la jetée by Kent Hall

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“This is the story of a man marked by an image of childhood”

Like many photographers and — I imagine — book makers, I’ve been inspired by Chris Marker’s short film “La Jetée.” It’s a film about memory, the future, the past, and catastrophe — made up almost entirely of still photographs. During the Covid-19 pandemic, I started to see discarded masks in the street. They reminded me of what Chris Marker’s time travelers wore on their eyes.

So I decided to make a book based on my memory of “La Jetée,” using the first line of the film as the narrative. But I wouldn't rewatch the film or try to stage it. I wanted to find it where I lived. And I would use a recent instant-photo-book technique I’d come up with.

With this format, Instax Wide photos are taped and glued together back-to-back to make a codex. It’s a kind of book that can be made by anyone, with readily available materials, in just an hour or two. Only the day I went to take these photos I forgot my black-and-white Instax Wide film. I had only a small Olympus XA with long expired Polaroid Polachrome Instant 35mm slide film inside. So I used that instead. After developing the negatives at home I used an old Vivitar Instant Slide Printer, with a bizarre adapter, to expose them onto the Instax Wide film. In the center of the book, I used Instax Mini film instead, creating two split pages.

It may seem like dumb photographic geekery, but to me it was time travel, machines, a way of transferring the defects from one process to another, just as memory magnifies and preservers errors. The split pages at the center are a point of fracture. It’s where our time traveler breaks down. The cover has an unused slide cut into it. While often difficult to see when closed, with a slight source it can be projected.

And it’s not accurate. Not to the narrative. And yet it is.

Artist Bio

Kent Hall is a writer, artist, and book maker based in Oakland, California. As a the child of a scientific a and an English major, he grew up surrounded by cameras and books. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University, he began to pursue work as a writer. He also developed an interest in collage and mixed media work. Later, as an experiential marketer at print-on-demand company Blurb, he became enamored with bookmaking practices. Now, through the creation of single-edition narrative objects, he uses what he’s learned about writing, photography, collage, and books to transfer his experience as directly as possible to the page. Amongst other media, he’s crafted books from garbage, instant film, game boards, 35mm slide shows, and cyanotypes. In addition to still creating mixed media works and editing his first novel, he serves on the Board of Directors for the East Bay Photo Collective. His work has been shown at 826 Valencia, Panorama, PolaCon Bay Area, 111 Minna, Glass Key Photo, and various ‘zine and book fairs.