What sort of life is this



Today I launch "Sunday's Read" a new blog series where I'll be presenting an eclectic selection of photobooks straight out of my library's shelves. The first book to present is "WHAT SORT OF LIFE IS THIS" by Danish photographer Albert Elm.

Albert Elm is a photographer whose career has taken him to enviable heights over the past couple of years. After studying at Fatamorgana school in Copenhagen and graduating from the Glasgow School of Art in 2015, he then went on to assist Magnum photographer Jacob Are Sobol. His work has been published in numerous established magazines, such as Photoworks, Vice and the British Journal of Photography, alongside various exhibitions across Europe. After publishing his first book in 2014, titled Elsewhere, Albert moved on to further ventures and placed his inquisitive mind on to his second photography publication.

What sort of life is this is Albert Elm’s ongoing photography series that has captured his thoughts, questions and observations of the world around him for the past eight years. The first photograph was taken in 2009, where the whole thing unintentionally blossomed into a personal exploration through the means of photography. “At that time I didn’t know that I was working on a book, or that it was going to be called What sort of life is this, I just began to work with a 35mm point and shoot to get into the essence of what photography meant to me,”

The images throughout depict a hyperreal — although scarily honest — representation of life. Albert is drawn to anything he finds “bizarre, beautiful, odd, ugly and interesting”, or something that he thinks “tells a ‘useful’ story about living, or at least questions it”. After finding his muse, he then imprints a harsh flash infused with the grainy outcome of analogue film onto the subject, resulting in a mysterious depiction of that moment in time. “I don’t have a specific message or agenda. The book has come out of my own curiosity and maybe my own attempt to make sense of the world around me — or a way of giving things meaning,” says Albert. “I hope it evokes a sense of curiosity and wonder in people, as it’s supposed to be open for people to read in their own way. I’m not dictating anything, rather I’m pointing the viewers in a direction. Of course there’s messages in there that I’ve thought of and I trust that it’s apparent enough to read it. But if people see something else, that’s alright too.”

By keeping the format and curation of the book simple, the disjointed layout and misplaced segments in parts plans to draw a feeling of unease and a thirst for answers. Photography acts as a powerful tool in this way; to enable the viewer to decipher their own meanings and emotions, rather than take in exactly what is given by the person behind the lens. Albert plays on this concept in his book: “I thought that no matter what, people would read it their own way,” he explains. “I think that’s the power of photography and images in general; that it plays with one’s imagination. But it’s challenging to find the balance between being mysteriously open to interpretation and then being oblivious and demystified. I think the story is stronger when the surprise and mystery isn’t ruined by too much explanation.” Source: It's Nice That

"What sort of life is this" was shortlisted by Paris Photo - Aperture Foundation for a Photobook Award in the category First Photobook.


128 pages / 8 x 11 in. / Hardcover with jacket
56 color / 16 BW photographs
ISBN 978-0-9897859-8-3
Edition of 750 copies / Published by The Ice Plant / 42 USD
September 2017

You can order the book here

There is an interesting interview with Albert Elm on Aesthetica Magazine

and an extended podcast in Cultural Bandwith