Review: “Escape” by Charles Johnstone & Heather Malesson

Review of Escape by Robin Titchener, a photobook collector. He also runs his own review site and has contributed to numerous international publications, online photography platforms and magazines. Follow him on instagram @robins_photobook_collection

Charles Johnstone & Heather Malesson- Escape
2021 – Super Labo
Edition of 800

The collaborative duo of Charles Johnstone and Heather Malesson have the wonderful ability to open windows into worlds and suggest narratives about which no information is offered.

In the three titles mentioned here their gossamer webs are woven around three simple building blocks.

A location, a single character and suggestions of memory and event.

Whether endless utopian summer days such as those captured in “The Summerhouse Pool” (released earlier this year), or the potentially more sinister “Escape”, which has just been published by Super Labo and launched around a month or so ago.

Escape is the second collaboration between Johnstone and Malesson, and is the follow up to their 2014 jewel, The Girl In The Fifth Floor Walk-Up (a true cult photobook classic).

If the original drew comparisons with noirish and Chandleresque themes and narratives, then Escape picks up the unspecified plot line and invites us to suggest new chapters, as we attempt to question and deduce “the blonde’s” involvement into the elusive MacGuffin upon which all answers depend.

The location, the heroine (or femme fatale), and those hints and clues are all captured beautifully on expired or sometimes damaged Polaroid images. The slightly voyeuristic nature of the film stock suggesting anonymous stakeouts and covert surveillance.

A visual take on Burroughs cut-up technique.
A Rubik’s cube of shifting possibilities.

If only Bogey was on hand to make things all right. One feels that clarity is but a voiceover away.

But that is neither Johnstone’s or Malesson’s way….sweetheart.

Highly recommended.

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5th Floor Productions

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