Photographs by Abelardo Morell. Text by Richard B. Woodward.
Phaidon, London, 2005. 140 pp., 105 b&w illustrations, 11½x11¼".
This mid-career retrospective of Morell’s work traces his
career from his early street photography to his most
recent imagery of folded
money. It was not
until his son, Brady,
was born in 1986 that
Morell turned inward
to focus on his domestic
life, and we began
to see his trademark
wonderment and boyish
began to shoot ordinary
items, such as crayons and toy blocks, as if through
a child’s eyes, often from low angles that transform
them into looming objects of mystery. This childlike perspective
emulates photographic seeing on some level,
whereby the camera’s optics transform the world
through unexpected scale, light and focus. This attentiveness
to photographic seeing and to everyday
surroundings pervades the entirety of Morell’s oeuvre.
In his camera obscura series, Morell turns entire rooms,
often inside his home, into darkened camera interiors
where the outside view is projected through an
“aperture” in the window and into the room, upside
down and backwards. Thus, he mimics the way it feels
to be inside the camera during the making of a photograph—
a literal and metaphorical juxtaposition of
interior and exterior. This monograph allows the reader
to thread connections through Morell’s various projects.
In one image, Morell looks down over a paper grocery
bag that stands upright on the floor, opening into total
blackness. This is reminiscent of his series on Alice in
Wonderland, in which he focuses on a dark hole cut
through the center of the book. It also echoes the
camera obscura work, in which the aperture leads to a
darkened interior. Ultimately, Morell tells us again and
again that in the middle of our daily lives we might find
entryways to other places—places that can only be seen
through the camera’s lens, which transforms our world
and our sight into something magical. DENISE WOLFF
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