The Epic Love Story of a Warrior forges a fragmented photographic voyage through the history of Central and Eastern Europe in the 20th Century. As told through the eyes of a fictional family, the hero of the story is an anonymous protagonist: a young European man who longs to journey from East to West.
Set against the backdrop of great events that defined the era – WW1, WW2, the rise and fall of communism and sweeping political change – Puklus sets out to unravel the essence of collective memory and longing. Perhaps parts of our protagonist echo parts of Puklus himself, whose own experiences saw his family move geographically, from East to West, and politically, from right to left. Almost naturally then, The Epic Love Story of a Warrior is a story told in reverse. From back to front and right to left, it begins in the present day, and works it’s way back across a century to 1918.
Puklus’ photographs are almost always inspired by an arbitrary and seemingly disparate constellation of sources. The images and sculptures in The Epic Love Story of a Warrior have been triggered by found pictures of historical events, memories, and objects. Retrieving these references, Puklus retreats into his studio, and transforms them into a visual language entirely his own. Here, he constructs a game of association for the reader. How much can he reduce the components of an image while we are still able to pinpoint the event it depicts? Iconic moments and memorable events are stripped back to a collection of still lives and small, deliberate gestures. The execution of Romania’s Antonescu is retold through a photograph of a single pole in the ground, a cluster of nails mark the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, and the looming iconographic shape of the empire state building is suggested in a bundle of wooden shards. Puklus’ references are art historical too, and as his camera moves around objects and nudes there are recurring nods towards the Bauhaus, avant-garde, Moholy-Nagy and the photographic tradition.
As with all great stories, The Epic Love Story of a Warrior takes time. It is Puklus’ definitive exploration of a slower, more cerebral form of storytelling. He imagines it as a novel and suggests it should be approached as such. Read a chapter, let it sit and return again after some time. A poem, written by Marina Ivanova Tsvetaeva and translated by Ilya Shambat, punctuates the book in parts.
Review by Adam Bell, Photo-Eye
Selected as one of Brad Feuerhelm’s Best Photobooks of 2016 and 2017 for BJP
Review by Jörg M. Colberg, Conscientious Photography Magazine
Selected by Miwa Susuda as one her favourite books of 2016