A photographer in a foreign land for a road trip is a classic tale that is often told in photography books. What is gained from theses books? Sometimes it is a masterpiece of the medium (The Americans by Robert Frank). Sometimes it is irony (Playas by Martin Parr). Rafal Milach gives the reader something different, not only in how the book is constructed, but in the story.
Milach and Huldar Breiðfjörð, an Icelandic writer, strike out for 10 days around Iceland. The result is an incomplete picture of Iceland, but an interesting tale told in succinct notes and atmospheric pictures. Breiðfjörð often writes that Milach asks a lot of questions, stops the car often to make non-cliché pictures, all with an idea that something interesting will result.
As an object, the book feels raw. Two uncovered boards hold the bound book together with two rubber bands. The spine has a red piece of book cloth with the title on it. It feels like a travel journal, but one that has been very clearly thought out. The roughness is obviously planned and well conceived. These elements make it appealing as an object. This is not like any other book I have purchased before.
In the center of the front board is an image of black curtain. This same image greets the reader on the first page of the bound book. After this image, the pictures brighten up and appear to be barely there for most of the book. Milach is adept at playing with a variety of aesthetic styles. It varies between light and dark, depending on his choice of camera. The variety of darkness to eye popping contrast keeps the pace of the book moving along. Each turn of the page opens a visual surprise.
Milach and Breiðfjörð pull that curtain and show a land that appears to be beautifully inhospitable to humans. It is Breiðfjörð who offers insights into the trip with his acerbic notes. There are no captions on any of the pictures, just numbers. The book is visually captivating. I was left wishing for more words, more insight to how a writer deals with traveling with a photographer, and how one struggles to define culture.