Explorations Along an Imaginary Coastline.
Photographs by Martha Casanave.
Hudson Hills Press, Manchester, VT, 2006. 63 pp., black-and-white illustrations, 11¼x12½".
Signed copies available!
Approaching middle age, I’ve begun to experience a
strange déjà vu at parties and gatherings where the children
of my friends are present.
They knock about among the
knees of the adults, looking up
at everything through the
forced perspective of a two- or
three- or four-year-old height.
Their wide-angle eyes suck at
the form and meaning of everything,
expanding with an urgent
need to record anything that may prove important. I
remember being that small receptor, bumped through
the crowd, my horizon beginning at pants pockets and
shooting upward from there.
Martha Casanave, too, remembers this point of view
and when the poetically driven portrait photographer
was cajoled into taking her pinhole camera to the Central
California Coast, she exposed her film by placing the disposable
camera “anywhere a crab can go.” The low
stance of these photographs not only capitalizes on the
distorted nature of making images with a pinhole, but
reminded Casanave of a playful child’s point of view. The
larger metaphor that she explores by including a distant
19th-century figure haunting the reaches of several
frames is to suggest the playful, low-tech and honest
childhood of photography itself. In this, she risks a heavyhanded
romanticism that, coupled with her wispy,
coastal set-ups, nearly topples the entire exercise. Still,
Explorations is, more than anything else, a pure celebration
of light phenomenon and the pure pleasure of seeing
an image miraculously reproduced. And that's worth
a lot when I remember I'm still looking up and trying to
make sense of things. ZANE FISCHER
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