Max Ferguson navigates the memoir and fiction through image and text in his debut photobook

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Poetic prose and wistful imagery is paired in dream-like narrative

Whistling for Owls is London-based photographer and writer Max Ferguson’s debut photobook and the first publication from his new imprint, Oval Press. The enigmatic book is described by Ferguson as: “image and text; France and London; memoir and fiction; truth and lies”. Quiet photographs, alternating between colour and black-and-white, frame rich landscapes, solitary figures and unexpected details. There’s the corner of a cluttered kitchen, a cobweb of shattered glass, light seeping in through the curvature between two pale, fleshy thighs. 

From the series Whistling for Owls, 2022 © Max Ferguson.

“We were standing on the front deck of a small ferry, smoking cigarettes and waiting for the boat to get the all-clear. It was not being far from home, she told me, that was difficult, but being close. The proximity of what you love makes you so lonely.”

The short texts punctuating the publication enhance its mystery. The prose is ambiguous and poetic, inciting us to develop a loose narrative of our own also inspired by the images. But, despite Whistling for Owls’ ambiguity, a strong sense of love, loss and longing permeates the pages. As reads one particularly poignant text: “We were standing on the front deck of a small ferry, smoking cigarettes and waiting for the boat to get the all-clear. It was not being far from home, she told me, that was difficult, but being close. The proximity of what you love makes you so lonely.”

ovalpress.co.uk

Whistling for Owls by Max Ferguson is available to pre-order now

From the series Whistling for Owls, 2022 © Max Ferguson.
Whistling for Owls Cover © Max Ferguson.
Hannah Abel-Hirsch

Hannah Abel-Hirsch joined British Journal of Photography in 2017, where she is currently Assistant Editor. Previously, she was an Editorial Assistant at Magnum Photos, and a Studio Assistant for Susan Meiselas and Mary Ellen Mark in New York. Before which, she completed a BA in History of Art at University College London. Her words have also appeared on Magnum Photos, 1000 Words, and in the Royal Academy of Arts magazine.