Book Review: The Lumen Seed by Judith Crispin

Four Kurdu-kurdu[kids] with Trampoline (Lajamanu Community NT, December 2015)

My way of approaching photo books isn’t systematic, doesn’t follow any rules. Sometimes, I start with the beginning, sometimes, I read the press release first, sometimes, I look at the photographs first. In the case of The Lumen Seed by Judith Crispin I did all of the three almost simultaneously.

I’ve very much warmed to the photographer’s quote that precedes the press release:
“… Warlpiri people move through the landscape, they introduce themselves. They apologize to that country for breaking twigs. They ask permission to take water from the creeks. If humanity ever transcends its selfish and murderous nature, it will be because of people like the Warlpiri. ”

I can easily identify with the Warlpiri take on things for as a young boy I was convinced, like the native Indians in North America, that to tear a branch from a tree meant to hurt the tree. This feeling of being connected (to be more precise: that all things – including human beings – are connected) , I’ve never really lost. When, a few years ago, the only reason I did not give in to the urge to embrace the two tall trees I was passing by when going to the beach (near Havana, Cuba) was my fear people would think I’m nuts or from California.

“The Lumen Seed” was “created in close consultation with the Warlpiri community elders”, I learn. And so I imagined Judith Crispin sitting devoutly on the floor listening to an old wrinkled man in an armchair smoking a pipe … well, I was wrong. Just look at the Wirntali-Jarra pic and read the caption and you will get a sense of the thoroughly relaxed and easy-going atmosphere that this tome conveys. Is there anything more desirable than to go through life feeling at ease?

Wirntali-Jarra [Friends] (near Emu waterhole, Tanami Desert NT, December 2015)
Henry Jackamarra and Jerry Jangala have known each other since they were small children. More than a decade his senior, Henry treats Jerry like a little brother – still lecturing him on what he eats and wears, although both men are now respected elders.

Juno Gemes characterises The Lumen Seed as standing in the “collaborative tradition of relational documentary photography” while Judith Crispin states: “This is not a book of photojournalism and makes no attempt to be objective. Quite the contrary, in fact. I wanted this book to be as subjective as possible.” Well, I’d say, the more subjective you are, the more likely it is that others will be able to identify with your point of view. For, “objectively speaking”, we are less special than we think we are and have more in common with one another than we probably like to have.

For Judith Crispin, the discovery of Aboriginal Australia is a revelation, and a love story. And, as much as I feel intrigued by her transformation from the one who thought the Warlpiri needed her help to the one who was helped, and adopted, by them, I remain somewhat sceptical. How come? I’m wary of “solutions”, I’m wary of authority figures (i.e. Senior Law man), I’m wary of people who claim “to understand.” At the same time, I do not want, and cannot, argue with a woman who writes: “I know there is a secret world nested inside this one. I’ve seen it.” I believe her. Moreover, I appreciate her sharing “a particularly miraculous vision of the world that comes only with the diagnosis of serious illness.”

What I’ve also appreciated was the mix of factual reporting on British nuclear tests between 1952 and 1963 and Judith’s easy-going, humorous approach. “Before leaving Canberra, I phoned Wanta in Lajamanu for reassurance – ‘What if I get lost?’ I asked him ‘There’s no reception out there.’ ‘Follow the emus’, he answered, doing his best impersonation of a Buddhist sage, We laughed, but every single morning of that first trip, at Mildura, Woomera, Coober Pedy, and Alice, emus walked toward me out of the desert.”

Eemie at the UFO Roadhouse (Wycliffe Well Roadhouse and Van-park NT, December 2015
UFO enthusiast Arc Vanderzalm moved to the desert in 2004 to establish a UFO-themed van park. In the can park’s early years, Arc rescued an abandoned emu chick and raised him by hand. He neamed him Eemie. Travelers stopping for fuel at Wycliffe Well roadhouse are sometimes surprised by an adult emu staring in at them through the window. While a guest of the van park, I once startled Eemie by walking into the ladies’ shower block. He peered out at me through the shower curtain with an air of embarrassment, a though I’d intruded at a delicate moment. Later, as I drove toward Tennent Creek, I spotted Eemie chasing a farm dog down the highway, legs akimbo.

The reason I’m quoting Judith here at length is because I wished more photographers were informing me about how their pictures came about respectively what preceeded the picture taking and what then followed. For the picture taking I warm to most is documenting a process.

It is a small-format tome, most pics are in black and white. It is a work that – as Juno Gemes points out in his introduction – stands “in the tradition of Tina Modotti and Josef Koudelka – a generation of documentary photographers who believe fervently that if you show people what is actually happening in the world, they will understand and be moved to demand change.”

What makes this work dear to me is how photographs and captions/texts complement each other. In my experience, this is rare. Moreover, that Judith Crispin made me see anew how all is connected. As Alan Watts (in: The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You are) once penned: “We often say that you can only think of one thing at a time. The truth is that in looking at the world bit by bit we convince ourselves that it consists of separate things, and so give ourselves the problem of how these things are connected and how they cause and effect each other. The problem would never have arisen if we had been aware that it was just our way of looking at the world which had chopped it up into separate bits, things, events, causes, and effects. We do not see that the world is all of a piece …”


The Lumen Seed
Photographs and Poems by Judith Crispin
The Story of the Indigenous Warlpiri People of Australia’s Northern Tanami Desert
Foreword by Juno Gemes
Daylight Books, February 2017

www.daylightbooks.org, info@daylightbooks.org

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Tom Blachford @ Black Eye Gallery


Tom Blachford: Midnight Modern
April 18th- 30th

The Midnight Modern series was created over the course of three years capturing the modernist architecture of Palm Springs, shot entirely by the light of the full moon.

