Yes Yes We’re Magicians, Jonah Samson, 104 pgs, Figure 1 Publishing, figure1pub.com, $35.00
Fog-shrouded city skylines. Faces, masked and obscured. A dark ship out at sea, its lone stack bleeding black smoke. Jonah Samson’s forthcoming collection of found photography, presented in black-and-white, is—in a word—haunting.
Featuring virtually no accompanying text (with the exception of the titular reference to Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot), the collection functions like a sort of extended Rorschach test: meaning will drift and change as you make your way through the pages, and connections will emerge, unexpectedly, from the mist. Samson has done a beautiful job of arranging the photographs, all of which were selected from his personal collection—even the individual page layouts speak to the careful thought process that went into the work.
It is impossible to talk about Yes Yes We’re Magicians without acknowledging the lavish production of the book itself: it’s gorgeous. The front and back covers are designed to fold out into a single surface so that the reader can appreciate the single image they comprise. The book’s binding, thus exposed, is carefully stitched and elegant. Even the text on the copyright page seems crisp and intentionally placed. The book’s production is sort of like having plush leather seats in a Ferrari: it may not affect performance, but it sure doesn’t hurt.
Although it would be easy for a collection of found photography to feel either dully ineffectual or contrived, Yes Yes We’re Magicians manages to strike an impressive balance, being clearly meticulously organized without sacrificing the sense of eerie randomness central to found photography. Though every reader will have a different experience of the book, there is one aspect on which Samson deserves accolades from across the board: making it look so easy. (Kris Bone)