Kevin Kelly, co-founder of Wired and independent photojournalist, has a collection of travel photos coming out from Taschen under the title Asia Grace. The book has only photos, no text, but the associated website asiagrace.com invites readers to ask questions and add their comments on the photos, and Kelly will respond “in the order of interest in the images.”
The photos are indeed lovely, spanning Asia from Iran to Japan (if I’ve caught the right clues). But the highly saturated colors and above all the complete absence of anything modern or Western makes it apparent that together they form a very selective fantasy Asia. You can’t go to the densely urbanized and tourist-infested spots Kelly has photographed in India, for instance, and take a photo lacking so much as a Bisleri bottle, a white-skinned backpacker or an autorickshaw unless you plan carefully from the outset for that result. I’m not sure what it means when one of our most prominent voices for an imagined future has another oevre so focused on a romantically imagined past. Maybe this book is an invitation to a critique of orientalism, or maybe it’s just eye candy to be enjoyed and not probed too deeply.