Horace and Agnes: A Love Story by Lynn Dowling and Asia Kepka (Blue Rider Press, 2016)
Synopsis: If Wes Anderson were to write a love story, he might well wind up conceiving of Horace and Agnes, a horse and a squirrel who are perfect companions. There are no boundaries when it comes to their love, as this book well shows. Bursting with colour, style, and humor, Horace and Agnes is a sumptuous photographic journal of their simple pleasures walks on the beach, jigsaw puzzles, a quick getaway to Las Vegas, visits with relatives, festive parties, and quiet nights at home. With spectacular retro photography and affecting prose, this is a gift book for lovers of all ages.
I think that there is much to be said about the culture we live in today. The information that we consume on a regular basis. The way in which we view photographs. As someone who appreciates photographs and the art of making still images (as I study photography in college) I really think that this book could have benefited if it were only a photo book.
I do understand that this might be a stretch, but the market I feel that the book is trying to gravitate towards is a demographic who appreciate the visual arts. I felt the pictures were interesting enough by themselves. I found myself just wanting to skip the text and examine the photographs. Narrative photography is something that people strive to do, but I could see that a few of these photos might have been filler for the narrative that the artists (and authors [definitely skilled in the art of the photos]). I mean, it may not have been, but I couldn't help seeing that the book was a bit to long and drawn out. I more wanted a whimsical romance between the two characters, but the world building with the friends and family added an outside feeling to the story rather than having the reader believe these were the only anamorphic creatures in the world. I am glad that we, as the readers, did get that outward viewpoint, but I think that it should have just been a minor part of the narrative without diverting too much attention away from the two main characters.
I really think that I am starting to sound negative in this review, but trust me I am not. I admire the artistry over the substance that the authors were trying to provide. The images stand without the context/subtext we are given as we "read" through. Maybe the authors envisioned this book being as it was, if so, then I think they were successful in capturing their vision for this almost storybook-esque tale with images set in the real world. I, personally, just see something else in the images.
Our culture devours images by the hundreds every day, we scroll through Instagram, Tumblr, and Facebook only to get glimpses of these images without another thought in our mind. That is what is special about fine art photography. every detail matters every detail seemed to matter in this book, which is why I think that the visual cues were more interesting than the text–more was able to be read into it rather than reading about the situation unfolding in the picture.
I want to end the review with photographs that I loved from the book, because they were phenomenal photos that really anyone can appreciate.
In Search of a Picnic – the composition is fantastic, the colors are vibrant, and that dead tree in the back is my aesthetic.
Bertie Swopes – I love the golden mirror, the hand position, the floral arrangements on her head, and the elegant color palette.
Beaver Den Diner – the crop is a bit strange, I wish it was a bit more center, but I love the environment they are in. the faux wilderness set as the backdrop makes for a refreshing and comedic play on the whole anamorphic concept of the book.
Nature Calls – this is a stunning photo, probably my favorite in the whole collection. I love the wood panelling, again giving the aesthetic of faux wilderness, plus the expression Agnes has as she stares up the taxidermy piece is hilariously interesting and makes the reader think about how animals would react to the oddity we know as taxidermy.
Home Alone – the colors are fantastic in this one and it gives off that signature Wes Anderson center style that I have come to love and appreciate in recent years.
Low Roller – I am a sucker for motel and anything that is in anyway nostalgic of generations past.
Winter Fowl – maybe I was just kidding about Nature Calls being my favorite because this image is solid and beautiful.