Sunday, January 10, 2010

Nothing But Home by Sebastien Girard

In addition to Alec Soth's Allowing Flowers, the second book about home I'd like to mention is the Toulouse-based photographer Sebastien Girard's new Nothing But Home. Self-published in November of 2009, this made my best of the year list and was one of the only books that I brought home from Paris Photo.

Nothing But Home opens with wall-paper patterned endpages and the quote: "The simplest way is to take up everything again from the beginning, lie down on the grass, and start over, as if one knew nothing." What follows is an almost clinical examination of small details made while Girard's home was being renovated. His style is at times cool and detached and very claustrophobic. He describes with the eye of a building inspector, examining each imperfection which will need attending to during the construction; a paint drip on old faded wallpaper, dangerous bent nails sticking out of a wall joist, loose and wild wiring sprouting from a light socket.

Girard allows no breathing room in these photos. Perhaps metaphor for the extreme personal attention one gives to rebuilding of home, he keeps his framing tight. The artificial lighting gives the perception that all of the handy work is happening at night - a clandestine operation of transformation.

He provides no "before and after" photographs - we don't know the lay of the land at all. The closest to such an establishing shot is a photo of a stove top with rusty burners upon which sits a photo of a man's den complete with leather bound books, a brandy bottle and a roaring fireplace. If that photo represents the desired end-point then we have a very long journey clouded in spackle dust ahead.

Nothing But Home has the feel of many wonderful spare books coming from Amsterdam. Clean in design , it was bound in Holland but finely printed in Girard's hometown of Toulouse. It is in a first edition of 500 and also comes in a special edition of 100 copies with a print.