‘Mystery Is A Compass’ photo book by Jonathan Liu

A couple of months ago, I went to a Photo Book fair at the Phoenix Gallery in Brighton.

It was part of the Brighton Photo Biennial that was held from 28th September – 28th October 2018 around various places in Brighton.

The Brighton Photo Biennial is a month of free photography, exhibitions and events for professional, enthusiasts, students and families alike.

I love to collect photo books (especially film photography ones) so was keen to attend the photo book fair which was within walking distance from where I live.

Whilst at the fair, I was drawn to this book called ‘Mystery Is A Compass’ by Jonathan Liu. What drew me to the book was the simplicity of the front cover, the title of the book (I love a good mystery) and it had a couple of re-printed handwritten notes plus a photo attached to the front cover with a vintage bulldog clip.

It was a publisher stand called Duende Print who was selling the book and after having a chat with them, they confirmed to me that the black and white photos were taken using a film camera which appealed to me even more. I’ve since spoken to Jonathan who confirmed to me that the photos were shot on a mixture of large format (4×5) and medium format film along with stills from a Super 8 film reel.

The book looks into the disappearance of 20 year old Everett Ruess who was last seen in November 1934 heading into Davis Gulch off Escalante in Utah, USA.

Investigators were sent in search of him and found what looked like a campsite with some of his supplies. Further along the Canyon was an arch with an inscription at the base which read ‘Nemo, 1934’. In latin, Nemo translates to ‘No one’.

The book describes the theory of ‘Plato’s Meno’ where to summarise, there is a mystery to this unknown entity and that this mystery can act as a compass guiding you through the seemingly unknown.

Jonathan decided to follow Everett Reuss’s route to the Southern Utah desert because he wanted to find a deeper understanding of what his motivations were, and to witness the beauty that ultimately consumed him.

Jonathan describes in the book that the only physical legacy Everett Reuss left behind is in the form of a drive through fast food restaurant in Escalante named ‘Nemo’s’.

Jonathan has cleverly mixed photographs he has taken along with excerpts of Everett’s letters that were left behind when he disappeared.

I really wanted to blog about this book because I found it to be such an interesting read and I liked the black and white photos Jonathan had incorporated into the writings.

The book is a nice compact size measuring 150mm x 210mm and is a 52pp french-fold book which means some of the photos go over two pages which is a bit different to a standard photo book.

The book was published in May 2018 and there were 30 First Edition copies printed. My copy is number 28.

For more information on the book and Jonathan Liu, you can visit Jonathan’s website at http://www.jonathanliu.net

I would highly recommend the book and checking out Jonathan’s other work.

Instagram: natalie_smart_photography

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