Monday, June 25, 2007

I Love Boras! by Lars Tunbjork

If Lars Tunbjork’s book Office (Journal 2001) showed us the behind-the-scenes workings of capitalism in white collar offices around the world, his new book I Love Boras! shows us the fruits of those labors as they appear in the landscape of Boras, Sweden.

Made within the same time period of his project Landet Utom Sig: Bilder fran Sverige (Country Beside Itself: Pictures from Sweden) the content of I Love Boras! may seem familiar. On the Steidl website, they describe the images in I Love Boras! as not used in that first book because “they didn’t fit, they were too ugly, too beautiful or too silly. Together they show a darker and more hysteric view of modern western society…”

The book begins with rampant consumerism literally smothering people with its products, colors and language. Tunbjork stifles us with claustrophobic frames that may make you feel the need to take a machete to your local Walmart just to navigate its overflowing aisles. In Tunbjork’s hands, this world is exposed for all of the gaudiness and saccharine flavored superficiality that separates us from our money. Like children we are drawn to desire things due to their color and appeal of design (or its appeal to the subconscious).

As mice in a running wheel get occasionally flipped upside down, so does the populace of Tunbjork’s I Love Boras! as he seeks out moments of awkwardness to make his point. All of what he is photographing is part of contemporary European (or American) life. The work, leisure, and consumerism in his pictures add up to a vision of purchased “happiness” with little else gained. We have become what we own. The work in this book, although by the title is site specific (Boras, Sweden), speaks of the larger machination and adaptation of it into our vacuous modern lives.

Although this has been a thread that has run through Tunbjork’s work, what is vastly different is the package of that message. Journal, who published his other titles, created a sleek and clean design that left the images some breathing room with each page lined with white borders around the images. In I Love Boras!, the designer Greger Ulf Nilson has accentuates the themes of the book by the use of a larger trim size and images that bleed to the page edge. This creates an even greater attack on the senses. This is the form that suits the photography.

From the front cover board on which is the first image is printed and into the endpapers which are other images in the sequence, we dive right in an only occasionally do we come to the surface. When Tunbjork has switched camera formats, we are then given a strip of white filler on the page that provides a small break. Although this was unavoidable without cropping the images to fit the page ratio, I do find it slightly distracting.

The book contains 164 photos and like consumerism itself, it is appropriately overdoing it. For a book that describes that culture, it certainly has learned its lessons of marketing down to the lemon and cotton candy colored slipcase that boldly announces its presence on the bookshelf.

There is no essay (one wasn’t needed) but it does come with a caption booklet which I question whether that was necessary either. We don’t really need to know place and date as it is not important to the book’s content. It does however provide the colophon for the book so I guess its inclusion was unavoidable. Or, since the only words that appear on the actual book are on the spine, they could have printed it there.

Does Lars love Boras? Perhaps the strongest critique comes from love. I know there must be a reason that the book is designed with a photo of a family loaded down with junk food on the front cover and a dog’s behind on the back. (Lars…do you not have a photo of a horse’s ass?)

I guess that’s close enough.

Buy online at Steidlville