THE ART OF TRAVEL
by Peter Waterschoot


Misty Sunday hometown. A couch and a blanket. Baby in bed. 3 hours of traveling without traveling. Two recent Belgian photobooks as a guide, both exploring eastern directions.  The titles: ‘Horsehead Nebula’ by Matthieu Litt and ‘Nobody likes to be hindered by worldly Troubles’ by Franky Verdickt. Two photobooks ideal for Sunday-sofa surfers, made by weathered travelers.

Nobody likes to be hindered by worldly Troubles

Frankie Verdickt has traveled several times to South Korea in order to portray this somewhat enigmatic peninsular half-a-country. The photographer seems to have fully immersed while absorbing seascapes, tourists, shopping malls, animals in the street, park life, young couples, under the bridge, pinewood, buildings. This multitude of impressions is even enhanced by the accompanying, mesmerizing soundtrack. A wonderful idea,  not often used, but it certainly brings a whole new dimension to the photobook if one goes through the effort of listening to even some of the online soundscapes which mingle so naturally with the placid, extremely well composed pictures. The soundtrack ties the book together, it fits like peas in a pod. Many of the sound fragments are translated afterwards, which results in a small booklet and mid-pages with text; these conversations are funny/philosophical reflections; echoing the 4 religions which determine South Korea; Nature (shamanism), Buddhism, Christianity, and Capitalism. I really enjoyed listening to these sounds and voices and loved reading the excerpts; an ideal mental-travel-experience. Throughout the book, the reader keeps discovering photo gems, all of the photos bathe in an extremely well used big (probably soft box) flashlight (hard and soft at the same time). Clearly Verdickt is no lazybones, he doesn’t mind a bit of carrying equipment. The result is all over in a very dramatic effect and a tremendously poignant outline in the composition. The pictures intrinsically appreciate the reality of everyday life, utterly enhanced by the poetry of a photographer’s emotional connection with even the smallest of details; the epitome of the metaphysical experience of traveling. Bookwise one remark; browsing back and forth, as well as slow pacing through the book, I wonder if  the bookdesign didn’t get the better of some really good pictures, which creates a bit of frustration, but then again, that same feeling keeps you going to and fro. An intriguing photobook anyways, and moreover, again, a new extension to a continuously growing intriguing oeuvre.

© Franky Verdickt

Horsehead Nebula 

Matthieu Litt presents us an untouched region. With vast plains and many horses. It is quickly understood that this must be former USSR, probably Kirgizia, Tajikistan, and/or Kazakhstan, although Matthieu Litt  doesn’t want to disclose the exact locations himself. Which is great. It adds mystery and universality to the images. It becomes a non-defined area of ‘reverie’ powered with huge chunks of fresh air. The pictures are shy and silently following each other in a very humble style. You experience silence all over. The images are tending towards bleached monochromes at times, a very subtle color-palette constructed by the author. The internet’s tourist photos of these same landscapes look a whole lot different! The subtly designed photobook treats you on all around bleakness and vast, meditative landscapes, altered with fresh pastel interiors and touching still-lifes. The strength of this photobook is certainly its modest but elegant  appearance, as well in size as in rhythm.

‘Horsehead Nebula’ has become a very surprising small sized achiever, and is just like ‘Nobody likes to be hindered by worldly Troubles’ an honest result of intensive traveling and observation with authentic interest/preoccupation for a somewhat less tourist-trodden region on the face of this damaged earth.

© Matthieu Litt

An ideal book-combo for any given sofa surfer, realized by real time, old school explorers - with a very differing, but both eloquent, photographic language.
Additional reading for aforementioned romantic couch potatoes: 'The art of Travel’ by Alain De Botton.

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LINKS 
Frannky Verdickt 
Matthieu Litt 
Belgium