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Sonata: Aaron Schuman

Chase Starr

Cover of Sonata by Aaron Schuman

Aaron Schuman shares an immersive journey through the landscapes of Italy, offering an unconventional take on travel photography. Images depict cracked fresco murals, bones excavated from ash, and ancient sculptures alongside modern speaker equipment. Bound in coarse red cloth with gold foil lettering, the octavo-sized volume pays homage to the musical form that inspired its creation. A black printed bird whistles on the reverse. The interior covers feature black-and-white maps of Italy, setting the stage for the narrative to unfold.

A solitary figure traverses a paved path in the distance

Embroidered flames emit from an eyed chalice, a volcano erupts fiery lava, white woolen lambs bathe in the day’s heat. A pastoral view is captured from behind a shaded tree canopy in the foreground. A solitary figure traversing a paved path serves as the singular instance of human life. The photographer’s tight compositions imbue the work with humanity, from revered oil paintings and altar arrangements to walls donned with sports paraphernalia or a farmer’s hand written price tag on a basket of eggs.

Two close-up black & white images of tree foliage.

Further into the book, the work shifts to a monochromatic palette, enveloping both sides of the page spread in a forest of trees. This transition, accompanied by a change from gloss to matte paper stock, evokes the movement of a musical score. it compels us to study the shapes and forms of nature without the familiar shorthand of color. I’m reminded of a performance at the San Francisco Symphony of “Prometheus, The Poem of Fire” by Alexander Scriabin which interprets the Greek myth of sacred fire stolen from the gods. The performance was paired with a fragrance with smoky notes emitted into the hall at the story’s climax.

A photograph of a farm smoldering in flame.

Photographs in this collection capture subjects from an intimate proximity. Rare deep field-of-view images contain obstructions in the foreground. In the final movement we witness a farm smoldering in subdued fire that billows smoke across an electrical tower and distant mountain range. Dry weeds are sharply in focus just beyond the camera lens. The photograph does not document the event, but conveys the experience of standing in the field and being present on your travelers journey.


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