A meditation on the nature of photography itself, The Book of Shadows is a collection of 88 anonymous photographs spanning the twentieth century, all of which share a common “mistake”—the photographer’s shadow falling into the image. Selected by gallerist Jeffrey Fraenkel from his personal collection of more than 2000, these images represent, in Fraenkel’s words, “the most tenacious, peculiar, and downright sublime of the crop.” The shadows frequently convey striking aspects of their makers’ personalities, and tell us more than might be expected about the person behind the camera. But as Fraenkel writes in the book’s introduction, “the shadow’s most striking feature is that it tips us off and confirms the photographer was there, a reality not generally evident in photographs. We take for granted photographs were made by someone, a person with a reason for making the picture, but that observer—who by extension is also us—is rarely acknowledged so overtly in the pictures themselves.”
This book itself is a work of art. Bound between suede covers, and exquisitely printed by the master craftspeople at Trifolio in Verona, Italy, The Book of Shadows is a reminder, even in a digital age, that the power and mystery of photographic depiction still evades any attempt to describe it.