Atem by Massimiliano Tommaso Rezza, reviewed by Annakarin Quinto

ATEM is a big book. To read it you have to comfortably nest it between your thighs and womb. The best position is deeply hunched in a corner of the couch, to be fully present to the intriguing encounter that the distant lady drinking on the cover invites you for. She doesn’t see us. She doesn’t invite us. She is an image of lost loneliness. She is an image of an inaccessible flow of thoughts. But what is she thinking about? She doesn’t invite us to open the book. She looks far away, beyond a mirror we don’t see, and makes us feel like peeping toms. But we will irresistibly do. Nest the book on our knees and open it. Because we want to go in for the experience.


Surprisingly ATEM is a light book. The paper has the simple nature of paper you find at home but it feels more ethereal. Somehow all the weight has disappeared. Is it the paper? Is it the luxurious grayscale of the images? Is it the tight binding that makes flipping through the pages seem like a dance between images and fingers, in which an image always escapes our glance, obliging us to go backwards and forwards in a random way?


It might sound awkward to describe ATEM first as an object. But this is to reinforce the feeling that it escapes any possible definition of a book. Even to any kind of definition for a collection of images. In reality, ATEM is the successful attempt to represent a flow.


A flow of life. A flow of thoughts. In all its random mixture of simplicity, complexity and oddity which isn’t yours but you still can relate to in the most surprising ways. As the represented is inaccessible, mysterious, evocative and not descriptive, we find ourselves alone with our own experience to face it. And we dive inside, breath at the same rhythm as the unfolding pages. Every time you open the book you make a new experience, discover new details and new sequences of impromptu images. Is it the reason pages are numbered from the very cover page (is it a cover page by the way?)? Is it to help us not to get too much lost, to make us feel there is some continuity line somewhere? ATEM instantly made me think of Albert Cohen’s writing on trying to transcript the fully coherent randomness of the mental activity of Arianne in Belle du Seigneur. You feel her life much more than you acknowledge it. And that is kind of a miracle.


Massimiliano Tommaso Rezza has the coquetterie to aim for the absence of authorship in his images. I hope he will not be offended by reading this, but to this aim he fails. His images deeply belong to him, in the deepest way. He stalks life and takes pictures. It might look random but it isn’t. His work questions life in the same way street photography has done for ages but in the most contemporary way, with a feeling of lost track or uselessness or non importance. I don’t know if Rezza is the first kind of a new street photographer or the last of those before. His work has the human sharpness and only in appearance unbalanced framing of Friedlander’s, with a hint of floating melancholia replacing the edgy humor. His way of looking at the world is utterly subtle but recognizable among all. And all this, “juste en passant”, trying to reach the opposite of what photography is expected for: fix the present forever. Here we embark in an endless flow of unfixable instants like in a dance of impermanence. This is how the final author ends up not being the photographer but the viewer, who firmly takes the place of the final performer, the one who gives a meaning (or not) to the flow: his very own experience of life. Rezza offers us the central place in his universe. By doing so he does much more than declining authorship. He makes each of us, including himself, the “I” and the whole of what I call the process of life. With style.


ATEM can be purchased here.


Annakarin Quinto is an Italian, born in Amsterdam, living in Paris and Rome as well as in trains and planes. A photographer, image explorer, social networks observer who trained to become a lawyer and former line producer for computer elaborated images, she has developed a critical stare on photography and reality.