Book Review: Irina Rozovsky’s “Island in my mind”

Our next book review is of Irina Rozovsky’s Island in my mind, published by Verlag Kettler. Rozovsky is a Boston-based artist and current assistant professor of photography at the Massachusetts College of Art. Her work has been exhibited, awarded and published internationally—including features in the New YorkerFotographia and Guernica.

Island in my mind is an elegant spiral bound, 100 plus-page, softcover exploration of Cuba. Its open structure and well-developed content is tangentially, but profoundly, shaped by Rozovsky’s childhood in Moscow. The artist’s experience with the Soviet regime gives her a deeper understanding of the socio-political elements at play in people’s everyday lives. With her photography, Rozovsky aims to explore the everyday outside of preconceived notions surrounding particular places and the people who live there. Rozovsky “makes photographs of people and places, transforming external landscapes into interior states.”

As her second monograph, Island in my mind presents a conceptually thought-out and solidly constructed collection of images. It’s both Rozovsky’s grasp on space and her ability to capture real moments that cement the success of this book. There’s a warmness that emanates from the pages of Island in my mind, leaving the viewer with a sense of how these people operate on a very personal level. You feel the water, heat and dirt while seeing a very close view of the houses they live in, what they eat, how they get around, their pets, their hobbies and the lush environment they walk through.

The images of Island in my mind are visually powerful and keenly executed. Rozovsky’s use of bright colors and strong sense of compelling lighting push these photographs beyond simple stagnant portraits of a place or a person. Her work also demonstrates the important role that trust can play when documenting the lives of others. It is evident that those she worked with on this project have a pre-existing relationship with the artist. They know Rozovsky, in some way, and that is felt in the how her subjects appear on film. Island in my mind is a beautiful example of how some photo books can pull together disparate images of one place and tell a cohesive story with complexity, detail and emotion.

Rozovsky’s Island in my mind was awarded the 2014 Kassel Fotobook Festival Dummy Award in Germany and was the subject of a solo exhibition for the artist at 555 Gallery in Boston. For more on Rozovsky or to order a copy of Island in my mindplease refer to her website.