Book Review: n e w f l e s h
n e w f l e s h has the perfect audacity to confront the reader before they even open the book. As if, before it could teach you something, you had to teach yourself. Am I not as whole as I think I am? Am I more me in fragments or in entirety? Can I ‘see’ myself better in this hazy reflected image or in front of a mirror? This book walks us through a sort of reconciliation with the idea of uncertainty and fragmented identity. It is a meditation on clarity and unfamiliarity, queerness and the process of becoming and ‘unlearning’. It is thinking about the self with cracks, as multiple selves and looks at boundaries as ‘porous'.
Efrem Zelony-Mindell is the curator and writer behind this photobook where the work of 68 photographers meet. Together, they create queer narratives, and question the role of the art world in challenging our approach to identity and photography. Efrem also invites us to engage and look at this book in a new and exciting way. They choose to curate a book like you would an exhibit. There is a certain tenderness in the writing, a desire to invite the reader to think about the conversations they bring up, to linger on the possibilities. The writing moments are valuable insights that help us interact with the photographs.
The photographs exist in this book to engage the reader. They challenge us to reconsider our notions of understanding and ask us to look at the world differently. Efrem mentions that «These images build new realities from fragments; they are beyond repugnant but rejuvenated in perception ». They make us pause on the word ‘fragment’ and lets us unload the word from our previous understanding of it. A fragment is no longer broken or lost, it doesn’t seek reconnection to its torn off piece, but rather it is thriving in the new environment of possibility. It is a necessary tool for re-thinking and re-arranging our way of seeing.
Accross this collection of photographs, the artists break away from the traditional image of the body. They imagine an alternative way of photographing bodies for us to engage with them in a non-conventional way. Efrem says in their introduction that "The anatomy needs stripping of its titles and formalities…these works alter the state of reality and document reinvented concepts of coming into individuality. They allow for imperfections and unfamiliarity. There’s a cleansing ability of clarity in that uncertainty…what is clear is queerly defined".
n e w f l e s h is not only a fascinating read, but it is also a beautifully made book inside and out; from its interactive cover, to its visually exciting arrangement of images and text. It couldn’t have been an easy project to put together with all these different artists and then bring them into a cohesive conversation with each other, but Efrem made a remarkable and achieved project out of it.
As I close the book and see my blurry reflection again, I ask myself; does this obscurity offer me more possibilities about who I am?