A visual diary of fatherhood, the new book from Colin Pantall is graceful and profound. The British photographer has been photographing his daughter, Isabel, since the day she was born, 16 years ago. Published by ICVL Studio, All Quiet on the Home Front is an adventure, a young girl’s stroll in the woods.
“I used to go with my dad and we’d run around in the mountains”, says Isabel in the video trailer of All Quiet on the Home Front. “You can smell the dirt, the damp grass, the leaves. You don’t have any walls when you are outside”. Colin has always been aware of the unique relationship that ties Isabel to her mother, Katherine, and never tried to compete. Instead he found in the woods a very personal corner for his daughter and him, “that made us closer and made us calm”. Unable to make sense of the mountain of shots he had collected from those moments over the past 16 years, he showed them to his wife. For Katherine, the common thread tying the pictures together was clear. “Can’t you see? This is you. You’re in the landscapes. From the day she was born, you’ve been taking her out… This is the story of how you developed your relationship with Isabel through the landscape”.
A 16 year-long stroll
The book’s rhythm is the steps of a family walking through the passing years. It combines two elements of Colin’s past work: the comfortable space of his series Sofa Portraits and the introspective exploration of 12 Grosvenor Place. All Quiet on the Home Front has the ease and the freedom of intimate bonds, but it also bears the mark of Colin’s constant amazement at discovering Isabel. Her changing movements and gazes, her small body full of playful energy or that’s suddenly asleep on the dry grass. This project reflects the evolution of a relationship and the fears attached to it, “the sense of loss that occurs as she gets older, as your role as a parent grows and then diminishes”.
Seeing Amak Mahmoodian’s book Shenasnameh, published by Alejandro Acin of IC-Visual Labs, made Colin believe that a book could actually embody his feelings of caducity and rebirth. He found Mahmoodian’s book unique and personal, and realized that a combination of paper, printed words and photos could bring a lot to his work. “There is loss in there, there is mortality, especially my mortality, that comes through in these mound-like landscapes—they’re burial grounds. There’s also a sense of new futures unfurling, and that comes across in the different paper stock and the different sizes of paper which conceal and reveal as you open and close them”, Colin told us. Paper reinforces and celebrates the permanence of Isabel and Colin’s bond with nature. It crystallizes the muddy ground on which Isabel stands, the wind that she softly breathes. “Whatever difficulties Isabel goes through in life, she’ll always have that base connection to the land that she grew up in”, says Colin. The next step? Turning his pictures into a complete sensorial experience. Colin aims to add the sound and smell of the forest to the tactile. He wants an exhibition in the forest, because All Quiet on the Home Front is a performance, “it’s propaganda, but it’s propaganda with beauty and heart and soul”.
Images from “All Quiet on the Home Front” © Colin Pantall