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Art Photobook Reviews

Phenomena by Morganna Magee

Updated: Mar 14

In 2022 Morganna Magee released her debut publication, the hypnotic Extraordinary Experiences.

Inspired by her lockdown experience, it was a dreamlike meditative journey. Not only through the physical landscape surrounding her countryside home near Melbourne, Australia, but also the depths of her subconscious. Confronting fears regarding the fragility of nature and our own mortality, she produced one of the most original and affecting bodies of work that I have encountered in many a year.

Rapidly going out of print, Extraordinary Experiences is now followed a year later by this breathtaking book of new work entitled Phenomena.

The themes of nature and mortality are still very much to the fore, but there is also a brighter tone to the work, an appreciation and love of just being.

Here wildlife is truly placed centre stage and whist the fleeting nature of existence is still alluded to, these animals are celebrated and elevated, star players in Magee’s continued personal, otherworldly, filmic odyssey set against the lush and verdant backdrop of Australia’s state of Victoria.

For Phenomena Magee has collaborated with artisan Italian publishers Origini Edizioni, who since 2012 have been hand crafting unique editions that have become a byword for elegance and design within the photobook community.

Phenomena is no exception. Delicate Italian Burgo papers, hand stitched (the spine left open) and finished with gold ribbon.

Heavy card boards fastened with the same flashes of gold and a title plate affixed by hand to the front.

Before you even loosen the gold seal Phenomena promises so much.

And of course it does not disappoint.

Unusually for Origini Edizioni text is kept to a bare minimum as Magee’s images gently exhale all the poetry this work requires.

At points subtle details provide punctuation and interludes.

Abstract line sketches of trees and branches on contrasting coloured stock, cut several centimetres narrower than the main body of the book appear heightening and intensifying the accent.

A single songline of gold traverses an otherwise empty page.

To quote songwriters Watt and Thorn (Everything But The Girl), themselves referencing the English travel writer and storyteller Bruce Chatwin's Australian odyssey The Songlines.

“Bruce said we should keep moving 'round

Maybe we all get too tied down, I don't know…”

Absolutely beautiful.


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