Go through the dreamscapes of Sean Lotman’s latest book

Reading through Time: 4 a few minutes

All images © Sean Lotman.  

Made over the course of almost 15 years in 20 nations, Lotman’s book invites all of us to choose our own adventure

Sean Lotman wants to take us on a journey. The ninety five images comprising his newest book were made throughout almost 15 years inside 20 countries, including Of india, Cambodia, Guatemala, Egypt, Turkey, Taiwan, and Australia. But it is not his own journey that the photographer wishes to recount. Designed to encourage viewers in order to mix-and-match images – just like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novel – we are invited to drift by way of a selection of hazy landscapes. The journey is akin to articulate dreaming; an act associated with both intentional choice and letting go. One path may lead to golden deserts plus soft cyan skies, but flip the page and you are met by neon lamps and motorbikes. Whichever method one chooses to travel, the particular destination is ultimately your decision, and has the potential to be various with each visit.

The task is as much a study associated with colour as it is of location. Bursting with deep yellows, violet blues, and crimson reds, all of the images are made having a Diana f+ toy digital camera, and hand printed in the darkroom. The object itself will be sophisticated in design – tall, thin, and organized in three parts. As the contents feel personal, its form and structure invitations an open interpretation and connection with the work. The first plus final Choose-Your-Own-Adventure sections bookend a flow of pictures that fold out in to larger spreads. Along the outer edges of these central webpages are snippets of poems, written by Lotman on the road. Its title, The Sniper Paused So He Could Wipe His Brow, is an excerpt from one of these poems: “I decided on that title because it seemed intriguing to me and thus may call the wandering attention of others. It’s the first step right into a strange, wild place that is the book’s world, ” he or she explains.  

Originally from Los Angeles, Lotman now comes from Kyoto, Japan, with his wife, photographer Ariko Inaoka , their child Tennbo, and dog Monk. Below, Lotman expands on his process and inspiration – from science-fiction and desires, to the importance of colour.

The book adopts a ‘Choose-Your-Own-Adventure’ structure. Were a fan of these novels we were young?  

I was indeed a large fan of ‘Choose-Your-Own-Adventure’ stories growing up. I feel that the heart of those books imbibed the way I wanted to live my life. Such as looking at a map, heading west instead of south, this particular country instead of that, gathering this person rather than that certain. The life we lead has agency of course , but a lot of our narrative derives through chance encounters and serendipitous discovery. I wanted to imbue that feeling when you go through Sniper , so there’s a possibility you will notice different details every time, the “story” depending on the way the reader happened to read the book on that particular experience.  

You are a big science-fiction fan. So how exactly does this genre inspire your photography?  

I liked science fiction a lot as a kid. I got into The particular Twilight Zone [an American TV series that ran from 1959 to 1964] when I was five years old. It was the most regularly watched program of my childhood. Of course I grew up with all the Star Wars trilogy yet what I loved most was how the 1950s/60s generations related to space travel and its notion of utopian possibility. I actually especially liked the guides from this era: Robert A. Heinlein, Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, and the Weird Pipe dream comics first published in the year 1950s but reprinted when I was a kid growing up in Los Angeles in the 1980s.  

I liked how Sci-Fi, whilst imagining other worlds, may also critique society indirectly via fantastic metaphor. The twilight series Zone not only catalysed my imaginations but shaped the open-minded progressiveness that would help me navigate the social plus political complexities I would have to understand as an adult. Inside my 20s and 30s I mostly abandoned science fictional, but now as a father of a seven-year-old boy, I’ve been rediscovering the genre and how beautifully conjured and well-told the stories are.

  “Colour can be just as much a subject in a photograph as being a person or landscape. Color has a presence and emotions, and can connect us viscerally to reflecting on our lives”

Do you look for a lot of meaning in color?  

I’m in love with color! And it’s a huge portion of my work because I am trying to repurpose it in darkroom colour printing to conjure mood, fantasy, and flights-of-fancy. I think colour could be just as much a subject in a picture as a person or landscaping. I love films and when I am watching them, I can sense a certain patina in the color that suggests an era. Sure, the fashions are informing, but colour film had been evolving all the time and generally there appear (at least to a eyes) mini-epochs of certain sorts of colour scheme.  

Like fashion, these colour movie technologies have evolved and are no longer in general use. Color can engender a deep sense of nostalgia. There’s something so appealing about nostalgia, because it’s searching back – we were more youthful then, more innocent, plus somehow didn’t know how good we had it. Colours possess so much power and feeling and I want to harness some of that in my pictures.

You say a person wanted to create something similar to a dream. Do you wish a lot? What interests you about this state of mind?  

We dream a lot. The desires don’t make sense most of the time – they are confounding and unusual, and they fade quickly when I’m up and making my first coffee. But I think a healthy dream life might benefit stream-of-conscious thinking, which is good for the creative process. In that befuddled lull between dreaming and waking up, I often have creative ideas for the purpose of projects, or perhaps the language that will bridges the ongoing task and the subconscious impulse behind it comes to me. A number of my best ideas come to me personally, not from dreaming, yet from waking.

I like artwork that has a dreamy aesthetic. Specifically photography. Life can be discouraging and mundane, the outlook bleak, so a world made up of its own dreamy structure plus language can be something well worth escaping into. We all have fantasies where we all like to roam. Having otherworldly locations to escape, whether they be cinema, literature, music, dreams, or perhaps a vivid imagination, is one of the essential elements of being alive.

Marigold Warner

Online Editor

Marigold Warner joined up with the British Journal Pictures in April 2018, plus currently holds the position of Online Editor. She examined English Literature and History of Art at the University associated with Leeds, followed by an MOTHER in Magazine Journalism through City, University of Greater london. Her work has been published by titles including the Telegraph Magazine, Huck, Gal-dem, Disegno, and the Architects Journal.

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