Jesse’s book review, Momentary by Nico Perez
Jesse Freeman’s world famous book reviews are usually focussed on Japanese photography, but occasionally he strays from the path to review the work of non Japanese photographers and friends too. This is the latter, a great review of beautiful book.
I don’t believe happiness can be state, un-happiness can be, but happiness by nature comes in moments. A moment can last a few minutes, a couple hours, or a day or night…but never as long as a week. I’d compare unhappiness to a novel while happiness for me is like a photograph. It is in these moments that we grasp fleeting happiness…and photography is the perfect medium of reflection on these moments. Enter Nico Perez’s first photo book Momentary. This is the third photo book review I have done on a friend, and when I received this from him at his latest exhibit in Tokyo I asked if he had any quick sentiments about it to include and he simply said it is my life.
Momentary contains 25 photos all shot in 35 mm in a rough two-year span. The importance of this two-year span is immediately punctuated with the opening two-page spread of dying autumn leaves and the stomach of his pregnant wife, perfectly symbolizing an ending and a beginning. Instantly from the de-saturated colors we already get the impression of a fleeting moment that tends to dull with time yet remains sharp in our minds eye.
And just as sharp is the flow of sequencing that on the next page set sees a woman looking out of a window juxtaposed to an airplane viewed from a window with more fleeting moments of the backsides of women in various mind states represented by an adjacent static shot of moody trees or the sky. Beautiful observed bursts of light vary throughout the book with quietly captured every day moments: a baseball in mid air, a child’s first steps, etc. The book concludes with a self portrait of the photographer’s shadow. A bit knee jerk, but I felt it to be the weakest photo in the book, yet wins out for what it does symbolically.
For all these moments shared with us the book concludes as self reflection. Photography although not an art by its nature, best shines to me when it becomes about self expression…here however it feels more like reflection but shares with the former in its personal honesty.
With that said, the style I can’t help but feel is close to that of a Rinko Kawauchi in terms of color grade and preoccupation with light sources. I mentioned in my review of Kawauchi’s work how she started this sort of style coming on the scene in 2001 that became prevalent among women photographers in local galleries here in Tokyo.
Strikingly Japanese in the sensitivity to the everyday (ya I know this is cliché statement), Perez makes it his own. With the idea of reflection, the de-saturated colors makes sense, but he truly differs in that fact this he offers a male gaze in such a sensitive style. The other point in regards to Perez’s can be found in a great understated comment that was made by a mutual friend of ours on Facebook…something to the attune of “so this is what a camera can do.” I love it when not so forcefully a photographer uses the full range of photographic effects without the use of Photoshop. Extreme overexposure/underexposure, out of focus, end of the roll half frames, using glares, and etc. are all brought into his own for a cohesive effect (even more so if a new book for his latest exhibition comes out).
Personally what I have noticed is the crossover appeal this then has. A lot of people have gotten back into shooting film and it is often accentuated by the hashtags that confirm that the photo was indeed taken in film. It is often then made obvious because the ones shooting in film don’t know photography and the result is often underexposed crappy night photos (that white cast when you underexpose). Shooting film for the sake of its dirtiness because you don’t know how to use it for me has become the plague of the last two years yet works because it is then deemed “vintage.” I like what Perez does because the same audience will and does like his photography…yet from a film photographer perspective he knows the medium and constantly pushes it to a point where it has an appeal to a hardcore darkroom film photographers and perhaps less hardcore point and shoot photographers who can’t even begin to grasp how he does it. That is special whenever an artist can walk this line.
“So this is what a (film) camera can do.” Momentary is a great source of inspiration especially for color film photographers. You can purchase it here for 21 GBP:
I can only imagine this is a “while supplies” last affair since the book was originally released in June 2015 of 300 (I have number 297). Check it out.
Jesse Freeman is a friend, photographer and movie buff. He has a great knowledge of photography books and classic cinema. He can also be relied upon for decent music recommendations.
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Thanks again to Jesse for a wonderful review. This is a fascinating book and I am going to have to have a look at it when I finally get to the library.