Photobook Review: 'Tracing a Line Along a Breath Exhaled' reviewed by Lucy Bentham

We're always on the look out for creative involvement to the Photograd blog and we instantly knew we wanted Lucy Bentham to come on board when she suggested writing some words about a favourite photobook. Lucy is an independent curator and photographer who graduated from the MA Photography and the book course at the University of Plymouth last year.

We hope for Lucy's review to inspire others to create their own. Contact us for more info:

Photographer and Title: Tracing a Line Along a Breath Exhaled, Carly Seller

Genre: Landscape, handmade artist book

Rating: 4/5


8 images, monochrome

9 pages, concertina, wrap-around cover with obi band

Edition of 24

Horizontal lines, steps into the unknown, and a steady pace of one foot in front of the other are visual and physiological elements of the photographs in this series. The viewer embarks on their own journey as they are placed in the position of the maker, treading carefully through the landscape with a clear message to gently roam onwards and upwards. The horizontal panoramic orientation of Seller’s prints primarily provide a lofty transcendental lift as the visuals combine with the philosophical, softly encouraging the gaze and the mind towards an elevated state of being. 

At the same time, Seller’s visual approach represents an ordinary way of seeing; that which is in front of us, the length of our bodies, and as far as the eye can see. Through a vertical, almost standardised way of contemporary seeing, we remain to consider what is ahead, around the corner, up the hill. We don’t look back, and we rarely alter our position to consider the other surrounding us as we amble into the beyond. 

From the series  Tracing a Line Along a Breath Exhaled

From the series Tracing a Line Along a Breath Exhaled

On occasion we find relief in the downward pathways, providing a pause in our forward movement. Downhill, we can presume we have already reached the summit and can break to take stock of our journey thus far. However, as in the triptych shown above, Seller reminds us that there is only one way forward as prickly walls furnishing the landscape claustrophobically surround us. The way forward is no longer a gentle roam; it becomes a need to continue along the path as it promises a steady downhill start, before once again elevating us into the undiscovered. 

Ultimately, these paths are never-ending; we are not provided with a conclusion to the series that brings our continual motion to a finite halt. Throughout this journey into the land, we are surrounded by fears and threats we only intermittently pay attention to. When we do catch a glimpse of these foes, they only spur us on, keeping pace along the endless way. 

Tracing a Line Along a Breath Exhaled  photobook

Tracing a Line Along a Breath Exhaled photobook

As a photographer working with the book I am often, if not always, interested to see photographic work represented as a book work, especially when the work is translated from original concept through a number of different gallery installations and into a book work. I like to engage with what I consider to be the thought process of the artist as they choose to disseminate their work in book form and I tend to favour the self-published or hand-made dummies because of their closeness to original, organic ideas of the maker. 

The book for Tracing a Line Along a Breath Exhaled is an accompaniment to, rather than a culmination of, this body of work. The project itself conveys a particularly deep connection between the photographer and the natural landscape, echoed in the delicate, handmade qualities of this book. 

The joy of a concertina book is that the reader is given some sense of ability to rearrange the sequencing of the images, although any new sequence will always remain confined to the space and time set by the photographer. The excellent quality of printing is on a matte finish paper stock that deepens the blacks on this set of monochrome prints. The forest green cover acts as a visual prompt for the content as the reader opens the book for the first time and later returns to it. The book is held together with an obi band slipped over its entirety, upon which the title is repeatedly printed in a simple typeface. 

This is a project accompaniment book, not a final dummy for publication. If this book was to be taken to the next step and become a dummy for self or other publication I would like to see more image content. The small size of the book in terms of width and height is surprisingly effective considering the grander scale of the subject matter and aspect ratio of the framing. The addition of pages, making the book deeper, would not impact on the sizing. The benefit of the images used in this book is that they could be presented at a much larger scale, as seen in the installation of the original work and this would be interesting to see translated into book form.