Awoiska Van der Molen – Sequester

Review of Sequester by Awoiska van der Molen for Photobookstore, December 2014

This is perhaps one of the most talked about books of the year, and rightly so. Sequester by Awoiska van der Molen has managed to rank highly in photobook top-lists and compilations; as well as featuring with extensive reviews and praise on newspapers and blogs. This, in my opinion is the reason why.

It’s been a long time since a photobook has reminded me –in such delicate detail- of the true nature of photography and the essence of its mesmerising spell. For the last few years art photography has become increasingly complex, forcefully conceptualised and distanced from its original mission of being the ‘mirror of nature’. Van der Molen’s images are precisely it. They are rigorously crafted observations of natural landscapes -earth, stone, water, air, trees- taking time to render them with all their subtleties and eerie familiarity. Sequester reminds me of the Book of Genesis, of a land before man, before animal, just the raw forces of nature.

This work is a very needed breath of crisp fresh air, as in an early morning walk to discover a new day. It is a reason to dedicate time to the joy of sheer contemplation. Van der Molen’s disciplined practice makes one aware of the essence of photography: light and darkness, presence and void. This is her palette. The care and attention to detail makes both her prints and this publication quietly influential, getting noticed not because of the shock value found aplenty in contemporary photography, but because of its powerful serenity and masterful use of photography, turning observation into a form of meditation.

There is also something very laconic in van der Molen’s images. I associate it with an economy of means very present in Dutch art history, a particular Dutch spirit. It reminds me of the black and white films of Bas Jan Ader in the 70s or of Anton Corbijn’s images walking the barren Joshua Tree Park in California at the end of the 80s. That was the first time I was exposed to such a particular feel, and nearly twenty years later I’m still enthralled.

This dutchness –if you will- is echoed in the layout and design of the book; one can see the eye and hand of one of the best contemporary designers in the Netherlands, Hans Gremmen. The fortunate encounter of van der Molen and Gremmen is yet another reason why Sequester will become an obligatory reference. Collectors and photography lovers now covet this first edition, and will continue to do so for years to come.

Following the title of this book along with the eponymous set of prints, Sequester is the key to finding a mythical place which remains hidden away, a well-kept secret. Perhaps it doesn’t exist. And I don’t care. Its presence in Van der Molen’s images makes it real, vivid and everlasting.