A few years ago while in Paris I made a visit to one of my favorite used photobook stores on the rue de L’anceinne Comedie and while talking with the owner, Clement, I asked his recommendations for French photobooks which might be under the radar. One of the photobooks I left with was a French first edition of Lisa Sarati’s first photobook Acta Est, her poetic narrative of Russia. I became enchanted.
Fast forward. Sarfati’s latest book, She, published by Twin Palms is no less poetic, while becoming even more intriguing. Her earlier mostly devoid urban landscapes are now heavily populated by a cast of feminine actresses, who play a variety of roles, made all the more complex as the four are related: sisters, mother, and aunt.
I feel as though I have been dropped into a set of a cinema to witness a variety of stills and takes. The book does not pretend to be sequenced in a serial manner for the reader to follow her narrative, as the photographic sequence is really mashed up, moving the reader quickly from set to set. On occasion, the sequences of two or three photographs appear related; the same actress, maybe similar clothing, nevertheless, even of that I am not really sure. The camera comes in tight, then pulls back to provide more context, but still leaving the reader ambiguous as to what might have just occurred, or might be happening at this given moment.
The photographs provide a dozen, or more accurately a dozen dozen’s mysterious short stories about feminine identity. Thus I could not help but construct my own short story played out below. I find this to be a curator’s and reviewer’s prerogative, but I rarely divulge my intent as I have here. It just seems right.
The book is large, but not monstrously so, with linen wrapped boards and an illustrated dusk jacket, wonderfully printed and nicely bound. What I might call a classic Twin Palms photobook. The color plates are numbered, printed one per page spread and framed with a generous amount of white space. The afterword is provided by Quentin Bajac about The Anti-Family Album, which is a very nice reflection on Sarfati’s body of work. The book design is by Jack Woody, Lise Sarfati and Francois Adragna.