Brazilian born, Melbourne-based artist Cecilia Sordi Campos explores the peculiarities of her migrant experience, and notions of liminality and identity through her work. On the occasion of our online exhibition PRESENTS: The Photo Book, which features her self-published photobook Tem Bigato Nessa Goiaba, we talked to Cecilia about what is and how to “read” a photobook. Without further ado, we hope you enjoy the interview.
The term ‘photobook’ is recent. What is your definition of a photobook?
The Dutch photography critic Ralph Prins (1969) describes the photobook as ‘An autonomous art form, comparable with a piece of sculpture, a play or a film.’ I tend to agree with this statement as it places the photobook value with other established art forms. A photobook is a tactile object —it can be shared, handled, smelled; it offers a mutable relationship. It is an interactive device in which the visual narrative is built, for it to eventually become fluid and evolving once it reaches an audience. It is the starting point of a conversation, of an exchange. To me, the visual narrative is one of the most intriguing ways to communicate and express oneself .
Why photobooks? What about the book form that is particularly appealing to you?
What I love about the photobook format is that it allows for greater flexibility in telling complex stories as it offers a greater understanding of a subject. I am able to tell the story, whatever this may be, in a linear way or present it in a haphazard non-linear way. I love the many ways a story can be told through images, and through the hybridity between words and images. I particularly find the sequencing of a photobook exhilarating and it is almost like a cadence, a melody.
For someone unfamiliar with the photobook genre, would you share with us your tips on how to 'read' a photobook? What and where should the viewer pay attention to?
Reading a photobook involves imagination and an unquenchable sense of enquiry. Rather than attempting to dissect each image, to me the viewer should be motivated by and be open to new discoveries within the narrative. The engagement with a photobook requires presence and plays out over space and time, this in turn allows for ideas, themes and emotions to develop.
What makes the photobook work?
I believe what makes the photo book work is the ability of its author to allude the viewer to its undercurrents rather than guiding them to a precise spot, thus allowing them to get lost in or be part of the narrative; to be completely consumed by it. Ultimately, it is the ability to raise questions rather than provide answers, the ability to have provocation that may deconstruct customary ways of thinking.
Can you share with us the one photobook that profoundly changed your thinking about photography? Or what was the first photobook that you bought?
I actually don't think I could nominate one single photobook that changed my thinking about photography, as this often changes and evolves. Having said that, the magical photobook Astre Noirs by Katrin Koenning and Sarker Protick often challenges how I approach my photographic practice and how I engage with photobooks. Both artists live miles apart, however the images, taken on mobile phone cameras, create a beautiful dialogue that is imbued with the extraordinary. The reading of the books is experiential and is ever changing due to the reflective ink in the images. A slight change in the lighting will present a different world of possibilities. This book is a reminder of the creative possibilities of light and transcending reality. It is also a reminder to continue to be captivated by the relationship I have with the world around me rather than be inhibited by the rigid notions of representing a photographic reality.