This past Sunday night I went to a book launch party for “Calling All Shadows,” a collection of 97 photos by Leigh Norrie with poetry by Adam Touhrig on the facing pages. Leigh is a friend of mine, so I won’t pretend to be an impartial observer.
Nonetheless I will say that I was impressed by the moody quality of his photos, which are mostly black-and-white and were taken in a variety of melancholy places around Japan, plus a few in Britain. Leigh shows us waves crashing on a desolate coast…a cast-off store mannequin lurching zombie-like through a rice field where it was repurposed as a scarecrow…and a couple of nocturnal street scenes from the city of Fukushima, with not a soul in sight.
“Fukushima” is a name most people outside of Japan had never heard last year, but now the emptiness of the streets in Leigh’s photos will be striking to almost everyone.
One of the few color photos in the book is of the Nagasaki peace statue. When personified, “Peace” usually appears as a graceful woman, but the Nagasaki statue is a muscular man in a dynamic pose. Leigh photographed him as a slightly wavy reflection in some rain-slicked paving tiles. In this image, Peace, seemingly sealed off under a blue glaze, looks distant and unreal. Leigh took a concrete representation of an abstraction, and made it abstract again.
Many of the pictures have been manipulated in deliberately noticeable ways, mostly around the edges. In one example, a jumbo roller-coaster car with passengers sitting eight abreast has just begun a steep plunge at the top of the photo. The space around it is bleached as white as the surrounding page, so that the car and tracks seem to be hovering in infinite space. And the tracks below and ahead fade raggedly into the nothingness like the trailing end of a calligrapher’s brush stroke. Where will the passengers be a moment from now?“Calling All Shadows” is available through Printed Matter Press at printedmatterpress.com