Gareth McConnell – Close Your Eyes

  • Photobook spread from Gareth McConnell's series Close Your Eyes, published through SPBH Editions, 2014, review on Paper Journal

Spreads courtesy of SPBH Editions

Close Your Eyes by Gareth McConnell, (SPBH Editions, 2014), BUY

A photocopier has its lid open as it tumbles across a field of star-dust, copying. Your focus pulls back until the photocopier is a minute glimmer and other star-dust nebulas of every hue sing into view. And you zoom out more and see: the rainbow nebulas are strung taught in a criss-cross pattern: they are strings on a racquet. The cosmic racquet is being held by Gareth McConnell. He draws the racquet up from behind him and brings it with incredible pace over his head and SMASH:

Gareth McConnell has sent your brain hurtling across the abyss. You have opened his book Close Your Eyes and immediately your brain is following his instructions, and now it screams across the pulsing court of this interstellar tennis match between feelings, focus, memory and perception. Symbolising… what? Your imagination is about to find out. McConnell is standing on the opposite side of the court, anticipating his own delivery to meet your brain as it descends and SMASH:

You’ve turned another page. Grand vistas, now magnified nebulas, now burst up confusions: SMASH:

Physical pleasures made images. Burning or billowing? Sky of clouds or psychic rain from bright brain? SMASH:

Inside this page a void gaze that can never be filled interrogates you. There, shut eyes, burnt out eyes that you can never meet. You try to pause, create understanding with them, but SMASH:

These residues from experiences which felt like everything. We grasp to clasp them in definitions. McConnell come closer than many to pull at the tender strings of our unconscious memories of those wars of feeling.


When you open McConnell’s book it moves you. In an accelerating age in which we are subjected to a maddening crescendo of images, this is no small achievement. This book moves your imagination to a space of wonder. Can you imagine how hard his images have to work to do that? He is trying to invoke everything, and begins to manage it.

“unconscious (noun): the part of the mind that is inaccessible to the conscious mind but that affects behaviour and emotions.”

And the way Self Publish Be Happy have printed the book, a mix of gloss pages and matte, the book’s void black ending buffeted by end sheets of colourful galaxies. The entire object is as colourfully, multiplicitous, bold as its images, which aspire to show what it is very hard to show. aspiring to take the language of photography further, changing the topic, using a different vocabulary. This is a book aiming to make more things possible.

[UMPIRE: “That’s time Ladies & Gentlemen. Please resume play”]


One half of your brain is hurtling through this space begging for meaning from a space in which the other half of your brain knows to expect none. “Just relax and feel this, this is all there is.” You continue to grasp for a pleasure that can never be more than this moment; pleasure more maximal, peace more still. Feel the strain of whatever bit of your body lights when it senses endorphins. Close Your Eyes makes you crave as it sates, a seductive explanation of a state that has never been fully explained and can never be sated.

Horizons slant, sunsets vibrate and images are doubled, tripled, here a contact sheet, there a picture of a human bare in all their solitude and possibility, as unexpected spreads expand between pages plunging between the peaks and troughs of the definite and obscure. Pulling from void hints of terror, pleasure, everything your conscious forgot of its unconscious.

You can try to understand this book, but that’s not what it’s for. It’s for letting the images loose your brain to talk at the frequency of infinity where the words never start and never stop and never sate and nothing stays stable and yet everything feels unified yet balanced and. SMASH:

Ethereal wings of hair and rays shoot up, SMASH:

Emotions that move us and can never be fixed and SMASH:

Your brain is hurtling back over the net. You see McConnell anticipating your brain’s descent, ready to strike. You realise that he has made a home in this land of sensations that you recognise but have yet to map. You hope that through this slim window of a book you might begin to explore that map, and one day you too might play in this space alongside McConnell, and send minds hurtling across these strange places, where pleasure points through confusions towards infinities and, SMASH:

You are inside the photocopier as the lid slams shut. In the blankness of the blackness, a searing flash of light.