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In Focus: Photobooks by Erik Gustafsson, Henriette Sabro Ebbessen and Yolanda Y. Liou


“In Focus” is a new, quarterly series of reviews in which we hunt down and peruse the worthy publications off the shelves of our community artists. Each month, Der Greif is selecting a set of photobooks from our talents’ pool. Compiled here are the most recent releases from our community artists Erik Gustafsson, Henriette Sabro Ebbessen and Yolanda Y. Liou.

Published by Joint Loose, the Gothenburg-based photographer Gustafsson's photobook “A House of Clay" is described by his friend Louis Nitze as "a structure that is built to collapse and then resurrect again and again in new ways." The presented body of work is indeed an anthology of finished and unfinished photographs that are never set forever. According to Gustafsson, they can always be altered, reshaped, or manipulated at a later stage. Taking inspiration from photographers like Nan Goldin, Hiromix, and Wolfgang Tillmans, as well as visual artists like Mark Rothko, Hedda Sterne, and Gerhard Richter, among others, Gustafsson transforms his photographic practice into a synesthetic experience mediated through analogue photography. The everyday turns into a resource of free coincidences to wonder about and play with in the darkroom. Here, the photographer adds his impulses of creation to the prints, continuously shaping his own house of memories of places, encounters, objects, and living beings. Gustafsson mentions, "Every act of added creation demands the destruction of the original photograph and becomes a way to embrace the dual identity of our human nature, both as creator and destroyer." The act of manipulating and altering photosensitive matter stands as a statement of kinship with the process of world-making. The photographer-printer activates a process of destruction and construction, ultimately being surprised by a result not dependent on themselves.

Danish photographer Henriette Sabroe Ebbesen published her first monograph, “Self Reflection”, with Disko Bay Books earlier this year. "Self Reflection" is published with support from Fotografiska Stockholm to accompany a solo exhibition of the series at the museum on view until May 12th, 2024. Ebbesen's research delves into the relationship between human and natural bodies through a surreal visual narrative where distortions turn them into 'demons', intended here with the meaning of 'spirit' or supernatural being according to ancient Greek vocabulary. The supernatural being that emerges is a hybrid of nature and human: a whole body resembling a post-apocalyptic landscape where lushness and unexpectedness freely take over, creating a new world order. Ebbesen's chosen language gives a nod to AI-generated hyperreal and surreal images, as she states that her work serves as proof that real-world gimmicks can still speculate on imaginary realities through the mechanical photographic medium. Manipulation comes in the form of direct intervention at the moment of the click, thus the photos remain as pure records of the passage of time and light. "Self Reflection" is nevertheless an open-ended statement on the perception of female bodies through the author's eyes and the posthumous gaze applied to naked women's bodies. Ebbesen's overall research often deals with identity and the subconscious self, informed by imposed world structures, and it's examined once again here with an array of creativity and room for possibilities of interpretation.

Taiwan-born, London-based photographer Yolanda Y. Liou's new photobook, “Thank You For Playing With Me” is published by Stockmans Art Books. Liou's personal vision is authentic and intimate. It features a lively sequence of pictures, whether taken in her living room or on the streets across the UK. Enam Ewura Adjoa Asiama and Vanessa Russell are the photographer's subjects who have co-created a visual journal of self-acceptance, opposing the self-loathing often nurtured by images on social media and advertisements. With alternating candid and more staged portraits, Liou allows viewers to sense the constructive and safe space for self-expression. Liou shows a strong interest in the expressiveness of color, being receptive to contrasts and bold looks that enhance beauty through form. "Thank You For Playing With Me" stands out as a counter-narrative to the body-aesthetic standards that circulate endlessly both online and offline. Liou's photobook not only addresses mainstream body-positivity movements spreading on social media but also explores the role of the photographic medium in circulating ideas and ideals of how a body should look and perform in society. Ultimately, Liou's work is an act of care towards herself and other women, sharing the light and shadows of daily acceptance of one's appearance.