Photos from Nazreen‘s photostream
The remarkable thing about ‘Colours’ is that if I write a bad review I will have no place to eat. Luckily, the book stands on its own. It is excellent not as a collection of photographs but in that all of the photos pull on a single thread, leaving Sri Lanka naked and exposed. I have always been fascinated by uninentional design – bus tickets, trishaws, government documents. Those are my favorite parts of Sri Lanka, the painted fronts of the Lanka Ashok Leyland buses and the orange saris of the sarari women at five o’clock. There is a Sri Lanka that is bright and oversaturated even in decay and that is what Dominic Sansoni has found. The most beautiful parts of Sri Lanka are the parts that don’t try. Instead, they inherit the natural rhythm of the island. That is the Sri Lanka that Dom has photographed, and that is what makes Colours a lovely book.
Lunch Packet Culture
The traditional photo book (of which there are actually few good ones) would cover Perehera, Elephant Orphanage, Sigiriya, Adam’s Peak, etc. That would cover everything and tell you nothing. Colours, on the other hand covers none of the main sites. There are no elephants, there are no discernable locales and there are very few people. You get pictures of doorways, windowsills, awnings and the underbellies of fish. This isn’t the neat packet of culture we serve tourists and then send on their way.
Instead, Colours captures what you see on those countless hours in between destinations. The orange of the Smak advertisements, the red of the rambutan and the flash of the cadju girls. The red, green and blue of the trishaws and the pinstripes of the buses. All the uncontrived and unintentional colors of Sri Lanka are photographed in their natural habitat, on peeling wood and weather-beaten stone. I’ve seen all these colors before – I see them every day – but I never knew they were so elemental as to be found all over the island. That’s why the book is cool. It doesn’t photograph the parts of Sri Lanka we keep clean and show to guests. That’s like when you sit down in a village house and they serve you overstrong cordial and soft drinks that no one really consumes. What Dom has done is capture Sri Lanka when it’s not looking, and those are always the best photographs.
Deshan and I are both typography and color fetishists, which is why I find the stuff Dom photographs so confusing. Like, who decided to paint the wall that color, and how did they have such exquisite handwriting? As a designer I would struggle to develop such a palette and theme, but it seems to emerge naturally throughout the island. Of course, it takes a photographer to properly eye the beast, but still, who the shit bought that monkey costume and how does it happen to match everything else? Sometimes it’s just uncanny.
The island, left to its own devices, has its own palette. Dom captures the green and red of the plantains, the pink of the lotus and clean blue of the sky. What’s strange is how those colors have somehow bled into our daily life – the yellow of a monks robe and technicolor painting of a door. No one chose those colors, it’s like they almost dripped out of the jungles and sky. That is the Sri Lanka that’s great – the part that doesn’t try too hard or worry about foriegn influences or what people will say. There’s a part of Sri Lanka that just is and it’s great that Dominic got that Sri Lanka into a book.
Colours is available at the Barefoot Bookshop. The print quality makes me jealous and it smells good