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In Focus: Photobooks by Magda Kuca, Mafalda Rakoš, Anna Breit and Mircea Sorin Albuțiu


“In Focus” is a 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 Magda Kuca, Mafalda Rakoš, Anna Breit and Mircea Sorin Albuțiu.

"Tales" is the first book by Magda Kuca published by Lost Light Recordings. It comprises a decade-long photographic research on Eastern European identity and storytelling, examining the relationship between the supernatural and folklore. Her work finds its place in historic photographic processes, such as wet collodion. Entangled with personal narratives and Polish cultural heritage, "Tales" explores contemporary visual fable-making through ancient techniques. The book is a personal narrative told in a free and multimedia form, pulling together a decade of photographs and written notes to tell a multifaceted story about her family and Eastern European folklore. "The pictures threaded throughout this book weave strange and heartfelt tales. They are like visual fables, in which the world of humans, animals, plants, and objects meet in a space where time is porous and suspended. The notion of fables seems appropriate here, for they are an enduring form of folk story transmitted across time, through voices and memory, songs and rituals," wrote Martin Barnes, Senior Curator of Photography at the V&A. Hand-printed and hand-bound by Lee Elkins, the book speaks of Kuca's dedication and sensitivity to craft and slow processes of production, an approach which is given back to viewers as a space to wonder.

Mafalda Rakoš’ “All In This Together” was recently published by The Eriskay Connection. The book is the outcome of both an artistic and anthropological investigation of the artist, who in 2021, during the pandemic, embarked on a collaborative research on the effects of isolation, lockdown and social distancing. During their quest, elements of art therapy, documentary photography, performance, and anthropological research all blended together. Through sessions involving conversations, drawings, and portraits, Rakoš tried to give visual form to the invisible: loneliness, confusion, or even harmony and calm. As the sessions unfolded, their dialogical character took center stage, and another question emerged, as Rakoš reports: “How can such an artistic project overlap with a therapeutic process, and where should they be kept strictly apart?” Rakoš’ book is about processes rather than answers to a scientific question. Her images and visual exercises reveal the creative potential nurtured by shared emotions and states: a communal condition of isolation and negative feelings which felt particularly alienating but also leaning towards connection as opposed to the condition we found ourselves in. That moment of sharing as each individual life hanged suspended on the verge of the unknown.

“Look Book – 01” is the second book by photographer Anna Breit. It comprises over 100 photos of humans and dogs from her 2018-2024 archive, all of which are excerpts from commissioned works. The original images were deliberately destroyed by the artist and the frame was thus reset. The commissioned work no longer exists and is equally the fundamental starting point for this playful artistic work. What remains are grainy faces, which are serially arranged on the pages without interruption as close-up views. In "Look Book – 01", Breit brings to the foreground the aesthetics of fashion photography, here oriented on the person (and pets) rather than the objects. Page-filling portraits show the granularity of the photographer's analogue shots, reproduced here and freeing themselves from the original, destroyed images. Unveiling the core of her photographic practice – the intimate relationship of trust she builds with her portrait sitters – Breit builds a paper zone of interest in the human gaze, which is the cornerstone of her work as a photographer. There is a kind of disorientation in the image pairings which is constant throughout the book. The appearance of the close-ups on every page unsettles our perception and instinct to contextualize: we are left without any indication but focus on the act of looking itself.

"Framing a Romanian Landscape" is the recently independently released photobook by Romanian photographer and filmmaker Mircea Sorin Albuțiu, designed by Andrei Becheru, and printed at Atelier Fabrik. Having traveled for 8 months through Romania to unveil her country's contemporary truth and authentic narrative, Albuțiu presents her personal "framing" of homeland: its light and environment, its architecture, and the people. This is a subjective map traced and experienced through traveling by buses and trains off the beaten path. In the accompanying text, Romanian poet Bogdan Ghiu states: "On the train, you are in the real world and sheltered from it at the same time: in suspended time. [...] The train itself is a way of seeing, a unique perspective on the world." Albuțiu explores her own country "in suspended time" from an old train's window, through an analogue camera lens. Movement and stillness intertwined as the photographer's body is moved through places while her gaze projected far, towards the unknown reality he was immersed in.