This Week In Photography Books – Antonio M. Xoubanova

by Jonathan Blaustein

The flavor molecules remain on my tongue. Even now, as I swirl the red muscle around my mouth, I can taste the delicious bitterness. The coffee is a fresh memory, but I can feel the nascent flow of caffeine through my body. The battle, uphill all the way, is still to be fought. Can. It. Will. Me. To. Productivity?

Not that it matters much, but I gave up coffee for six months. “Addiction,” I said, “be gone.” I was cocky about it, too. After making it through a trip to Europe, (with the attendant jet lag,) having still not succumbed to the power of Joe, I was sure I’d conquered the beast. “My willpower is legendary,” I shouted. “They will write Epic poems about me, and the time I slew the liquid, brown dragon. Hear my tale and sing my praises.”

How did it happen? How did my weakness slowly emerge from hiding, and end up slitting the throat of my discipline? What was the impetus? A fair maiden, of course. She seduced me. “A few sips can’t hurt,” she said. “It will help you lift your tired bones out of bed.” (It did.) “What’s the harm in a few sips,” she asked?

I was re-hooked immediately. Now, with a hand-me-down espresso maker sitting on the kitchen counter, I feel like a rat in a lab. Touch the button, little rat, and you can have yourself a treat. Ignore the little shock of pain, though. It’s only temporary.

Yes, my addiction never left. It was merely biding its time, lounging in a cave somewhere, deep in my psyche. Thank goodness it only has a taste for coffee, and not heroin. (That would be bad.) No, it merely lingered, sure that its dark prowess would prevail, eventually.

My little monster is kind-of-like the fictional phantasms at the heart of “Casa de Campo,” a new book by Antonio M. Xoubanova, recently released by MACK. (Seriously, though, does the M. really make a difference here? Are there other Antonio Xoubanovas out there we need to know about? Just curious.)

I won’t lie to you. I tore through nine books this morning before I settled on this one. My brain is mush, (hence the double-double espresso before 7am,) and I didn’t feel much like reading. All the books I grabbed had massive essays or reading commitments, and I wasn’t up for it. (These are photo books, for goodness sake. Just give me one where I can look at some pictures. OK?)

I would probably have reviewed this one eventually anyway, as MACK often makes books worth discussing. But “Casa de Campo” jumped the queue, thanks to its decided lack of text. There is a short, excellent piece to read at the end, but it only contextualizes the experience after-the-fact.

And what would that experience be? A long set of pictures, in which circular images are mixed with traditional rectangles. What of? The photos appear to be made in some sort of urban park. Portraits are interwoven with mysterious sculptural suggestions, like a hole dug beneath a bench, or a circle made of dots of spray paint, or a memorial affixed to a tree.

There are rabbits and birds, a dude peeing against a tree, a Christmas tree that may as well be an art installation, and an Earth mound that looks suspiciously like a grave. I’m not sure what you’ll think, but I kept turning the pages for more. (Always the sign of a good book.) Hippies frolic, Tai Chi ensues, and what’s with the guy in the bathrobe?

The story at the back tells of mysterious, translucent inhabitants of the park, which used to be hunting grounds for the Spanish Royal family. Are we talking about ghosts? Or, as the story suggests, are they dark parts of Madrileño souls, which have detached from their hosts to hide out behind trees or under rocks? Is this literal? Does it matter?

We all have hidden parts of our psyches. It’s straight out of Jung, but I’ll spare you the psychobabble. Whether or not my coffee addiction took corporeal form, at some point, deep in the recesses of my mind, I’m sure it would have been comfortable in the Casa de Campo. Should I beat it back again, there is a hole in the dirt out there somewhere. It will make itself at home, and wait until it can ascend again, above ground.

Bottom line: Mysterious, interesting pictures, fantastic backstory

To Purchase “Casa de Campo” Visit Photo-Eye

Full Disclosure: Books are provided by Photo-Eye in exchange for links back for purchase.

Books are found in the bookstore and submissions are not accepted.

There Are 2 Comments On This Article.

  1. There is a slightly menacing Blair Witch Project element to the book.
    As for the coffee, coffee is nice. Why would you want to run away from it?