Repetitions, patterns, architectural elements, objects or details framed like close-ups, unusually near to the camera, and of course, the photographer.
How do we look at the city?
Stephan Keppel uses multiple tools to portray the city, or the idea of it: Paris, was the inspiration for his book Entre Entree, New York is the main subject of Flat Finish. He deconstructs the urban space in a way that the viewer sees it as a series of compositions, memories, frames. Keppel is allowing us to see the same buildings, the same surfaces all over again to study them, to capture them, to remember them.
Are all the cities alike? Are all the cities comparable because what we see is just the result of our own personal point of view (cultural and physical)?
The book, with its sequence, doesn’t reproduce a linear story. In a way, it’s the artist’s fascination for the diverse nature of surfaces. The book also gives the viewer an almost tactile experience, with pages treated in unconventional ways. In one spread in the first quarter of the book, for example, a foggy abstract page, layered and printed with silver, is placed aside a reproduction of a “Colonial Wire Glass,” the beginning of a catalog of different safety glasses. Follows a reproduction of different kinds of ancient columns. The photographer seems to be in a constant research where the contemporary architecture he encounters serves as a collection of fascinating materials and elements.
It might be interesting to discover how the photographer composed this book, with 400 pages, mainly with black and white images, except for a short sequence about Pantone painted walls and a series of pixelated images of New York’s Empire State Building.
The book’s balanced and well-designed sequence lures you into its rhythms, and many of its elements exist within the limits of what is graphic rather than photographic. Keppel’s fascination for the surface of things is contagious and pushes the viewer to stare at each spread for a long time, searching for more details. This is a really good book to observe and reflect more about the idea of the city as a cultural concept and to mark the obsession for the everyday details in our urban environment.