Pandemic timelessness in a thaumatrope

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Augury is the first photobook of artists Elena Helfrecht and Teri Varhol, who invite us to their walks of the first confinements in this collaborative project published by Antics Publications.

Augury is a back-to-back double-bound book featuring two sets of photographs: “The Swallow” by Elena Helfrecht and “The Cage'” by Teri Varhol. Strolling through Prague, London, Bavaria and the Alps, the two photographers depict what has become the new daily life. In black and white photography, these walks become a way of rediscovering the world through an almost dreamlike vision of nature and cities, where a sequence of images without any particular order, without beginning or end, compiles places and often misunderstood objects.

The images look like a simple faithful representation of normal objects or settings, but when examined closely they form a map of symbols and uncharted realms. As the writer Krasimira Butseva observes in the introductory text, the viewer is guided through crosses marking the stems of trees, hidden windows, a wasps’ nest, mist, an opening in the sky, a author’s wound and a bunion.

Through the omission of color, light compositions and textures become the protagonists of this publication, creating a visceral narrative of what felt like a distorted moment of reality. At a time when we were constrained in spaces and tried to look differently to cope, these two photographers offer us their vision, consisting in highlighting the tension between light and shadow. The photographers explain: “For many people, the sense of time during the pandemic has ceased to exist. Many of us have tuned into a sort of cyclical perception of life and being, where the natural cycles of night and day have become indistinguishable, giving rise to a somewhat magical and unearthly atmosphere.”

Augury is inspired by the 19th century concept of a thaumatrope (as mentioned by the artists in an interview for GUP Magazine) – an optical illusion consisting of a disc with an image on each side attached to two pieces of string. The cage and the swallow are the two most representative elements of a thaumatrope, referring to the name of each of the chapters. Moreover, Augury offers an updated version of Baudelaire’s Flaneur, the one who wanders and finds aesthetic pleasure in the act of looking around him, losing the notion of time and place only guided by pleasure. Elena and Teri combine this feeling of having no specific place to go and no particular place to look, with the new perception of time that has developed in all of us due to the endless days and months of confinement, resembling the circular movements of a thaumatrope and the caged swallow. Regarding their methodology of moving and looking, the artists speak of a sense of transport that goes further into a “transformation of the mind, which sometimes manifests itself in contrasting portals of light and shadow, or (in Elena’s case) semi-scenic scenarios evoking fantasy; a perfect escape from reality, thus providing refuge when the world around us seems uncertain and drifting away.”

The particular design of the book is made up of two separate volumes contained in a case, echoing the symbolism mentioned above. The circularity of time, represented in the endless sequence of images, imprisoned in a small cage. The artists explain how, in the book, they decided to create a chronology “index” through the flap of the book, which contains a series of dates corresponding to each of the days on which the photographs were taken. In this way, and as the authors explain to me, “Elena’s photos were mostly taken at night, lighting up the darkness with a bold flash, while Teri’s images were cast in the shadows, balancing the brightness of long summer days Where one ends the other begins, like Ouroboros devouring its tail and with each bite creating a new cycle, seeing more clearly and forming new connections with and in imagery the other. […] These contrasts have become a central starting theme, which forms the axis that connects the book. It is precisely these tensions that cause it to spin, reflect and ultimately merge into one and become whole”.

Many photographic projects have been carried out during the lockdowns, however Augury offers a unique visual narrative that approaches the idea of ​​looking and walking from a mystical perspective. Moreover, the design and execution of the book only makes the reader more curious about the images and potential red-files that may appear among them, reminding us of our own experience and relationship with the objects and settings depicted.

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Normal edition:

Softcover 6.3 x 9.25 inches

Back-to-back binding

Embossed silver cover

Offset printing on matte paper

120 pages (60 on each side)

Introduction by Krasimira Butseva

TO BUY HERE (normal edition)

Special edition:

Copy signed by Elena Helfrecht and Teri Varhol

Two 6×9″ archival pigment prints (with signed certificates of authenticity)

Essay by Krasimira Butseva

Housed in a clamshell box

TO BUY HERE (Special edition)

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Elena HelfrechtThe work of revolves around inner space and phenomena of consciousness, emerging from an autobiographical context and opening up to the surreal and the fantastic, sometimes grotesque. Interweaving memories, experiences and imagination, she creates inextricable stories with multiple layers of meaning, characterized by a visceral iconography. His work has been exhibited and published internationally. Among others, she was nominated for the FOAM Paul Huf Award and was a co-finalist for the BJP International Photography Award in 2021.

Teri Varhol is a Czech artist working mainly with photography and video. She graduated from the Intermedia studio of the Faculty of Fine Arts in Brno and currently resides in London, UK. His main interest lies in exploring unnameable and unrecognized parts of the psyche – its hidden abilities, patterns and oblique areas where reason and science still struggle to penetrate, where the boundaries of reality blur. , other areas collide and the unexpected arises. Among other things, she exhibited at the DOX in Prague and was selected as one of the BJP’s Female in Focus 2021 artists.

Antiques Publications is an in-house publisher in Brooklyn, New York, and Bogota, Colombia, was founded in 2018. Primarily focused on photography, Antics Publications balances the work of new and established photographers to create an inclusive and open photography community to keep the flourishing creativity and inspiration.

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Nora Criado Diaz – (born in 1999, Spain) is a young curator and writer based between Spain and Italy. Through her studies at Central Saint Martins (London) and IED (Florence), she developed a strong interest in contemporary visual culture, semiology and the world of publishing.

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