Review: Upset Down by Paul Bogaers


Book Reviews, Photobooks


Paul BogaersUpset Down might well be one of the most unusual photobooks I own. The book doesn’t really have a front and back. Or rather you can look at it from whatever you take as your front to the back, and then you can turn it over and look at it, again, from the new front to the back. The way this works, as you can imagine, is simple: Each spread shows two images. The one on the right-hand side has the ‘correct’ orientation, the one on the other side is upside down. Needless to say, constructing a photobook that way would be an entirely pointless exercise if one were required to only look at the right-hand side. One isn’t. Instead, each spread (the vast majority of them anyway) works on its own, regardless whether you look at it… well, what is the correct up and down here?

Up is down, and down is up. Whatever you want. It doesn’t matter. What amazes about Upset Down how effortlessly the spreads work regardless of how you look at them (I haven’t tried sideways, yet). That is no small feat. Each individual image in the book works regardless of how you look at it. And each pair works as well, not just as two images in their different orientations, but also taken together, talking to each other in a variety of ways. To top things off, you can follow the story in the book, leafing through the pages…

Inevitably, by now the reader might be either completely confused or wondering what the actual experience might be like. This is, I’m afraid, where words have to stop, and where the only option left is to look at the book. By construction, Upset Down is a very ambitious book, and it’s surprising and fun to see how well it works. Images are constantly being transformed into abstractions, they change their meanings (or so it seems), and up is down while down is up. There’s no end. One might imagine that given the complexity of the undertaking to make such a book the result would be tedious and heavy. But it isn’t. It’s light, and it’s fun.


Upset Down, photography and text by Paul Bogaers, 160 pages, 99 Publishers, 2010