Teaching us to feel without seeing, Brink’s first solo book Look, Touch brings together a series of intimate, sensual photographs
Australian photographer Benedict Brink’s work has always dipped into the emotional, numinous layers of the human experience. Now, with her first solo photography book Look, Touch, published by Libraryman, the photographer gently encourages us to consider feeling as cognition, doing away with the all-too-human itch to interpret and contextualise everything we see.
Created over a year, the photo book was born from Brink’s personal reflections on the space she occupied as a photographer. Unlike in fashion, where it’s “shoot a project one day, edit it the next, send it to the printer’s the day after that”, making the book has, for Brink, been a contemplation on how time shapes creativity. “It’s been really lovely to get a roll of film back and look through them. And then a month later look through them again and all the ones that I starred are no longer the ones that I’m interested in,” she says. “It’s been lovely, this kind of gradual refining of folders and folders of images.”
In the foreword to the book, filmmaker Kersti Jan Werdal writes that “Benedict defies any traditions of how an image of a body may be expected to be represented through a female lens – or a male lens for that matter – she skews predictability.” And this is exactly the magic of Brink’s work: through the abstraction of body parts, landscapes, and clothing, she asks us to feel without seeing, to apprehend without having to comprehend.
Here, in her own words, Brink explains how her first solo photography book came to life:
“Look, Touch came out of two projects – a joint book called Been On My Own For Long Enough with photographer Clare Shilland and a show, Measure the Feeling, that we worked on with a third photographer Marie Déhé – as well as some other stuff. It was this body of work that I’d been making kind of accidentally over the past three years about intimacy and a sort of sensual world.
“The book is a lot of close-ups, so the body parts become texture. Things that are put on the body become like a still life. And there are landscapes. But the whole thing combined is about a kind of sensual experience of the world, where everything is abstracted into what it feels like as opposed to even what it looks like or what it is – it’s sort of a book about feelings.
“A lot of people have asked ‘what is the book on?’ I find it really hard to answer because it’s more obtuse. I didn’t go out with the intention of documenting something, it’s just that was what that time felt like and this is what it feels like to look at myself. I guess also, professionally, I look at people and at bodies – it can become very nuanced and overly thought about. I wanted to bring it back to what it actually feels like to look and be looked at.
“The book was distilled from so many shoots. There are a few girls in it that I had shot for different projects and then asked them to come and spend the day in my studio. There are landscape images from 2020 and 2022. I liked bringing in a couple of pictures that are much older as well. You think you are always doing something new but then it is comforting and reassuring to be like, ‘Actually, I can’t help but do the same thing all the time.’
“[Making the book] was a very soft experience and it felt like a safe space to be vulnerable in. Tony [Cederteg], who is Libaryman, and I had been talking about doing something for a long time. The reason I wanted to work with him is because he’s just got a very crisp eye. I really trusted him with the sequencing, the layout, and the sizing to make it look polished. This whole project has just felt like the right thing at the right time.”
Look, Feel by Benedict Brink is published by Libraryman and is out now.