I received my copy of Wakaba Noda's "Making a Map" a couple of weeks ago. First things first, I like it a lot. It also feels very personal to me. Maybe it's because I'm the same age (born in 84 baby) as Wakaba Noda, and it seems like I understand things visually in the same way that he does, even if I'm not able to represent them as clearly. There's a world-making -- or would that be map-making? -- innocence in what's left out of the frame, which is what will strike me first when I return to this book in five or ten years and consider my experience of looking at it now. Let me see if I can explain this "world-making innocence."
The images in this book are all very carefully composed; in many cases there's just a landscape broken up by something very small. A grove is interrupted by a young couple, an electrical tower perches on a hillside, a black speck of an airplane dots a gray sky. There's rarely any clutter in the frame, so your eye is always directed to the "subject" of the photo, even when it only takes up a tiny part of the frame. These images are quite pastoral, which is where the world-making comes in: there's not much that says "2008" about this book. Even when the subject matter is closer to "home," as it were, there's a clear, abstracting distance: an airport scene looks to have been taken from the terminal, and a cityscape from the observation tower.
These images don't convey notions of technology or progress; they continue the meditation of the other photos. (It makes sense that there's no text presented with the images.) It feels to me like Wakaba Noda put these images together to make as strong an aesthetic statement as possible, which I appreciate, because that's really all I'm trying to work out right now. As a "young internet-savvy person interested in photography," this speaks to me a lot more than the majority of the work by "young internet photographers" out there, i.e. "lifestyle" photography as you call this photography? has named it.
The book provoked some interesting questions for me as an object. In particular, it was strange to have already seen a number of the images from the book posted to various photography blogs before holding it in my hands. You can basically look at the whole book online without buying it. Photography is about surprising; what expectations should I have had as I opened it up? Should I have expected it to present something 'new' to me? Does it take away from the experience of a book (where the photographer controls the presentation) to have already seen some of the images in a blog setting? I think to a certain extent, yes, but on the other hand, I found Farewell Books through the internet.
"A book, any book, is for us a sacred object," says Borges. Are we now in danger of saying: "farewell, books!"? Possibly, but with more honest publications like this, I don't see why books shouldn't continue to fare pretty well indeed.