Van Zoetendaal Publishers
Text: Pia Sivenius, Jan Kaila
Concept: Willem Van Zoetendaal
Design: Typography: Suzan Beijer
Published in 2002
Marjaana Kella’s book investigates the nature of photographic portraiture: how–or–if the photograph’s description of surface physiognomy tells us anything of interior character and psychology. Of course we form judgements about people from their visual appearance, but when we meet them we also have the benefit of the way they move and speak. So what advantage doe the photograph give us?
As Kella writes: ‘A photograph is dumb and still. That’s why we can observe what’s on display on a very special way.’ The photograph’s very stillness is a vital factor, affording usthe chanceto scrutinize a suspended moment with great intensity. Furthermore, the concentration on surfaceleaves room for our interpretive imagination to work. And yet the quality of stasis in a photograph is not always the same, as Kella’s fascinating book demonstrates.
She shows two bodies of work here, one a series of studies of backs of heads, the other portraits of people in hypnotice trance. The difference is instructive. The rear-view portraits are totally still, frozen, almost wholly non-gestural. We are compelled to observe shape and texture in the most minute detail. The hypnosis portraits are also still, but not frozen in quite the same way. A sense of movement, of facial expression and bodily gesture remains. However, the gestures are not ‘normal’ and we are left searching for clues on the surface to formulate our reading. What emerges is an erudite and compelling demonstration of the enigma that is photography.