A Camera in a Room

by Abelardo Morell
ISBN: 1560985488

That I read photography books for the pictures and not the text might seem obvious. It’s always a bonus when the text turns out to matter, to offer me something else, though I can’t say I expect it to do so. The short essay at the end of this collection seemed stale, but the six pages worth of interview with Morell was alive.

A couple of the things he said that caught my interest:

“One of the most interesting things about photography is that it let’s you say ‘I’m aware of this.’ And you can act on in on the spot.”

“One of the nice things about books is that they are private. You take a book home and you are free to experience it any way you want. You go to a museum and the pictures are usually structured so there’s really only one view of them.”

Of course, then you have the images themselves, which is I why I picked up the book. There are photographs of his son, household objects, of images printed in books, and the camera obscura photographs that I had seen before and were the reason I was looking for the book.

So I was surprised to find I really liked many of those other images, such as Brady Looking at His Shadow, 1990, Newspaper, 1993, Motion of Soapy Water in Pan, 1994, and Two Forks Under Water, 1993. I loved the the play of the photos with each other — Doll House, 1987‘s light through the windows of the doll house, the real window, the real house behind and in New Year’s Eve, 1989-90 the way the lights around the structure of the house through the window, like a child’s drawing but with light not crayon.

Morell’s camera obscura images did not disappoint. There’s something to the way real life is turned upside down and projected from outside to inside; literally a different way of seeing that perhaps evokes a different way of feeling. Two of my favorites are The Empire State Building in Bedroom, 1994 and Camera Obscura Image of Brookline View in Brady’s Room, 1992. When I think of the patience required — 8 hours for camera obscura images — I’m amazed. It’s difficult for me to imagine waiting that long for any feedback something is working; I’m thoroughly spoiled by digital, and “long” exposures are a relative thirty second blink.

I think it’s worth searching out Morell’s book and/or his work. I like how he thinks, how he talks about what he is doing, and that he is working on more than one series at once.

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