The Coming Insurrection, 2010
Hesitating Beauty; Joshua Lutz toys with our heads and hearts.
By Raphael Shammaa, ASX NYC, March 2013
A head shot of a young woman in a stylish cocktail dress, eyelids interrupted in mid flutter and lips in mid speech, a strand of pearls adorning her delicate, vulnerable neck composes this book’s cover and the premise upon which its narrative weaves and builds. The title, “Hesitating Beauty”, is stamped across the cover in a WWII typewriter font. The stage is set. What kind of beauty is this?
To find out, open the book, look and read. The book can be described by what it’s not: linear. It’s not for the left brained, not rigorously chronological, and not tightly joined; the reader does all of this work. We know it’s about a woman, a young mother – and mental disease; about the precarious state of life and of happiness, but not much else.
Lutz is operating as a sort of puppeteer. The dangling puppets are text and images alternating Morse-like to telegraph a sense of tangled states of mind, and disjointed chronologies. To usher us into this intimately skewed version of reality, he re-enacts through text and imagery the non-sequitur imaginings of a mind made unstable and fearful by trauma. Regret, late confessions and semi-lucid streaks of thought are all here.
He flashes images of conjugal bliss, dementia, despair and dejection, interspersing text in the form of tales and letters from men (who are these equivocal male voices?) and typewritten pleas signed H.B. Allegories and nostalgia mix with fractured timelines, compelling the reader to backtrack, to flip pages back and forth, trying to keep pace before moving on, without a clear sense of where they are being taken next.
Under normal circumstances, readers expect text to partner with images, to be contextual, to make the visual experience fuller, more satisfying. But “normal” and fulfillment is not what’s being offered here. Text and images seem to respond to separate agendas, to run on different tracks as Lutz takes us on his no-frill, roller coaster tour. He wants us to see and feel for ourselves, he wants us to hear voices from the past, to know bewilderment now. And sorrow. And while the title of his book infers tentativeness and beauty, his puppet show is, in its own way, brutally direct.
By the time we put Hesitating Beauty down, we no longer ask what kind of beauty this is. Joshua Lutz has opened a door to a different world. He shares a singular, apparently filial, experience using photographic images, some of them found, and text drawn from personal correspondence and memories. This text is in shades of fear and confusion, “Sweetheart, I can’t write too much because I feel scared, but the things I see no longer make sense”; and his images alternate between pictures of seething turbulence, explosive defiance, and surrender.
Photographs by Joshua Lutz.
Schilt Publishing, 2012.
Raphael Shammaa is a photographer living and working in New York. He was born in Cairo, Egypt, and is of Syrian-Egyptian descent and French culture. He lived in Paris and Lausanne for seven years.
(All rights reserved. Text @ Raphael Shammaa and ASX, Images @ Joshua Lutz)