Browsing through the shelves at Your-Mind Bookshop last night (I’m in Seoul unexpectedly for a week), I noticed that among the various designations of book type, generally, broken down by content medium, there was also a “Travelogue” designation. This was one of the only designations that was a genre rather than a medium. On this shelf journalistic text met illustration met design met photography met music met poetry. Looking at this shelf, it struck me that this travelogue genre is a bit like the road trip genre in the States.
As in any genre, there is a clear set of assumptions and expectations. It is the small tweaks to the formula that make a book interesting. Recent examples reviewed here include Eunhye Kim’s Berlin and London rough risograph books and Oh SeBeom’s mixture of photographs, diary, and mapping in 31 Days 807.3km. Oh’s book is particularly effective at matching good content to good design to create an effective and enticing whole.
Storage Book&Film‘s Walk zine project is what the project title suggests: walks taken through foreign places. We might read them as either a single walk through a city or as a mediated archetypal walk through that place. Simply designed–both in their layout and physical form, the zines leave the photographs to stand or fall on their own. Your-Mind had three of these zines: Walk Seoul, Walk Paris and Walk Nice. (This may be the entire series to date.) The first is from COZYSACOZY (Sanpo) and the second two are from TOGOFOTO.
TOGOFOTO tends towards open landscapes. Even the close-ups are from mid-distance. In Nice it is the beaches and walkways overlooking them that holds his attention. In Paris, it is store fronts, landmarks, crowds and tourists. In both locations, when we see people we see over their shoulder. We are part of a crowd looking.
COZYSACOZY moves in and out from detail to distance and back to detail. Shop interiors, food, nature in the city, vignettes. There are few people; they are either seen at a distance or truncated to a hand holding a flower, shoes in fallen leaves, boots walking past a merchant’s stall.
These are the rules: Uplifting Color; Respectful Distance; Suggestion; Directness; Wonder. COZYSACOZY’s Tumbler heading text is a good summation of the essence of the travelogue:
one scene +
one scene +
one scene …
There is nothing revolutionary here. An appropriate description of these zines might be bourgeoisie. The photographs are nice and show much, but they make me feel little. The cover image of Walk Nice is a couple sitting on a bench under a trellis looking out over the ocean. This is a good metaphor for the project as a whole: looking out onto the world and seeing nice light through a clean structure. The cover image of Walk Seoul suggests another good metaphor: a pair of cupped hands presenting the viewer a single flower petal. Both possible metaphors fall down though. As there are too many photographs of the same nothing. The single petal, the stand out image, is lost among the crush. And the structure appears clean and clear but gives us too little narrative.
I’ll look forward to seeing where this zine goes. I suspect that good things are in store once it hits its stride.