Book Review: The Sniper Paused So He Could Wipe His Brow by Sean Lotman
Sean Lotman’s book, The Sniper Paused So He Could Wipe His Brow is a fantastic journey of images, with brief, whisper-like lines of poetry paced throughout a noticeably non-standard binding format (a tall thin book on the shelf). When the book is opened, it forms a square shape – much like Lotman’s images on the “choose-you-own-adventure” introduction and epilogue pages. Saturated and emblematic images of cityscapes, rural settings, portraits, and dream-infused vignettes evoke a sense of mystery and fantasy.
Lotman states in his artist statement for the project: “Memory has a fascinating way of forming narrative. We believe we recall something as it happened only to find evidence that events were in fact rather different. I’m intrigued by the flaw of misremembered pasts. Whatever facts are attached to an experience inevitably fade, while strange details are exaggerated and given primacy. I wanted to give form to this bewilderment with The Sniper Paused So He Could Wipe His Brow.
The project is comprised of ninety-five photographs drawn from twenty countries, shot over the span of 15 years. Handmade darkroom color prints taken with a Diana f+ toy camera are the origin of the images. The book is designed in three parts, with a split binding in the first and third parts which create different sets of photographs in a kind of ‘Choose-Your-Own-Adventure’ experience. “Thus, every time you engage with the book,” Lotman says, “your reading of it will be unique depending on how you arrange the book’s pagination. Sniper reminds the reader that our understanding of things evolve with time and nothing is quite like we remember it.”
Originally a writer of stories, Lotman is interested in the narrative potential of photography– how pictures can be assembled to articulate a mood. “The mood I am most concerned with aesthetically is one of surreality”. He is a child of comic books, Twilight Zone episodes, and Technicolor musicals – interested in “reconstituting realities parallel to our own”; somewhat familiar but more akin to half-remembered dreams. “As an American in Japan,” Lotman says, “essentially a stranger needing to adapt to a society unlike the one I’ve always known, I have, in turn, attempted to turn Japanese geography, people and signs into an imagination all my own, filtered through a psychedelically-infused color palette. It is a world of my own making, transposed upon my color darkroom prints. Vividly portrayed in reds, blues, blacks, and yellows, this is a land of people and place and visualized not as they are, but as they never could be.”
Lotman’s images prompted a feeling of etherial boundaries for me – as opposed to literal translations, documentations, or signposts for the way a viewer ‘should’ read the pictures. Sniper’s visual journey visually wanders and winds over the course of the book – adding to the sense of discovery. The hand-crafted aspect of the book is precious, in the literal sense of the phrase. Lotman and/or the publisher hand-cut the sections of the book which allow the reader to flip ahead or back in the page layout – forming various two-page spreads as they see fit. And the print run of the book means there are less than 500 copies of the book in the world. As time passes, I find this aspect of photo book publishing to be comforting and invigorating at the same time. As of late, the ubiquitous nature of the internet leaves me pining for days of preciousness, exclusivity and (dare-I-say) custom-made objects.
The Sniper Paused So He Could Wipe His Brow by Sean Lotman
Published by IBASHO & The M éditions
Dimensions: 150 x 300 mm
Limited edition of 490 numbered copies, including 40 special editions accompanied by a print made by the artist.
About – Sean Lotman is a native of Los Angeles who draws his inspiration from narrative fiction as well as cinema, his palette honoring the unreal colors of Technicolor films from the 1940s and 1950s. He creates the special, somewhat psychedelic atmosphere in his work through liberal color experimentation and an unorthodox dodge-and-burn technique in his darkroom. While printing his images, he is searching for a subjective feeling more resembling reverie than reality. The Sniper Paused So He Could Wipe His Brow is his fourth book. He lives in Kyoto, Japan, with his wife, Ariko, their son, Tennbo, and their dog, Monk.
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