Inside this issue
Out of Darkness – Book Review
Amateur Photographer who plays with big cameras and film when in between digital photographs.
Alister Benn is Scottish by birth and has lived in the Highlands of Scotland for quite some time. Firstly on the Isle of Skye and latterly in mainland Lochaber. And yet his first book is a deep dive project into the remote Gobi desert in Northern China. The dislocation at first seems surprising, but as we dig a little deeper, it’s this distance that has allowed Alister to discover something new about himself and his photography. Out of Darkness is a story of “the meaning of a life and the story of a life of meaning.” A look at how the abstract can become a catalyst for creativity and change.
The subject of Alister’s project, abstract sand dune photography, isn’t a novel one. Photographers have been fascinated by the fluidity and abstract nature of the desert, where the shapes of the dunes drift and reform as the wind carries the sand across the landscape. Since the early 20th Century, photographers such as Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Georgia O’Keefe and Edward Weston have visited the US desert landscape and found their own abstract vision of the land. The desert dune environment in the US is now a ‘must visit’ iconic location, and some of the sense of isolation must have been lost over time.
The core idea of the project is an exploration of the dune environment and its changing tones and colours throughout the day as a metaphor for Alister’s personal enlightenment and development. It’s a simple idea, start with dark images taken during night or twilight and gradually explore the transition to full sunlight. As with anything, though, the devil is in the details. The images included in the book are as good as any dune photographs I’ve seen, and the sequencing and visual journey slowly draws you out of the darkness of night, through the twilight and on to the full illumination of the day.
Overall, I can highly recommend Alister’s first book. It is so much more than a typical ‘best of’ album or geographical exploration that many photographers’ books deliver. I would love to see more ‘deep-dive’ photographic projects such as this.
You can buy Alister’s book from his website, and he’s very kindly shared a 10% discount on the standard and deluxe books using the discount codes ‘STANDARD10’ and ‘DELUXE10’.