The Heart Is a Sandwich is the kind of book you take along on vacation and leaf through with pleasure. The fruit of the photographer’s chance encounters in Italy, this small book, the size of a paperback novel, retraces Jason Fulford’s peregrinations in twelve photographic stories.
From 2007 to 2022, the American photographer surveyed the streets, workshops, and garages, and assembled the pieces of a large photographic puzzle. Plaster, bronze, marble: the titular cellar in one series is packed with sculpted busts and statues. Next, we discover the messy garage belonging to the photographer Guido Guidi, as well as the Milan studio of the architect Achille Castiglioni. Interested in the creative process, the photographer offers us an unusual access behind the scenes.
A photographic sandwich
The “Rosso Rossi” series is accompanied by notes penned by the Italian architect Aldo Rossi: “This ability to use pieces of mechanisms whose overall meaning is partly lost has always interested me, even in the formal sense. I’m thinking of unity, of a system made up only of fragments brought together.” “Fragments brought together” is a fitting description of Fulford’s work. The angles, the geometric shapes, the sunlight, and especially the industrial pink of the Italian walls, are all elements that dialogue with one another.
Perhaps this is what the photographer meant by the title of his work: the heart is a sandwich that you fill with whatever ingredients you like best. Like the flavor that emerges from the right combination of ingredients, the fragments only make sense together.
This vision is akin to Alain Robbe-Grillet’s in his short-story collection Instantanés. The nouveau-roman writer, who is a great inspiration for Fulford, describes the world as a collection of objects maintained in perpetual motion with respect to one another.
A new visual language
To understand Fulford’s world, you need to know how to read his images. Done in 6×6 format, they interact, evolve, and function together. To decipher them, you need time and practice, like learning a foreign language. The visual language Fulford develops is similar to Robbe-Grillet’s: it represents immediate, spontaneous writing, with descriptions that go straight to the point, without further explanations.
The viewer is plunged into the photographer’s perspective, cleaving close to the lens.
Like Picture Summer on Kodak Film (2020), The Heart is a Sandwich is a kaleidoscopic book, a puzzle in images, a game without instructions. Fulford writes his world in images. His stories are told without subtext, open to a multitude of interpretations.
The series “Metamorfosi” records his experiments on a coppia ferrarese, a small, twisted bread produced in the province of Ferrara. First, the bread is hand-made at the bakery Panificio Perdonati. Then, the pastry, which almost seems to have its own individuality, begins to move around and is sunbaked on the windshield of a car. We follow it until its mold is cast by artisans, and the Italian specialty is transformed into a rigid bronze sculpture. Combining performance, humor, and the art of innuendo, Fulford’s images are proof that photography can be fun.
Jason Fulford, The Heart is a Sandwich, MACK, 320 pp., $45.