Every now and again, without warning you stumble across an absolute gem of a book. A concept where everything is right. The subject, the design, the layout, and of course the work. Such is the case with Lingering Ghosts by Sam Ivin.
Portraiture, social commentary, political statement. This wonderfully executed project manages the tricky balancing act of tackling all points without ever appearing to be preaching to it’s audience, or being biased.
With regard to the thorny, indeed for many, incendiary topic of immigration. It is 2016 and Britain is poised, about to make one of the biggest decisions of the last fifty years regarding the future of it’s membership within the European community. Not concerning itself with the free flowing movement of European citizens, Ivin has turned his lens to the unfortunate individuals caught in the crossfire. The asylum seekers who through no fault of their own are forced to abandon their own countries and seek refuge with those who will have them.
Designed to look like an oversized passport, this large format softcover, is a collection of portraits shot with a neutral background (again, one assumes, to mimic the impersonal images required for travel documents). These have been scratched to obscure the sitters image. Not always the entire face, but tellingly, always the eyes, in an attempt to convey the anonymity and frustration of being kept in a kind of limbo over their future. the lingering ghosts of the title.
As a long time fan of portraiture, these images number some of the most affecting, honest, and yes as the title suggests, lingering that I have seen in recent years. Beautifully lit and simply posed, these pictures still manage to convey the humanity, confusion and frustration of the subject, even with up to two thirds of the face obscured. Quite a feat, and a testament to the artist.
Produced in a small edition of just 500, this is a wonderful example of what the photo book is capable of both artistically, politically, and morally.
There but for the grace of God.
This review first appeared in photobookstore.co.uk