Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Chris Rainier - A Journey In Ink
Chris Rainier completes a seven-year project culminating in a unique photo book
Opening Chris Rainier's latest book, Ancient Marks, you find yourself absorbed by the black-and-white photographs that reveal an array of body modifications, including tattoos, ritual scarring and body piercings. As you turn each page, you're enthralled by the myriad of ways people around the world modify their own skin, not only for beauty, but also to create a sense of connection, of community.
It's not just the subject matter that makes the book exceptional, however. It's the book itself, which may well be the best photo book ever produced. The images rise from the page. The richness of the tones, especially the deep blacks, bare comparison to a silver gelatin print. You feel the generous weight of the paper between your fingers, especially when opening foldouts that unveil beautiful panoramas. This is much more than a mere collection of photographs.
“What I was really trying to create was a piece of art that is a photo book,” says Rainier, who collaborated with Media 27 (a creative firm providing client-direct creative services) to self-publish a first-class photographic book. This book breaks the rule that says a quality monograph can only come from a big publishing house. It's a book that's a testament to a photographer who's passionate about what he does.
“What I was fascinated about with this project was to consciously articulate that universal human desire to belong. I've traveled a lot among indigenous cultures throughout the world and have seen many tribal markings, such as tattooing and scarification,” says Rainier. “In the early '90s, I began seeing it in contemporary cultures. I wanted to see if there was a comparison, so I just followed the flow of ink around the world for seven years.”
For Rainier, publishing a photo book is as important a way to share photographs as an exhibit. It's something that he learned from Ansel Adams, for whom Rainier was a photographic assistant.
“Ansel really passed that on to me—creating not only fine-art exhibit prints, but books as a piece of art,” shares Rainier, whose diverse career has ranged from creating calming landscapes to unnerving scenes of warfare and starvation. He's currently the codirector of the National Geographic Society's Ethnosphere program. “I wanted to create a benchmark with this book and I think we did it. I'm very proud of it.”