The photographer’s latest book seeks moments of transcendence, imagined in dynamic studio nudes and coffee-ground divination
“I’ve accepted an endless cycle of uncertainty: an inner scream,” Luis Alberto Rodriguez writes in the foreword of O. “The people on these pages are negotiating corporeally this sound of perseverance and resignation. They are collapsing bodies.” The Dominican-American artist’s new photo book explores possibilities, taking form in dynamic studio nudes and images of tasseography, the practice of divination through coffee-ground readings.
It’s all in the title: O., something spiritual born from suffering, a transcendence of containment, a noise, a gasp, a cycle, a reset. Rodriguez—who trained as a dancer at Juilliard and worked in performance for 15 years before turning to photography—renders his portraits sculptural, capturing moments in-between. In O., the photographer challenges his cast of subjects to let go, to surrender to volatility, to allow the body to contort and collapse, to find stillness in movement and singularity in the all-consuming.
Where his previous book, People of the Mud, looked outward to an unfamiliar culture, O. sees Rodriguez casting light on himself: The process of divination he pulled from his mother’s practice, which she learned from her mother; the first portrait he’s ever taken of his father, in an attempt to open his creative life to his family. Each image is an attempt at answering questions that have preoccupied him over the last couple of years: Do we surrender? Do we have the will? Is calamity a destination? Are we lost?
The book’s first edition, released via Loose Joints, opens with a quote from Simone Well: “The divine emptiness, fuller than fullness, has come to inhabit us.” The deep blacks on its monochromatic pages are all-consuming, each acting as a portrait of the artist, of the subject, and of the reader—posing questions and offering answers, colored only by an immensity of emotion.
Luis Alberto Rodriguez will celebrate the release of O. with signings in New York (Dashwood Books, May 11), Berlin (Bildband Berlin, May 19), and Paris (Pharmacie des mes, May 25).