JTF (only facts): Published in 2021 by Roma Publications (here). Hardcover (21 x 18 cm), 224 pages, 115 color photos. Includes an article by Charlie Engman. Designed by Job van Benikom. In the edition of 2000 copies. (Cover and post the shots below.)
Comments/Context: “The perfect picture, in my opinion, is quite simple, but with all the details set right,” Marc Bekmezian, a Canadian photographer who now lives in Berlin, shares in an interview with else. His first illustrated book, titled vaguely and somewhat inappropriate Nice, compiles a collection of images that perfectly fit this description. Peckmezian has a background in portrait photography and today works primarily in fashion. He has worked for Gucci and Hermès, and has photographed many celebrities including Steve McQueen, Mark Bryan, Kate Winslet, George Clooney and Joe Biden. William Eggleston names him a major influence in his work, while his artistic practice is rooted in a curiosity and fascination with people.
Nice It is a hardcover book in a standard printed magazine size. A square portrait of a young woman with blue eyes and a nearly identical blue jacket appears on the white cover, with the title underlined to the right. The title and artist’s name are also neatly placed on the spine. Inside, most of the images are in a square format and hosted on the right side of the spread, and from time to time the visual flow is interrupted by pairs of group shots placed across the spread. The book was edited and designed by Jop van Bennekom, a well-known magazine maker, so it’s no surprise that Nice It looks like a picture book and a magazine. Photos are printed on light paper, and as a result, relatively thin photo packets are printed on an unexpectedly large number of pages.
The images in the series were taken over a period of about four years, and had to be modified from an initial set of about 500. While Peckmezian traveled for work-related assignments, he always found time to dedicate to this side project. He usually invites a local friend to help get closer to the people and explain the project. The Photographic Book organizes images into a delightful expression of life.
The images in the book speak for themselves: there are no comments or back stories to provide further details. These guys were mostly filmed in different countries, but the specific locations are also ambiguous. The book opens with a picture of a young woman in a white shirt deep in her thoughts, the wind gently touching her red hair, and a fountain seen behind her. The image looks dreamy and timeless. Followed by a photo of an elegant young man in a full suit looking confidently into the camera. The large amount of white space surrounding the images keeps our focus on the images.
Peckmezian portraits are simple, and this simplicity brings out something somewhat unique about each person. There is a reassuring sense of humanity and warmth in most of the images. A young messy-haired woman smiles sweetly as she looks directly at the camera, a young man is pictured in the profile with an emphasis on his nose and slightly narrowed eyes, another woman with long dark hair and bangs appears on a window with sky blue curtains, while the color of her coat matches a nearby building. And then by the pages, there’s a black and white shot of a smiling girl with sparkling eyes and teeth dotted with arches. Peckmezian says that “the people I get really excited about are the people who I feel are, well, bigger than they seem to know.”
Every ten pages or so, the sequence is interrupted by a spread that pairs two images displaying group images, breaking up the procession of individual faces. The image of two teenage girls is paired with a shot of four young men all looking at the viewer. They almost feel like ad pages in a magazine.
Peckmezian cleverly uses light and shadow to frame his photos and backgrounds, while adding depth to images, while being modest. A young woman looking directly at the camera, her blue eyes and blonde hair stand out even against a light blurred background, her red turtleneck matching the red of the blurred car at the back and the signal light in the upper left corner. The last photo captures a woman in a red dress with vertical stripes, which matches the red in her luminous eyes and lipstick; And while she’s in the center, this time there’s a glimpse of someone else, and her eyes are looking straight at us.
Between the minimalist design, vast white space and easily dreamlike images, Nice Combines an outstanding set of images. Peckmezian’s best photos are simple collaborative portraits that capture the humanity of the strangers he meets. Much of today’s photography is associated with political and social issues, restoring historical narratives and advocating for change. Picmezian Pictures do something different. His portraits reflect the joy found in the pure act of taking a picture.
POV collector: Represents and “represents” Webber Mark Pekmezian (here). His work has a bit of secondary market history at this point, so the retail gallery remains the best option for collectors interested in pursuing.