An artists’ book examining our relationship to the camera and each other
Sandie Don and Mark Gowing’s We were only inches away is a collection of images crafted from found photographs and family archives, each carefully cropped and arranged to create ambiguous and abstract compositions of people together, hugging, kissing, dancing, shaking hands and simply enjoying each other’s company. Printed as spreads that are interrupted and connected via the binding process, hands, elbows, shoulders, legs, knees and hips come together as unlikely pairs, forming a compendium of body language and gestures. Casual photographic snaps become an unintended documentation of physical contact and spontaneous connection. The collision of these moments, taken across time, reveal the beauty of human relationships.
Dense and immersive, We were only inches away is about humanity and closeness, but also about our relationship to the camera. The use of found photographs taken before the invention of digital photography captures unguarded gestures, offered once to the camera rather than perfected through numerous attempts. Unlike the immediacy of the digital image, analogue photography offers us a distance from the outcome that often, ironically, results in a greater sense of closeness when in the hands of the amatuer photographer. For Don and Gowing, the physical play of bodies portrayed in old photographs elicited an instant and honest emotional response; an uncomplicated sense of loss.
We were only inches away is beautifully printed on a collated set of loose sheets. Bound by a single elastic band, the images are contextualised only by their assembled order and may be disassembled and recontextualised at will. The book functions as a kind of hindsight, visually discussing our humanity in the contemporary context, one most recently exacerbated by social distancing restrictions. The work asks: who are we without each other? What is this contact we crave, and why is it so essential to the human animal? Gowing says, “We were aiming to salvage moments of missed intimacy through the detail of bodies in close proximity—a hand on a shoulder, a leg brushing a leg. These are the unsaid things that a telephone or video chat or social media channel can’t replicate—this is our humanity”.
Although they have worked together professionally for over twenty years, this is the first artistic collaboration between Sandie Don and Mark Gowing. Don’s formal photographic education and extensive experience in the moving image brings a narrative sense of humanity to Gowing’s analytical rigour. Gowing’s practice centres around the conceptual understanding of language, be it oral, written, graphic or cultural. Gowing employs rhythmic and textural interventions to abstract our agreed visual dialects, questioning our innate understanding of images, form and reading. His work often features made and found imagery, formally deconstructed type systems and expressive gestures of form that create tensions in frequency and suggest alternatives to inherent narratives.
297 × 210 mm
Limited edition of 50 copies
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