Sonder.Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, quoted in Simon Kossoff, “Sonder.” bump books, UK. 2021. unpaginated.
n. the realization that each random passer-by is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness – an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.
Kossoff includes this cheerful definition as a sort of afterword to the zine of the same name, and with it, the photographs (which remind me some of Gary Briechle for no good reason) slip out of any narrative they may have had and become evidence of all sides of Sonder: the side of the people andscenes photographed, the people that maybe saw the scenes in situ, Kossoff, who I don’t know at all and have never spoken to, the side of me as zine viewer, and the side of you as reader… It reminds me of the canyon I feel open up inside me sometimes in grocery and big-box stores when I look around, see all the big piles of stuff, and think about the dozens of identical stores within 10 or 15 miles of here, the hundreds in DFW, the thousands in Texas, and all that stuff, and it all feels so enormous that I feel both frightened and empty…
And Descendant is just as good, really. In it, Kossoff moves away from showing people and environs that we’ll never know, but that are just as vital and profound as our own, to sort of documenting a road trip. There are loads of images from the front seat of a Scion car, several of which are printed full bleed and arranged to construct an imagined panorama. As someone who regularly drives long distances—or did before Covid—the road runs together like this. One pair, a grid of desert scenes on the side of a liquor store seen from the front seat of the car, next to a desert scene shot from the same vantage point, is particularly fun.
Through both, Kossoff’s flash-lit hyper color makes everything quite dazzling, while adding a sort of dirtiness to it somehow. Here, I’m thinking of… who is it… Feng Li, maybe, also Sohrab Hura, though Hura’s book is on a rough paper that disguises the gloss. I somehow appreciate Kossoff’s work more than Li’s, though, again, for no good reason. Maybe the subjects look more familiar to me, and the color isn’t quite as twisted.
For more about Kossoff, check out his Instagrams @skossoff and @spkossoff. In looking at those, I found out that Kossoff has a book coming out in February from EyeShot, with an introduction from @swerdnaekalb. (I preordered without thinking, if that gives you any idea.) Gogo Simon, and I look forward to more.