One Day by 10 Photographers

Kehrer Verlag, 2011

Review by Daniel W. Coburn

Issue 29

In 2009 photographer Harvey Benge conceived the idea of assembling a team of 10 photographers to shoot a photography book in a single day. Benge must have known that it would take some serious photo-mojo to make the project a success. So, he immediately went to work recruiting several of the foremost names in contemporary art photography. When the list was complete, Benge had compiled an all-star roster of international artists that could potentially transform this project into one of the most influential of its kind. Klaus Kehrer was impressed by the idea and agreed to publish the collection of ten small books.

The project came to fruition on June 21st, 2010 when ten photographers hit the streets (or in some cases their living rooms) to make their own personal contribution to the project. Did each photographer make an honest effort? Here is the break down:

Todd Hido Hido presents the viewer with a loose narrative, depicting what seems to be a troubled young woman living on the fringe. If you are expecting eerie light reflecting from the facade of seedy motels, you won't be disappointed. He serves up a variety of aesthetic choices, including images made with vintage 126 film cameras that mimic vernacular imagery from the seventies, and pristine medium format photographs that reference film noir. Hido tells a story and his tale is nothing short of a tragedy. It's an impressive series of images to be made in a single day which makes me wonder: did Hido pull an all-nighter?

Eva Maria Ocherbauer With a background in stage design, it's no surprise that Eva Maria Ocherbauer took a theatrical approach with her contribution to One Day. Titled A Midsummer Day’s Dream, her work transforms an intimidating landscape into a realm of fantasy. Vegetation, animals and their remains are cast as anthropomorphic characters in Ocherbauer’s adaptation of this Shakespearean masterpiece.

Jessica Backhaus Backhaus' work is earmarked by her masterful use of bright vivid color and a keen approach to abstract shapes and patterns. Her choice of subject matter brings a uniquely feminine aesthetic to the One Day series (three of the ten participating photographers are women.) Her work was made in Neukolln, a suburb of Berlin that is home to one of the highest percentage of immigrants in the city. Backhaus provides the viewer with a compassionate glimpse of the women that she encounters. She captures still life and close cropped views of the architecture that provide an intimate representation of place.

Rinko Kawauchi Japanese photographer Rinko Kawauchi takes the viewer on commute in her book Fundamental Cycles. Blurry images of the interior of train tunnels, photos of countryside taken from commuter trains, and pictures of dirty industrial towns distorted by the effects of high-speed travel comprise the majority of her work for this project. Intermingled are images of butterflies and dew drops which reinforce the notion that Kawauchi occasionally stops to smell the roses. Several of the images seem redundant and the work left me feeling lonely, but perhaps this was Kawauchi's objective.

Alec SothGus the Great is a series of images that Soth made to describe his son. All of the photos were made using a polaroid camera that Gus gave Alec for his birthday. Here, you won't find the pristine, well-crafted images that litter the pages of Sleeping by the Mississippi, and the artist didn't travel too far beyond his Lazy Boy recliner. Instead, Soth takes an anti-aesthetic approach, exploiting the artifacts of his process. Soth couples the poor image quality of the Polaroid with the dust particles and lint that appear when digitizing images on a flatbed scanner. I enjoyed this work mostly because Soth alternates between his own perspective and that of his son.

Rob Hornstra Hornstra seduces the viewer with craftsmanship and his genuine portrayal of the personalities and locales in the district of Ondiep, Utrecht, the Netherlands. He creates portraits of two Ondiep men by photographing their faces, belongings, residences, and the streets that connect them. Hornstra's work is a bright spot in this series of small books.

Marin Parr Being a famous photographer, Martin Parr has the opportunity to travel regularly. On June 21st, 2010 he happened to be at home. The viewer follows Parr on a journey through his day exploring the most mundane of domestic rituals. The book opens with a photograph of Parr brushing his teeth. There he is walking his dog, there is his desk, and there are his dirty dishes. I love Martin Parr for his searing sense of humor and use of satire, but I am afraid that this time the joke is on us.

John Gossage Like Parr, Gossage takes the route of visual narrative, but in a much less literal way. The viewer is presented with a series of images made through the course of a single day, but here we see a very keen and almost poetic sense of observation from the image maker. The subtle and intricate play of light on everyday objects, an elaborate abstract pattern emphasized by the sun on a dirty windshield, and industrial forms contrasted against the patterns of nature become visual landmarks on Gossage's journey. These are a set of obstacles that are beautifully represented by the artist as they advance and recede during his day.

Harvey Benge Benge contributes images of the events and people around his home in Auckland New Zealand. I was moved by the first couple of still life images, and the portraits created in his examination of home. He cleverly incorporates photos of newspapers and computer screens that provide evidence that these photos were made on this special day in June.

Gerry Badger Badger titled his series of images Weltmeister Blues. The England soccer team is referenced time and again in the form of flags and color palette. Badger makes images of lonely interior spaces, many of which appear to be a cluttered art studio. His photos are well crafted and fundamentally well composed, but at times rather banal.

The interior of each of these books is thoughtfully laid out, each having a bit of its own personality as it is relevant to the artist or the work. While the binding and presentation are well designed, the materials are lacking. My biggest complaint is the use of raw chipboard-like material for the hard cover and slipcase. For a collection of books encompassing work by artists of this caliber it is slightly disappointing and feels a bit cheap. Despite all of this, my experience with One Day was enjoyable. Many of the artists produced an impressive quality of work to be made in a single day.

Daniel W. Coburn is a photographer and graduate student at the University of New Mexico.
To view Daniel's photography, please visit his website. Daniel was featured in Fraction Issue 20

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