothing.” Nothing But Home reads the title page. The photographs that follow explore the renovation of Girard’s own home, his first home, with an intensity that immediately draws us closer.
Photographs of stained ceilings, dirty surfaces, broken light bulbs, peeling paint, slabs of wood, sawdust, wet concrete, old books, dark holes and the occasional presence of protruding nature at first seem revolting in the cruel light of the camera’s flash. The images are claustrophobic, chaotic and clinical, yet they maintain an attention to details and imperfections that eventually shows them as laborious, loving – the way in which the act of repair is.
There is a photograph from the beginning of this tome, which hovered in the back of my mind as I turned the rest of the pages of the book. It is a photograph of another photograph that rests quietly on the wall above a rusty stove. Within the white border of the image is a scene that is in direct contrast to its surroundings, describing what appears to be a clean, warm study with leather-bound books, cigars and a bottle of liquor in the foreground and a burning fireplace in the distance. The reality of Girard's photographs quickly reveal what lies beneath this brief encounter with fantasy: the bare bones of a home.
Girard described his book to me as a metaphor for beginnings and for creation. And when asked what ‘home’ means, he responded simply, “The place where I start all of my journeys.”
As the first in a series of books that he plans to publish throughout 2010, I can only wonder where Sébastien Girard will take us next.
SHANE LAVALETTE (b. 1987, Burlington, VT) is a photographer currently living and working in Somerville, MA. In 2009, he received his BFA from Tufts University in partnership with The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. His photographs have been published and exhibited internationally. In addition, Lavalette is the founding editor of Lay Flat, a publication of contemporary photography and writing on the medium. www.shanelavalette.com