Often associated with memory, photography has the almost magical ability to stop the passage of time, to capture forever a moment, which, by the time it has been printed on the light-sensitive surface, has already passed. Angel Albarrán and Anna Cabrera, Spanish photographers and printers living in Barcelona, are constantly reflecting on the potential of their art in the face of time and memory and on the way images are constructed through memories and sensations that may have never existed. Remembering the Future provides the perfect format for this reflection: it has printed on paper the sublime recollection of a strangely timeless journey to Japan, which emerges as both an ancestral elsewhere and the product of an illustrated reverie, recomposed from scratch.
A photographic journey to the land of the rising sun
Right from the outset, with its (double) cover, Remembering the Future offers the promise of a distant land to which only images have the ability to bring us closer. Nestled in the silhouette of a roof covered in the purple abundance of a Japanese maple’s leaves, or springing from the top of palm trees in a cloudy column, this elsewhere is hinted at and then revealed page after page of the Spanish duo’s beautifully composed photos. Their photography distils in either a symbolic or a more explicit way the remnants of a Japan often associated with these images, which readers nevertheless feel they are discovering for the first time and in a new light. Therein lies the great achievement of the two artists, who, playing with our collective visual imagination, defy the conventions associated with the composition and printing of Japanese-inspired photography to offer a much more sensitive and disturbing version of it.
The layout of Remembering the Future plays a big part in shaping this series as an initiatory and dreamlike journey to the land of the rising sun. The alternation between black and white and color images of stunning print quality and the way they’re arranged on the page guides the reader on a quest for poetic visions that stimulates all his senses. Here, the pallor of cherry blossoms thriving in mossy clusters seems to intensify the caress of the wind in a Zen garden; there, the contrast of a shimmer at the entrance of a thick bamboo forest revives the mythologies associated with the powers of this Japanese land swept by the elements.
In Search of Lost Time
But even more, perhaps, than its ability to reveal the representations of a country that becomes familiar, Remembering the Future sweeps away all temporal frames of reference to fill the reader’s eye and mind with memories that aren’t memories. The beauty of the duo’s photographs, combined with their mastery of the most unique printing techniques, act as revealers of memory: at times the visions of a buried past bring to mind our perception of something experienced, and at times these images spring up like projections of a story that is imagined, possible, or fantasized.
For Albarrán and Cabrera, thinking about the future comes from the same act as remembering: “We are just remembering a future that hasn’t happened yet.” That is experienced through this beautiful book, as haunting and persistent as the effect of time on our mental images. The collection of patina or highly contrasting photographs, where all the elements of life intersect, recomposes touch after touch the tableau of a time and a place frozen in an unfathomable in-between space. An infinite and unalterable reverie, which, like photography, only needs imagination in order to be reactivated.
By Anne Laurens
Remembering the future, Angel Albarrán and Anna Cabrera
Editorial RM, 2018
22 x 31 cm; 2.000 copies