JTF (just the facts): Published in 2020 by Rollo Press (here). Softcover (17×22 cm), 108 pages, with 98 color black and white photographs. There are no texts or essays included. Design by James Langdon, lettering by Sun Young Oh. (Cover and spread shots below.)
Comments/Context: Mother is the first photobook by artist and photographer Adrian Samson. Originally from Slovakia, he now lives and works in London. The series was inspired by the birth of his first child and the new intimate relationships being navigated by his family of three. As an artist, Samson is interested in exploring formal connections, and the sculptural qualities of objects, shapes, lines, and colors, and he has applied this approach to a number of commercial commissions. The visual narrative of this photobook consists of photographs staged and shot in Samson’s studio as well as personal family moments, both before and after the arrival of the baby.
The color yellow is generally associated with warmth, optimism and happiness, and that is the color of Samson’s book, with a warm yellow cover with the simple word “mother” in black handwriting at the top (the same font is used on the spine). Its size is also comfortable and intimate. There are no other texts, captions, or even page numbers, leaving it up to the viewer to puzzle out Samson’s rich visual metaphors. The photographs are presented in both color and black and white, and vary in size and their placement on the pages, the pairings and sequencing creating unexpected formal connections.
The visual narrative is rather open-ended, full of links, allusions, and associations. The book opens with a small image of a chamomile flower, shot in the studio, followed by full bleed shots of other showy blossoms, setting the atmosphere of a controlled studio environment, but also of femininity and natural reproduction. This nature theme then evolves into close up images of vegetables and fruits which emphasize their lush roundness.
The time before the baby arrives mixes anticipation and preparation images of baby overalls, onesies, and tiny hand knitted socks, with repeated images of Samson’s wife’s pregnant belly in a red and white striped dress. Samson then uses the contours of this image to reconstruct it again and again using other objects – in painted triangles, a monochrome red form, and loosely floating stripes, and then later in an abstract arrangement of curved blocks and a dense geometric pattern – creating a recurring motif that weaves the story together and mimics the expectation of the baby.
Once the baby arrives, Samson transitions to a new set of formal interests. Hanging baby legs, and then full bodies turn the baby into a sculptural object, and up close images of the baby’s puffy face, skin, and body are cropped into studies of curve and shape, with visual echoes to some of the earlier fruits and vegetables. In another spread, Samson brings together black and white cutouts of the baby’s nose, mouth, and eyes, placing them in an all-over pattern against yellow and red backgrounds. The next few spreads go on to feature grids of images showing the baby’s touching and grabbing. As we move through the book, the images create dynamic rhymes, creating a feeling that is both experimental and playful.
Another sequence of black and white images shows hands chopping and peeling fruits and vegetables, as well as cutting the baby’s nails, trimming hairs, and cleaning ears, drawing visual parallels between everyday routines of taking care. Closer to the end, there is a tinted image of a woman’s eye, placed vertically, followed by a spread pairing close up of an ear, tinted green, and an eye in blue. We assume this is Samson’s wife, as he observes the features she and their child share.
We might not discover much about Samson’s newborn in Mother, yet Samson creatively uses photography to build a tender and warm tribute to the surfaces and rhythms of motherhood. He uses a clever visual vocabulary to document the milestones of pregnancy and early childhood, and ultimately, this attentively observant approach reflects back on his new role as a father. The book is a warm contribution to the growing collection of photobooks on this subject.
Collector’s POV: Adrian Samson does not appear to have gallery representation at this time. Collectors interested in following up should likely connect directly with the artist via his website (linked in the sidebar).