Review: The Girl In The Fifth Floor Walk-Up

Excerpts from a review of The Girl In The Fifth Floor Walk-Up from SMBH an online photography magazine and blog founded in 2009:

Charles Johnstone’s photobook The Girl In The Fifth Floor Walk-Up is the fantasy every straight young man has dreamed about during a geography lesson, while staring out their bedroom window on a summer day, or riding the bus home some October evening. A collaboration with actor/writer Heather Malesson, a blonde femme fatale with classic Scandinavian looks, the book is a modest collection of intimate Polaroid portraits taken, one presumes, in her apartment with the red reinforced metal door on the fifth floor of a walk-up building.”

“In its second edition with 16 additional images, and published by Sun, it is an elegantly designed and understated book in itself. The content is an exercise in performative voyeurism as the unseen photographer, while making instant photographs, faithfully follows the protagonist, complicit in the act, around her apartment. It has the tone of a pulp fiction movie, the kind young boys dream of one day recreating. One would assume because of the nature of the Polaroid process, both photographer and subject engaged in a continuous discussion as to where and how the next image would be made.”

“A collaborator in earnest, Heather spends much of her time in a state of undress, teasing though not really doing anything of any consequence. She talks on the phone, does a lot of lying down and mooches about the place, occasionally smirking, occasionally laughing innocently but rarely unconscious of the camera. Johnstone for his part keeps the pace moving. He remains insistent on capturing something about his muse, obsessively captivated, enchanted, submissively at her mercy. This is the kind of project a man makes when he can, when he is allowed. It is the work he produces almost in retaliation for all those years he couldn’t, when he was too young, too shy, and too inexperienced to make before. It is a photographic moment of personal re-enactment.”

Read the full review in SMBH

5th Floor Productions

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