Melissa Catanese


The Lottery
Hells Hollow Fallen Monarch
Dive Dark Dream Slow

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88 pages, hardcover, 7.5' x 9.25'
57 photographs
The Ice Plant, October 2012

available here & here

Photographer and bookseller Melissa Catanese has been editing the vast photography collection of Peter J. Cohen, a celebrated trove of more than 20,000 vernacular and found anonymous photographs from the early to mid-twentieth century. Gathered from flea markets, dealers and Ebay, these prints have been acquired, exhibited and included in a range of major museum publications. In organizing the archive into a series of thematic catalogues, she has pursued an alternate reading of the collection, drifting away from simple typology into something more personal, intuitive and openly poetic. Her magical new artist’s book, Dive Dark Dream Slow, is rooted in the mystery and delight of the “found” image and the “snapshot” aesthetic, but pushes beyond the nostalgic surface of these pictures and reimagines them as luminous transmissions of anxious sensuality. Through a series of abandoned visual clues, from the sepia-infused shadow of a little girl running along a beach to silhouettes of a group of distant figures pausing upon a steep and snowy hill, a dreamlike journey is evoked. Like an album of pop songs about a girl (or a civilization) hovering on the verge of transformation, the book cycles through overlapping themes and counter-themes--moon and ocean; violence and tenderness; innocence and experience; masks and nakedness--that sparkle with deep psychic longing and apocalyptic comedy.


While journeying through the strange world of found imagery is an increasingly prevalent mode of photobook-making, Catanese has created a magical experience through deft image selection and sequencing. Poetic and cohesive, the book leads the viewer effortlessly through shifts in themes, which include innocence and experience as well as masks and revelation. The book is at once funny and moving, individual and universal.      -Lesley Martin, The Photobook Review 

Pier 24 Photography Videos

Just like any good photobook, the story is not specific enough to exhaust itself easily (this might in fact be one of the best aspects). So the moment you put the book aside you want to pick it up again: Did I just see that? And usually you find that you did not see that, but something different. Dive Dark Dream Slow is filled with such unsolvable visual puzzles, and their fun does not rely on being clever (that could get old easily). The book also does not solely rely on the strangeness of some of its source materials. Instead, everything is woven together smartly, with a light touch.       -Joerg Colberg

Conscientious Magazine

Dive Dark Dream Slow
at Pier 24 Photography, San Francisco CA