Review: SP 67 by Roberto Schena


Book Reviews, Photobooks




I’m a bit over the idea of the road trip. You’re driving around, taking photographs. I get it. Not that there’s anything with a road trip per se. But to think you do a road trip to do a photo project - that’s just, let’s face it, cliche. Having said that, this doesn’t mean you can’t get something interesting out of a road trip. A good example is provided by Roberto Schena’s SP 67. It’s an unusual road trip: 13km of road, less than ten miles - how can you get something, well anything out of that? (more)

Turns out you can. After all, it’s not the road trip that creates the work, it’s the photographer. And it’s not so much about the road trip itself anyway, or more accurately about the physical road trip, the moving from A to B. Instead, it might be better to think of SP 67 as a mental, a psychological road trip.

Imagine you take Todd Hido’s photographs shot through windshields in the rain, to insert a lot of the intensely disturbing atmosphere of J-Horror movies. While Hido never strays that far from the decorative, Schena has no problem going there, plunging the viewer into a very strange, alien, and unsettling world - a world where even a pig poking out of the fog appears to have a menacing presence.

You end up not knowing what to expect, you’re being held in a state of suspense, without any kind of release ever being provided. There are a lot of views and details that might be just perfectly mundane, but that make you feel they have enormous relevance. You see, and you don’t. You never quite understand where these photographs are taking you, whether in fact they are taking you anywhere. The ending might just be the beginning again: a photograph of a car. Maybe this all is just an endless loop? Maybe there is no escape? Once you’re inside you can never leave again?

Thus SP 67 is not really a road trip book at all. Instead, it’s leading you into a strange world, in maybe just the same way that in Haruki Murakami’s novels there usually is a parallel, nightmarish world that exists right next to ours, to be entered easily - provided you know where to go.


SP 67, photographs by Roberto Schena, text by Paolo Caredda, 112 pages, Punctum, 2012