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Art Photobook Reviews

Trilogy - Before Winter, The Disarray, Escape. The world of Olga Karlovac

Updated: May 14

Melts and blurrs.

Lynch did it with cinema, Bacon did it with paint and Olga Karlovac does it with photography.

Finding a unique voice in the medium of photography can be an almost impossible task and yet it is one that Croatian artist Karlovac seems to have effortlessly achieved.

Her monochrome world comprising street photography and portraiture both employ one distinct trope, an almost ethereal blurring of the images.

Karlovac has taken an aspect of the still photograph that would more often than not signify failure and turned it into an artform.

People, streets, alleys are all brushed with a veil that suggests an otherworldly, almost dreamlike state.

However, unlike the often nightmarish worlds of the two luminary practitioners mentioned above, there is no threat in  Karlovac's world of shadows.

No apparent angst, fear or trauma.

For sure there is an air of disorientation and occasional uncertainty, but no more so than the feeling of stirring from a deep sleep to be greeted by the sensation of twitchy somnambulant characters and their shadows scuttling for the cover of your subconscious as you exit your slumber.

Primarily shot in her home country of Croatia on the streets of Dubrovnik and Zagreb, it will come as no surprise to hear that she prefers to shoot at night and to best effect during the autumn and winter months.

It would be far too lazy to dismiss these images as dour or gloomy because there is unquestionably imagination and  romance here.

Not the romance of summer fields, babbling brooks and blankets strewn on grass. Sunlit tableaux with suggestions redolent of stolen moments and gentle caresses.  

Rather, a dark brooding cinematic noir aesthetic that recalls atmospheric giants such as The Third Man or Sunset Boulevard, as seen through the sleep laden lids of heavy eyes.

The spirits of Bogey and Bacall in a slow nighttime tango of smoke and sensuality.

The ghost of Harry Lime as he navigates unfamiliar streets and alleys.

Karlovac's work may walk a similar path to Lynch and Bacon, but it dances to the memory of Carol Reed and Billy Wilder.

Thus far her work has been gathered into three self published books, Before Winter, The Disarray and Escape.

Thematically the volumes tread a similar path but with each successive title one senses a growing confidence in both the art and the edit.

The first book features a running q&a, a series of points interjected along the way in which Karlovac makes reference to her process and inspirations.

Whilst undoubtedly interesting and informative they also slightly distract from the concentration placed on the narrative flow. In the subsequent volumes the need for such texts is rendered unnecessary and an elements of prose and poetry elegantly and effortlessly take their place.

Also as the books progress so - it seems - does the arc of time. A closing of the seasons, a quickening of the hour.

Without a doubt there is a balance to each book, but within the trilogy as a cycle there is also a subtle shift.

In Before Winter there is a lightness to the images, whether achieved by the time of day or elements such as snow and ice (which are very much conducive to Karlovac’s work), the white often outshines the black and the faces and streets captured bathe in an icy glow.

Nestled at the centre is the wonderfully entitled The Disarray. Edges are being smoothed, a luminous confidence is continuing to emerge and an invaluable understanding with regard to the art of the photobook is clearly becoming evident.

By Escape, the light is all but gone and the black has rallied, the white now the shadow.

Imagination, the eye of the photographer and a technique honed and perfected in the space of three highly distinctive and uncompromisingly original books.

Karlovac’s glorious monochrome washes have been refined and balanced with time.

One senses that however improvised or accidental an image may appear, each move of the camera, every jerk, glide or swoosh has been practiced, polished and perfected.

The one thing that is not unfocused is the artist’s vision.

Accidents like these do not happen by accident and as the trilogy reaches its conclusion so the artist spectacularly comes of age.

Before Winter, The Disarray and Escape are all self published and available from

1 comentário

Ania Ready
Ania Ready
16 de abr.

I've got Olga's 'Disarray' and love it! She captures the world around her in such a unique way. I also loved the music which came with it. It's impressive that this is now a trilogy!

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