The British Journal of Photography's Tom Seymour spoke to Simon Rimaz, winner of the Unseen Dummy Award 2014. This article was first published by the British Journal of Photography on 22 October 2014.
A crowd gathered at this year’s Unseen Photo Fair at Amsterdam’s Westergasfabriek; the judges were about to anoint the winner of the Photobook Dummy Award. Now in its third year, this prestigious prize gives one photographer the chance to publish their book with Lecturis, and present it at next year’s Unseen. The winner, they called out, was Simon Rimaz – but he was nowhere to be seen. He had stayed at home.
Perhaps it should have come as no surprise, because the 26-year-old, who lives and works in Lausanne, Switzerland, specialises in the elusive and the oblique. His website eschews straight self-description in favour of a question: “Is there any such thing as a “dead” image and, if so, what would the “corpse” look like? Simple, absurd questions like these have led me to engage in a physical, anatomical relationship with photographic material.”
When BJP managed to catch up with him, his answers were similarly off-centre – just like his images. His award-winning dummy, Unusual View of Unknown Subjects, uses images with square holes cut from middle: making the viewer focus on everything but the central element, he brings attention to the physical form not the content. “The print, with its centre amputated, becomes a frame, an object emptied of the core,” he says. “I get a thrill in finding a balance between representation and materiality of the medium itself… I like to find the point when an image becomes useless, when it becomes just a piece of paper.”
Unusual View of Unknown Subjects doesn’t remove this part at random though – a collection of press photographs taken from American newspaper archives, it shows what was left behind when the central part was cropped out for publication. In one image two cars are squashed together, the point of impact cut away; in another we see a cavernous underground tunnel, the source of light obscured by a cube of vacant white. But though unwanted at the time, these residues are “parallel stories in themselves,” says Rimaz, “indications of that-which-has-been, a notion so fundamental in the history of the photographic medium”. He quotes the American minimalist Sol LeWitt, and his observation: “Illogical judgments lead to new experiences.”
And ironically, though we can now guess at what was shown in the original, there is no way to know for sure – the cropped images were published in tiny newspapers, which weren’t documented or saved for posterity. What’s left indicates “the blind spot of a story which has already been told and forgotten”, says Rimaz. “Exhibited but not unveiled, the photograph only shows the scars on its skin.”
From the series Unusual View of Unknown Subjects, 2014 © Simon Rimaz