Photobook of the Month – Krass Clement – Impasse Hotel Syria


Krass Clement is a rare photographer who makes very little talk about him and yet, he has published 22 books since his first in 1978. His work is a praise of slowness, in contrast to a photography of actuality. Each of his works is a compilation of moments intertwined with each other, as the title of his first book, Skygger af Øjeblikke (Shadows of Moments) says very well. He has this fabulous ability to stop time, as if he was telling us: wait, stop and look!

His latest book “Impasse Hotel Syria” is particularly touching since, for once, it brings us back to a hot actuality: Syria. The photographs presented in the book were made 15 years ago, during a journey in Syria, and we find names that are now heard every day: Damascus, Palmyra, Deir Ez-Zur, Aleppo, Homs. These pictures seem to us to be so distant, as they emerge from another world, from another time. A Syria soothed where people meet, look at each other, talk to each other and smile. One searches for the premises of a war, but we find no signs. Children play in the streets, men and women go about their business.

The layout is simple and elegant. No artifice, but a dazzling print quality. The tones of gray sound magnificently restored and we could imagine cutting out the pages to frame them. The book alternates public space and more intimate views at the hotel where we find characters that we had met a few pages earlier. The room shared with a woman, haven of temporary peace to escape the din of the street. And then the staff too, which becomes familiar to us. A striking contrast between the outside and the inside. Rich and quiet interiors intended for Western tourists opposed to the daily and frenzy life in the street. And of course, one finds, always omnipresent the portraits of Bashar Al Assad, staring at us seriously just for us to feel observed.

The book opens and closes with a few color photographs, a bit like a parenthesis, or a passage toward that other Syria, the one before the dramas and the conflicts, wondering if it would not have been possible to avoid everything that happened since! Even at 70, this Danish photographer continues to enchant us without ever giving us the impression of repetition. Perhaps he is just a little more soothed!

Hardcover, 184 pages, 22 x 28 cm, published by Gyldendal, 2016. More about Krass Clement: You can buy the photobook here or here.

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“Photobook of the Month” is curated by Christer Ek (Christophe Le Toquin) of “Who needs another photo blog“, a blog where he shares some thoughts about photography. Christer is a French photographer and also a photobook collector.

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