The black and white images – of bodies and skin, rocks and the moon, landscapes and birds – are presented in an enigmatic sequence that stirs a sense of the uncanny
“I photograph a lot, and that’s probably because there are so many subjects that spark the impulse in me to take pictures,” says 26-year-old Belgian photographer Joselito Verschaeve. He is discussing the ideas behind his new photobook: If I call stones blue it is because blue is the precise word, released this week with Athens-based publishing house VOID. The book presents a measured and enigmatic edit of black and white images – of bodies and skin, rocks and the moon, landscapes and birds. Each image hints at different stories, but as a whole, the photobook resists presenting a singular narrative.
Shot over the past few years, most of the images are simple day-to-day encounters of his surroundings and the people closest to him, but, he says, “I like that I can imagine them being somewhere else completely”. Verschaeve wanted this book to feel more universal, in other words – like something every reader could dip into and find their own associations. “I think I photograph the things I do to keep it close to what everybody knows,” he explains. “Everybody has reference points such as the moon, birds, rocks… and because these subjects are tangible for so many people, it’s easier for readers to form their own narratives.” These visual motifs are also common symbols in classic literature and art, he says, which gives them that extra metaphoric weight when it comes to telling stories.
During the editing process, Verschaeve and the publishers worked intuitively to come up with different iterations from the same set of pictures. They wanted the sequence to feel rhythmic, like a visual poem or a collection of short stories. “Somehow the editing for the book feels like VOID’s take on one of the many possible narratives that the images can hold,” he says, and he loves the result.
The title of Verschaeve’s book is also a point of interest. It makes reference to a colour, but all of the images inside are black and white. So why blueness? “The title is part of a Flaubert quote I found in a Raymond Carver book, and I thought it defined certain feelings towards important moments,” he explains. “Sometimes you can’t find the right vocabulary to express these moments, and so you use the definition that comes closest. That is what these images are for me.”
Verschaeve uses photography to unearth the ineffable from the everyday, selecting images that when placed together, give some sense of feeling, atmosphere or presence. “I can say that I have certain themes that are always present in the back of my head like literature and natural phenomena and these influence the context of my images,” he says. “For me, this book is a back-and-forth between notions of possible future events, threats, and dystopia, but it’s also an appreciation of common living.”
Joanna L. Cresswell is a writer and editor based in Brighton. She has written on photography and culture for over 40 international magazines and journals, and held positions as editor for organisations including The Photographers' Gallery, Unseen Amsterdam and Self Publish, Be Happy. She recently completed an MA in comparative literature and criticism at Goldsmiths College, University of London