Christian Michael Filardo and Angelo Harmsworth, The Voyeur’s Gambit

JTF (just the facts): Published by Lime Lodge (self-published) in 2017 (here). Ring bound, 30 color photographs in a padded envelope, with 90 minutes of Angelo Harmsworth’s musical compositions provided on an attached USB drive. In an edition of 50 copies. (Cover and spread shots below.)

Comments/Context: With the continuing increase in self- and indie-published photobooks, the desire (and pressure) to produce ever more unique artbook objects is ratcheting up. Both design and production are becoming even more thoughtful and sophisticated, as photographers challenge themselves to come up with creative book constructions and to bring more playful elements in to help reinforce the overall concept and visual narrative of their efforts.

There are plenty of examples of innovative design ideas driving photobooks released in just past few years. Thomas Sauvin found a clever way to present a series of otherwise forgettable vernacular photographs by designing his book as a pack of cigarettes (reviewed here), bringing excitement and a sense of humor to the project. Lucy Helton used her design and production decisions to reinforce the apocalyptic message of Transmission (reviewed here), printing the photographs using old fax machines, scrolling them, and eventually inserting them in cardboard tubes. And Lucas Blalock, known for his intentionally visible photo manipulations, incorporated sophisticated augmented reality elements into his oversized cardboard book Making Memeries (reviewed here), pushing the boundaries of art/technology interaction.

Christian Michael Filardo’s The Voyeur’s Gambit is another example of an unconventional multimedia photobook concept. Made in collaboration with the composer Angelo Harmsworth, it combines both visual and audio elements, and is a reflection of the Filipino-American artist’s passion for both mediums. The book is packaged inside a black padded envelope and closed with a brass brad; a metal ring outside the envelope holds a yellow label (with the project title and the artists names) and an elegantly laser engraved USB drive. Inside, a selection of 30 color photographs is perforated in the upper left hand corner and held together with another metal ring.

Filardo’s photographs are delivered as individual 4×6-inch Walgreens prints, made from images shot on 35mm film. Bound with a metal ring, the images are presented as a continuous flow, allowing the viewer to page through them without a set beginning or end. This way of presenting photographs is simple, yet playful and even daring. As this collaboration suggests, the viewer is invited to look at the images as actively accompanied by the musical soundtrack composed by Harmsworth. Both the music and photographs move in fluid flows, encouraging intersections and connections.

As the voyeuristic title implies, many of Filardo’s photographs have the sense of attentive observation. Often executed with a bright flash and full of saturated colors (especially in the sky), the pictures represent a collection of disconnected memories, fleeting moments, and carefully seen slices of everyday life, and presented in a loop, they can be viewed individually, fanned out creating visual overlaps, or rearranged in a completely different sequence.

His discoveries range from a close up of a car covered with a layer of foamy wash and a tangled night shot of a barbed wire and frayed blue rope, to dry grass against dramatic dark blue sky and a sunset view from a corner window covered by half open blinds. These random, and sometimes mundane, visual fragments can easily resonate with anyone who pays attention to the surrounding world; even a night shot of a motorcycle protected with a white cover or a close up of rocks and plants can suddenly catch our attention and feel energized by the very act of our looking. 

Harmsworth’s soundtrack, with quiet poetic titles like “Under Violet Ceiling” and “Shadows of Intimacy”, offers a melancholy accompaniment to Filardo’s visual flow, further setting the watchful mood and encouraging the viewer to become immersed into the experience of the project. The addition of the music makes our looking that much more mindful and engaged. 

In many ways, The Voyeur’s Gambit is an out-of-the-box outlier of a photobook project, an inward-looking collaboration between two artists who enjoy what they do and have fused their passions into one artistic statement. Yet the book’s unexpected construction encourages us to boldly interact with their creation, in ways that make a standard book feel reserved. In this way, Filardo and Harmsworth have produced an unpretentious and surprisingly beautiful photobook experience/object, one that isn’t afraid to throw away typical constraints and conventions to bring us inside their world. 

Collector’s POV: Christian Michael Filardo 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 above).

Read more about: Christian Michael Filardo, Lime Lodge

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