The PhotoBook Journal

August 24, 2017

Michael Lundgren – Matter


Photographer: Michael Lundgren (born Denver, CO & resides in Phoenix, AZ, (USA)

Radius Books, Santa Fe, NM (USA) copyright 2016

Text: English

Hard cover, sewn binding, four-color lithography, Confluence poster, printed by Editoriale Bortolazzi-Stei, Verona (IT)


above: inside back cover, taped spine (binding) of text block, back pocket, folded poster

Photobook designer: David Chickey, Michael Lundgren


Matter, as defined in the dictionary: physical substance in general, as distinct from mind and spirit; (in physics) that which occupies space and possesses rest mass, especially as distinct from energy.

Michael Lundgren’s subjects are photographed in a variety of lighting conditions that define the subjects form (and mass) while also attempting to create enough ambiguity to create dissociation to un-moor you from your memory and associations as to what the subject might be. These various objects are encountered in the American Southwest and Mexican desert as well as in Spain.

I had the good fortune to meet up with Michael briefly at last year’s Medium Festival in San Diego. I had the misfortune of not being able to locate and bring with my copy of his earlier Transfigurations that was published in 2008, which was until recently hiding from me in my library stacks. There can be a downside in possessing toooo many photobooks.

Nevertheless I am going to defer to an intriguing interview in the British Journal of Photography earlier this year, which Lundgren states philosophically “The best description of magical realism is finding magic in the rational world. I’m not concerned with being an environmental photographer; I’m concerned with making images that make you feel something you can’t quite understand,” he continues. “There’s something that happens when you’re presented with what you can’t quite fathom. The agreements that I have in my mind in my world view are halted and they are interpreted. Within that interruption, there’s the possibility to see something that we didn’t know. I want to put you in a different world,” he says. “You can’t walk into this place and neither can you leave. You can only turn the page. These aren’t landscapes from real tradition: this is an isolating method. I’m interested in how flat photographs can exist almost as a three dimensional experience”

This exploration is a continuation of his earlier published book project, Transfigurations, an investigation that was completed in the black and white medium. In Matter he introduces the use of color to further examine and perhaps expand on the the potential symbolism of his subjects. This is indeed color except with a twist of magical realism; a dead green animal, a small pool of red liquid, a white inverted snake, a red mass with blacken tentacles or swirls of milky-brown dense clouds. These are various elements of matter that create questions and cause one to reconsider the natural world and one’s own expectations and understanding of reality. An intriguing and thought provoking, while yet visually poetic, investigation.

Lundgren was featured previously on The PhotoBook Journal; Transfigurations


Douglas Stockdale








January 31, 2009

Michael Lundgren – Transfigurations

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 8:56 pm


Photographer: 2008 copyright Michael Lundgren, courtesy Radius Books

Michael Lundgren’s natural landscape photographs in his book Transfigurations published in 2008 by Radius Books are not what you might expect of this genre of photography. It is a very cerebral set of images that examine the American Southwest landscape.

His photographs are more in line with the New Topographics concept of a direct recording of what is seen in the American desert. His theme is metamorphosis and he attempts to capture that intense radiance and wide range of illumination found in the very arid Southwest American desert.

Lundgren captures subtle and brief changes as well as those changes that take longer duration’s to manifest itself, sometimes only by what a camera can capture. In the desert the essence of how things mark time becomes a gray fog blurred by the memory of time. His photographs provide evidence of change with broad and varied strokes. Such as his photographic pairing of the changing movements of earthly solid rocks with the celestial heavenly bodies.

He plays with scale and tonality and I realize that that what I am looking at is not what exactly I thought it to be. So I find myself reexamining each photograph to re-verify it’s nature. I begin to have doubts and find I need to look closer and make a more critical examination of the “facts” placed before me. A white facing page morphs into a high key desert river bottom and so I find myself returning to the previous white facing pages to reexamine these again. A black page ekes out the subtle details of a desert vista as an experience of staying the night in the desert.

The pairing of images within the book provide an interesting juxtaposition and create potentially greater thematic narratives about the essence of change. A pair of photographs; one of the bright illumination of a full moon while the facing photograph of a landscape with deep shadows are oriented such that the source of illumination within one photograph appears to emanate from the photograph of the facing page.

The photographs are printed with full edge bleeds which implies the feeling of vastness with the images running off the edges much like the endless vistas of the desert. For me in this instance the full bleed images do not appear comfortable which leaves me uneasy although I do think that this aspect of the book design is consistent with the photographer’s conceptual intent.

The book is available in a trade edition, signed version or in a limited edition with a 16 x 20″ silver gelatin photograph and your choice from any image within the book. The ability to choose which print to be included with the limited edition is a nice touch.


Best regards, Douglas Stockdale










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