I remember the discomfort I felt, searching for a response to Roland Schneider’s Entre-Temps (1989). As an account from within, the book mapped Schneider’s own observations, relationships and routines within the mental hospital in which he was resident. It was a work that seemed unaware – or dismissive – of the knowing dynamics of the conventional photoreportage often visited on such a space. It was awkward, frustrating, starved of light, even repetitive, and it consequently haunted me as a work of rare authenticity. Occasionally, photography appears that it is hard to ignore.
It’s an oblique, but useful foundation from which to explore the current project by Luna. Call Me By My Name sees the recently formed photographers’ association respond to aspects of disability in south-east Europe, and carries the ambition to “observe the world from another viewpoint”. Yet the book adopts familiar strategies. A series of photo-essays are introduced by emotive texts that advocate general principles of visibility and dignity. The format of the book clearly demonstrates the challenges of trying to accommodate distinct bodies of work. The layout is perhaps one of unhelpful rigour. Sometimes images are paired, and are occasionally in busier company. When photographs are given greater space, the selections are often curious, the more complex and engaging images remaining modest and under-grown on the page.
The region itself, immersed in political and civil re-negotiation, should perhaps be louder in the work, yet it seems to simply provide a site for the photography. Ultimately, the book fails to offer any challenges to the dominant portrayals of disability that have sustained debate over recent years. Sadly, there are few surprises here, few attempts to reach out and make responses as challenging and complex as the lives considered.