by Maria Alexandra Vettese and Stephanie Congdon Barnes
This book is the result of a project that began on the web: each woman took a photograph in the morning, and they posted the resulting diptych on their blog. (Sadly, the whole year is no longer available online. I have a massive crush on Princeton Architectural Press, and it pains me to think they made this choice — how much better would it be if I could show you links to the images that I liked best in this review?)
I was aware of the blog when it was alive because I blogged about ideas for a new project and Krista — who would become my co-conspirator in the new project — left a comment linking to their site. I remember wishing I could see larger versions of some of their diptychs, but they maddeningly didn’t include links to larger versions.
I sort of got my wish with this book — some of the photographs are printed across two pages. Images appear in different sizes throughout the book, with some not much more than thumbnails, others in medium size, a few blown up in detail for section markers, and the quiet luxury of the two-page wide diptychs. This isn’t a traditional coffee table format photography book, it’s more intimate than that, a smaller trade paperback size with raised dots of texture on the cover. The overall softness serves the book well, the matte fits the photos better than glossy pages would.
There are remarkable similarities in these paired images: over and over again the morning light, but also the composition, the subject matter… Mav and Stephanie (as they are known online) capture quiet moments, where they remain still for us to observe, wonder, and dream about.
If I could link and show you some of my favorite images, I would pick:
A blurry telephone pole and wires against a blue sky, next to a detail of a well-made bed with a softy bunny’s head poking into the frame
A green and white knitted thing dropped on a wooden bench painted blue, paired with a small white ball and large white ladder in deep green grass
An empty paper coffee cup on that same blue painted wood, next to a top-down view of daisies
Red fruit in a wooden bowl in the lower left corner of the frame, enhancing the red maple seeds ready to twist off and fly
There are birds and baked goods and spider webs and coffee mugs and windows: an endless supply of dailiness to select from. It might not have felt like it to them at the time, but the two were exercising editorial vision, choosing which moment from the morning to record and share. It is a year of seasons, starting with winter in January, and pushing things a bit too far by ending in December and calling it fall.
There are tiny thumbnails in the back of the book, a clever visual table of contents, which include select comments from the website. Most fitting overall is probably something a woman named Katie said, about a paring from the middle of June that included green stems in a plastic bag lying on a paper towel, and part of laundry basket on the floor: “Funny how such simple things can be so beautiful.”