In Memory of Travel
Written by: Grant Sheehan
Phantom House Books
Reviewed by: Jo Lucre
Photographer, publisher, and writer Grant Sheehan has lent his lens and penned a narrative to record his travels and adventures across the world in India, Moscow, and Antarctica to name just a few.
Perhaps my favourite chapter of In Memory of Travel is Café to Café. Here you will find images from his two previous books – Character Cafés of New Zealand and Cafés of the World. Collectively, they are a visual ode to café life in the 80s and 90s, a love of coffee, and some of the wondrous cafés he’s visited and photographed around the globe. Some looked sublime, others kitsch, most colourful, and one extraordinary: Caffé Florian in Venice looks like an exquisite art museum rather than, reportedly, the world’s oldest café. A black and white image of Espressoholic, once a favourite haunt of my youth, reminded me of the power an image has to take you back to a time gone by. In my case, it was a time filled with cappuccinos in an eclectic café in the wee hours of the morning in the heart of Courtenay Place in the 90s. Sheehan explores the power of our memories and in particular the nature of travel memory – how our brains process and recollect events and how this changes over time. For many of us, he says, it is our travels that form our most precious memories.
Whenever I look at an image, I can’t help but wonder of the photographer: were you a spectator or did you involve yourself in the happenstance or the moments you captured; either invited or uninvited? And what of the images you share with the world, are they raw in reality or manufactured through the manipulation of photographic artistry?
In a way, Sheehan answers these questions for me, explaining how he came to be somewhere, where he travelled to, and the stories behind the photographs.
In Memory of Travel invites you in, not only with its beautiful mix of imagery but with its narrative. Sheehan’s pragmatic and introspective take on photography and the circumstances surrounding his work gently projects you into his travels, the faraway places that exist beyond the landscape, and the life and people you are familiar with.