The Whispering of Things: Excerpts from a photography journal, 2008-2016 is just what the title describes: excerpts from Thomas Krempke’s photography journals. The written entries vary from descriptions of the project to observations on life and photography (and living through photography, photographing as proof-of-life), and the photography is mostly of the snapshot variety.

In many ways, The Whispering of Things reminds me of Brian Eno’s A Year with Swollen Appendices. There’s a sort of navel-gazing aspect to both that is simultaneously appealing in a sort of life-affirming or ‘so-that’s-how-they-do-it’ way, and also totally cringe-worthy, embarrassing, just tmi. Eno, of course, wasn’t writing around pasted-in photographs, but the journal/diary (read: navel-gazing) aspect is relevantly similar.

Krempke uses a small digital pocket camera for most (if not all) of the photography, and if I recall, he upgrades at least once during the 8 years. You can see the change in image quality, I think, not that it matters: the book isn’t really about the images, or it’s not for me anyway. There’s not much there: it’s not a project, or really curated or organized in the way many photobooks are, and it wasn’t meant to be.

In his early-draft Photobook Taxonomy, Jorg Colberg classes the original (German) version of The Whispering of Things (Das Flüstern der Dinge) as a Narrative Driven photobook of the First-Person Narration type. I’m not sure that adds anything to my understanding or appreciation, but that’s why I bought the book… (I bought several other exemplars of the various categories in my photobook buying-binge days.) It might be an interesting thing to do, to make a photo journal like this, maybe starting its life as a digital thing, built in that Unfold app or something else, taking digital files made from 35mm scans and “pasting them into” a… is that what this blog has been, off and on, for all these years?

Anyway.

The photography reminds me some of John Gossage, whose Pomodori a Grappolo I reviewed some time ago. Like Gossage, Krempke’s photos are perfectly straight, and almost entirely devoid of people; his is a lonely world, and by choice, it seems. It’s all very… ordinary. I think that’s the best word for it. The pictures are just ordinary. A fair portion were taken on his balcony, cigarette butts, the hole in a picnic table where the umbrella goes, and the like. Many were taken at night, or from a speeding train, and the little camera sensor really can’t keep up, not that it needs to. Many of the photographs appear in a series, either obviously taken one after the other, or taken of the same subject from nearly-the-same vantage point over many days or weeks. Many appear to be as thoughtfully composed as a pocket dial.

I’m reminded of my first foray into photography: 27 pictures of my bicycle, mostly taken from the same angle, age 4 or 5 maybe. I think those pictures, had they survived, might have some relevance to some of Krempke’s. I don’t mean to disparage his photography or his project: he has a published and translated book from Edition Patrick Frey, and I couldn’t give away 25 copies of an 8 page zine.

But I digress.

The Whispering of Things is a winner, full stop. Despite being printed in rather small quantities (600 in German, 2017; 600 in English, 2019), copies remain available from the publisher at time of writing (January, 2020).

I struggled with photography (and this blog) in 2019. To be honest, I struggled with most things in 2019. I feel some minor stirrings after spending a couple of days with Krempke, and God willing, I get past whatever this block is and these stirrings grow into some sort of action.

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