Reading this work of photojournalism, published to coincide with the documentary of the same title, is like experiencing the search for yourself. It was the stand-out discovery among this year’s self-published entries, and is an overwhelming document which, due in large part to the love lavished on its design and production, draws you irresistibly into the intimate world of the maker and his muse Maria. To start with, the method of binding – this is a single gathering of 176 pages, centre-stitched and trimmed – has been phenomenally well executed. Even though it passed through many hands during the judging process, both its uncoated paper and the binding proved well able to withstand the ordeal.
The format is surprising, but turns out to have a lot to do with the square Polaroids that the photographer took of ‘his’ Maria. The sparse text at the heart of the book is characterized by small size and restrained typography, and as a result is not as legible as one would have liked. This appears to have been a deliberate choice. The raw visual matter contrasts brilliantly with the only bling-bling: the gold foil on the fore-edge and in the title and author’s name. Truly beautiful.