The power of images (and the limitation of words).


This photograph taken by Osman Sagirli is of a Syrian girl called Hudea who mistook the camera for a gun.

I’ve been thinking about this image a lot since I saw it here. I want to be able to write about it, but I can’t. I know that any words I chose to describe the effect this image has on me will fall flat. I don’t think I’ve ever been so frustrated by the limitations of my vocabulary, or of the English language, or words in general.

This is why we make images. Sometimes there is no other way to explain.

Erica Baum: Dog Ear

Erica Baum 2

Erica Baum, 2009, Differently.

Not often, but sometimes, I see an image that just makes something catch in my throat, and I am trapped in a moment that’s kind of like a stolen epiphany.  It’s a complex emotion because it is a desperate admiration, but at the same time a horrible aching wistfulness, a silent regret that I didn’t make this, because I want so much to be connected to it.  This is how I felt when I saw Erica Baum’s work Differently (2009) in the latest Aperture magazine.

It is from a series called Dog Ear and Nat Trotman writes this about it:

Works like Differenty (2009) and Enfold (2013) draw attention to the physical layout of margins, page numbers line spacing, and font design while transforming their found texts into syncopated blocks of signification in potentia. The regular folds that cut diagonals across each square frame recall the formal rigour of Minimalism even as they reference the more subjective act of marking significant passages in old books.

(Trotman, 2014, p. 75)


The Dog Ear images are so simple and yet so surprisingly complex. There is a a formal beauty to the lines, the way they form a little arrowhead shifting the gaze along the diagonal, and out of the (implied) book. And there is a quirkiness in the random poetry they create, which is sometimes nonsensical, and at other times, perfect and eloquent:






I? I would not do that.



There is a perfection to the discolouring and texture of the pages, and the occasions where hidden type is just visible as a trace through the page.  There is an element of the accidental in the make up of the work that gives it a square composition or clever sentence.  And they touch on all the things that excite me about finding old books, the paper, the typeface, the trace of past use, and the beautiful, clever, delicious words.

There is nothing I can learn from you Erica Baum, because I? I would not do that. differently.

Erica Baum 1

Erica Baum, 2009, Spectators.

Erica Baum 3

Erica Baum, 2009, Examined.


(And there’s a Dog Ear book too! I must have it!)