Book Review: The Hollow of the Hand

Fun fact: The Hollow of the Hand ([amazon_link asins=’1408865734′ template=’PriceLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’a7bc0669-d905-11e6-bc80-e7c9e47b1cdf’]) is a book that is incredibly dear to my heart and there are lots of reasons why it should appeal to the more creatively expressive photographers in the audience. To preface that statement, consider the fact that at one time when my vision was far better, I was a published poet. I’m talking at like 16 years of age. That creative energy turned into writing, then photography, and these days what I do for a living is balance both.

So what do you get when you combine poetry and photography into one? Honestly, this beautiful book that you probably will not get enough of.

You see, The Hollow of the Hand is a collaboration between musician PJ Harvey and photographer Seamus Murphy. Harvey’s poems talk about experiences in Kosovo, Washington D.C., and Afghanistan. These are the main text bases of each section of the book–and they precede Murphy’s photography. Each section has a fair balance of both black and white and color images which tend to work very well with the specific paper quality used to print the book.

Experienced poetry readers will want to sit there and very slowly take this one in. There are lots of poems and Harvey’s ways of breaking up lines and stanzas is sort of unconventional. Of course, every writer tends to do this with intent, so I can’t seem to figure it out here in many situations. Harvey’s poems though tell small stories and have very strong imagery that easily seems ripped straight from the pages of a Hollywood script. Some of them are absolutely heartbreaking like the poem, “At the Airbase”, depicting children essentially asking for money from the US soldiers.

Then there is Murphy’s photography: which, if you plan on getting yourself a copy of this book, I strongly suggest sitting down under a place with a good light source to directly illuminate the matte paper which these prints are made. The trend for many photographers who create zines these days is to print one photo per page–while trying as hard as possible not to split it right down the middle of the fold. Some of the images have that though, and to that point you can tell that a photographer clearly didn’t lay out this book.

With that said though, justice is still done to much of his images, though because I own the paperback copy, I have to wonder how it would look on an iPad with book itself being beamed to my Apple TV. I can just imagine that it would do much more justice to the photos.

In fact, I’d pay a good amount of money to see this collaboration come in the form of a traveling gallery to be seen at one of the many establishments in Chelsea, Dumbo, Upper East Side, or Bushwick.

I strongly recommend The Hollow of the Hand if you’re into photojournalism, poetry, and interested in seeing how the two mediums can be collaborative.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.