josef chladek

on photobooks and books

M.F.G. Paltrinieri & Mirko Smerdel - The Looking Game

Softcover, text by John Berger, first print-run of 200 copies.

A serial killer and amateur photographer currently imprisoned in the Death Row: Rodney Alcala. An alias he adopted while on the run from the police: John Berger, as the famous British art critic.

Starting from this coincidence, The Looking Game explores the once-secret archive of pictures taken by Alcala and sets up a series of connections with Berger’s words, which are used in the book as a framework to read the pictures from a different perspective. The book provides an unusual take on the photographic medium, creating a work that calls into question the act of taking pictures as well as the reproduced image starting from the question: “What makes these ordinary pictures so unsettling?”

The serial killer Rodney Alcala was active between the late 60s and the 70s. His pictures were found by police only in 2010 in a storage locker in Seattle. With the exclusion of the most explicit ones, they were made available online in hopes that the public could help identify the persons pictured. On January 2013 Rodney Alcala received an additional 25-years to life sentence.

The Looking Game is the first installment of “The Subnarratives“, an ongoing project by Mirko Smerdel and M.F.G. Paltrinieri. Taking the shape of a series of case studies, the aim of the collaboration is to investigate the characteristics and nature of photographs as documents and the relationship with the story they tell.


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