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BOOK REVIEW: Vals by Nejma Kachaou

©Nejma Kachaou

First things first: I like the pictures in this work. They are compositions of shapes and colours. As far as I’m concerned, they could have been taken anywhere … but weren’t.

There is no information about the photographer to be found in this book and only a rather brief introduction by Laureline Mattiussi (in French, English, and rather flawed German), so I assume the pictures should speak for themselves.

Vals is a mountain village in the Surselva region in Eastern Switzerland. It is located at an altitude of 1250 metres above sea level, deep down in the Vals Valley. This small village has become mainly known for the 7132 Therme, a spa resort of pure stone, greenish in colour, weighing tons, by world-famous architect Peter Zumthor.

©Nejma Kachaou

Nejma Kachaou’s photographs show a Vals however very different from what people commonly associate with this village or the Vals Valley. As Laureline Mattiussi in her preface points out: “Vals, through the eyes of Nejma Kachaou, is a set of strong lines leading in every direction.” Needless to say, when looking at the pics with this in mind, I do of course see strong lines leading in every direction. But what if I had not been told? Difficult to say for every information relating to a picture influences the way I will see it.

The pictures were taken in winter and in summer. Contrary to Laureline Mattiussi, I do not feel the need to interpret this series. I just look at the images and realise that my eyes fall every time on something different. And, the more time I spend looking at them, the more I discover. Also, I never ask myself why Nejma Kachaou chose to photograph this or that, I simply use the images as triggers. Well, my brain does anyway with them what it wants but the effect they have on me is a mostly calming one. And that’s probably to do with the ordinariness of these pics – for someone like me who believes that magic lies in the ordinary, this is a compliment.

©Nejma Kachaou

Laureline Mattiussi’s take on these photos is very different from mine. “The composition delves into the secret language of mountains – elements and matter can very well recreate themselves as they wish.” I must admit that this way of thinking is very far from the realm of my own thoughts. In my universe, mountains do not possess a secret language. Also, they do very unlikely have wishes or wants.

“Water and air are vibrating, there is so much life, so much matter,” she writes. I agree. However, this is a book of photographs and photographs cannot show that.

©Nejma Kachaou

The pics are in colour and also in black and white. They show the glittering, raw stone of Vals, as I learn from the back cover. As well as the Zervreilasee and the Zervreilahorn.

I have been to Vals myself yet I have never seen it the way Nejma Kachaou shows it. I plan to soon go there again and see how I will experience it with these photographs in mind.

By Nejma Kachaou
Preface by Laureline Mattiussi
Paris, 2021

About Hans Durrer

Hans Durrer is an author and addiction counsellor based in Switzerland. www.hansdurrer.com/, 12-step-addiction-treatment.blogspot.ch/. Two of his books are in English: Ways of Perception, Bangkok 2006; Framing the World, Houston 2011.

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