Black Eye Gallery
3/138 Darlinghurst Rd,
Darlinghurst 2010

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Helen Sear @ KLOMPCHING GALLERY


Helen Sear: NEW WORK
to April 28, 2017

The exhibit features 14 photographic artworks, selected from three recent series—Becoming Forest, View Finder and Wild Flower Arrangements—in addition to Caetera Fumus, which debuted at her solo show for the 2015 Venice Biennale. This exhibition celebrates Sear’s most recent artistic endeavors.

Klompching Gallery | 89 Water Street, Brooklyn NY 11201

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Photobookfest 2017 in Moscow


Photobookfest 2017 in Moscow
12 th till 28 th of May

PHOTOBOOKFEST is festival of photobooks, which include exhibitional and educational blocks. That festival is a good opportunity for young/amateur photographers to expand their knowledge and improve skills in photography. Festival will also help ordinary visitors to meet contemporary photographic art. So we will organize lectures, workshops, exhibitions. Also we run the contest of photobook dummies and that will give photographers and publishers voices.

Lumiere Brothers Center for Photography
Russia, Moscow, 3 Bolotnaya emb., b.1

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Judy Glickman Lauder @ Howard Greenberg Gallery

Paris, France, 2013
Archival pigment print, 47 x 33 1/2 inches

Judy Glickman Lauder: Upon Reflection
April 6 – May 20, 2017

“Over the past five years, Glickman Lauder has worked using only natural light to capture reflections and shadows that become abstractions often including self-portraits that are slightly hidden, some revealed only upon closer examination. The large prints are drenched in color, with intricate patterns and intriguing perspectives. The series represents a transition for Glickman Lauder: “My work in color has sent me in another direction – one of exploration and of introspection,” she notes.”

Howard Greenberg Gallery
41 East 57th Street, Suite 1406, New York

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Viewpoints: Latin America in Photographs @ NYPL

John Cohen, Planting Potatoes, Q’eros/Kiku, 1964

Viewpoints: Latin America in Photographs
March 24 – June 28, 2017

Opening reception today: 6:30-8:00pm

“The geography, people, and rich culture of Latin America have long inspired photographers to capture visually their experiences and impressions. Their photographs, in turn, entice viewers to marvel at that which is foreign or to reminisce about the familiar. Viewpoints: Latin America in Photographs exhibits over 100 images from the 1860s through the present. Presented in parallel trajectories, the photographs trace the perceptions of foreigners and locals and offer insight into varying cultural perspectives. The exhibition, drawn exclusively from the Library’s immense Photography Collection, is the first devoted solely to the subject of Latin America.”

New York Public Library
Stephen A. Schwartzman Building
New York Public Library
476 Fifth Avenue

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Debbie Fleming Caffery & Machiel Botman @ Gitterman Gallery

Debbie Fleming Caffery, Roberto, 1994

Debbie Fleming Caffery & Machiel Botman
April 6 – June 3, 2017

Reception, Thursday April 6, 6 pm to 8 pm

“This exhibition brings together two artists, Debbie Fleming Caffery and Machiel Botman, both masters of the gelatin silver print as a medium of self expression. ”

Gitterman Gallery
41 East 57th Street, Suite 1103
New York, NY 10022

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NANCY BARON AND PAMELA LITTKY @ KEHRER GALERIE

© Nancy Baron, Backyard Morning

NANCY BARON AND PAMELA LITTKY: AMERICAN DESERT DREAMS
APRIL 1 – MAY 6, 2017

OPENING RECEPTION WITH THE ARTISTS: FRIDAY, MARCH 31, 7-9PM

“American photographers, Nancy Baron and Pamela Littky will be showing works from their respective series of photographs documenting the physical and social terrain of the American Desert. Baron’s work studies the midcentury modern environment and lifestyle of Palm Springs, while Littky’s work examines the harsh desert life in two Mojave Desert towns claiming to be The Gateway to Death Valley. A close look at these seemingly disparate, tight-knit communities of Death Valley and Palm Springs shows surprising similarities in their paths to The American Dream, rising from the desert sands.”

KEHRER GALERIE
POTSDAMER STR. 100
10785 BERLIN, GERMANY

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Daniel W. Coburn @ Colorado Photographic Arts Center


Daniel W. Coburn “The Hereditary Estate”
April 21 – June 3, 2017

Opening Reception: Friday, April 21, 6-9pm, with an Artist Talk and Book Signing from 7-8pm

“The exhibition is comprised of deeply intimate photographs that challenge the conventionality of the family photo album and its role in portraying a narrative of the American Dream. The Hereditary Estate exhibition has traveled internationally and has been featured in The International New York Times and Family Photography Now, a major anthology of contemporary photography published by Thames & Hudson. ”

Colorado Photographic Arts Center
1070 Bannock St, Denver, CO 80204

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Steve Bailey @ Aberystwyth Arts Centre


Steve Bailey: Walking the Dog
1 April – 24 May

Exhibition Opening Friday 7 April, 6-8pm

“The photographs in this exhibition cover the entire length of the Ceredigion coastal path from Gwbert in the south to Ynyslas in the north. There have been many great photographs of this coastline, but Bailey looks beyond the magnificent views of land and sea, to show that there is more to see than meets the eye: coastal erosion, drama, beauty, the unexpected, and plenty of light. What may first appear familiar soon seems like another world.”

Gallery 2, Aberystwyth Arts Centre

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