“The Sniper Paused So He Could Wipe His Brow, is something like a journey…” – Sean Lotman
The latest monograph from Japan-based photographer Sean Lotman, The Sniper Paused So He Could Wipe His Brow is a poetic visual peregrination with no clear beginning and end.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Sean Lotman harbored a deep interest in cinema from an early age. He began his creative journey as an aspiring fiction writer, spending much of his twenties and thirties traveling the globe, drawing inspiration from his experiences.
Though his novels were never published, his travels galvanized a love of visual storytelling, eventually leading him to switch mediums and pursue a career in photography. He now lives with his wife and young son in Kyoto, Japan, where he works on long-term photographic projects, a number of which have been released as monographs.
Inspired by his love of narrative fiction and cinema, including, notably, the over-saturated tones of the films made using the technicolor process during Hollywood’s golden age, his photographs are absorbing, dreamy, and at times, surreal.
Comprising ninety-five images captured over the course of fifteen years on 120 color film (using the iconic, Diana F+ toy camera), and then printed in his home darkroom, The Sniper Paused So He Could Wipe His Brow, embodies his distinct aesthetic sensibility.
Blurred faces, ghost-like and ethereal; barely discernible edifices, dusky landscapes, and subtle minutiae, are washed in hazy, sepia tones, typical of the Diana, though accentuated by the use of double exposures and the ‘dodge and burn’ technique in which areas of images are darkened and lightened during processing.
The book’s title is both intriguing and enigmatic, befitting, not only of the images, but the creative way in which they are presented.
Each of the first and last eight pages features two square photographs printed on high gloss paper. These pages are split in half horizontally, separating the two images and thus allowing for a myriad of different possible pairings.
At the heart of the book, single images are spread, full-bleed, across two of the narrow, vertical pages, and on a few occasions, a single image folds outward to reveal a further pairing spread across four pages beneath.
It is a truly unique and creative approach to storytelling, emphasizing the enigmatic nature of the work, underscored further by the single lines of prose that occasionally punctuate.
“Fifteen years, twenty countries, ninety-five images, three parts. It’s a book inspired by travel, as many of the photographs were made during a very vivid period in my life when I was on the road.”
Photography is subjective. An image invariably bears the distinct mark of its author no matter how subtle, whilst simultaneously, its ‘meaning’ or ‘message’ may differ for each viewer: filtered through their subconscious and imprinted with a shadow of their own psyche. And whilst Lotman’s latest offering feels deeply personal, at the same time, it affords the viewer rare agency, allowing them to construct their own narrative from the collection of fleeting moments he has captured.
It is, without a doubt, one of the most creative and intriguing photo books of recent times. It stands both as a testament to Lotman’s unique artistry, and to the inimitable potential of visual storytelling.
All images © Sean Lotman