Book Review: Mona Kuhn's Private
Image Above: ©Mona Kuhn “Private”
The enigmatic Mojave Desert is the setting of Mona Kuhn’s latest photo book Private, published by Steidl. For 2 years Kuhn captured the prehistoric landscape and its obscure inhabitants, some of which are permanently present, others just ephemeral visitors. There is an illusionary aspect of Private, which holds true to the untamed desert - be wary of what you see because it will marinate in the lesions of your mind, feeding the neuroses that detach you from reality.
Shot on an analog Hasselblad, Kuhn captured pastel hues and wisps of dreamlike night visions, consequently producing images that have an eerie limbo-like quality. It is as if the reader becomes the traveller, stumbling through wrinkled golden plains, and into a hazy aesthetic oasis. As Private unfolds, the distinction between these two places becomes blurred, and ultimately merge into one undefined realm. In some regards, Kuhn’s use of film photography plays with the idea that the raw alchemic process of developing film is a form of creation, for she has ultimately created another world, a secret world.
©Mona Kuhn “Chanon”
©Mona Kuhn “Glacial Force”
Mona is known for her large-scale nudes and she integrates a select few into Private, and it generates a sense of intimacy. In one image, she photographs a young woman sprawled out with streams of kaleidoscopic light rippling across the curvature of her silhouette. In another, a woman extends herself across a slightly torn burgundy lounge. Her bare torso is turned away from the camera, however her face and eyes wander to the edge of the frame in a way that suggests that the viewer is interrupting her isolation.
©Mona Kuhn “Grand Falls”
©Mona Kuhn “Metas and Morphs”
©Mona Kuhn “Mirage”
In Private, there is an openness that inspires a terror. The lightness prevalent throughout the book draws the reader in, however the desolation evident in some images and the stark nature of others portray a deeper more precarious layer. “The desert’s seductive threat is always there of course”, David Campany wrote in Private, “It menaces from the edges. Look at the signature image of this book, a dusty room glimpsed out of focus through a glass door bearing the words “PRIVATE” in reverse. A view of sultry enigma, a chamber beyond which the brightness of the sun is coming to devour everything and take the mystery with it.”
Private is an experience in itself, and it reveals the wonder that can be found when one is quiet enough to hear the silence of others. Perhaps it is not only the silence of others that is reflected in this one hundred and four page book, but also the silence of ones self, and in turn this translates into an openness and willingness to an unconventional universe.
©Mona Kuhn “Nephila”
By Kyla Woods