By Matthew Smith

India: ₹3000

Release Date : May, 2023
Design : Barnali Bose
Edition : 500
Details : Hard Case Book, 22 x 16.5 cm


Everyday Ascensions
Foreword to Ascension by Erin Li

August 2020. She passed. He walked and walked, through parks, graveyards, empty shops and streets. As daylight shifted, oblique memories started reshuffling. Collages formed. An inward journey into deeper, darker places of the mind-palace unfurled.

Slightly withered petals resting in the hand of an angelic statue; spilled milk in the pattern of an Abstract Expressionist painting on street tiles; shining dew on two empty cigarette boxes with a warning image involving infant health, nestled in autumn leaves… Nothing is spectacular, but these impressions tenderly highlighted by Matthew Smith often found their way into my mind in reflective moments. Like waking up with swollen eyes, only to be immediately overtaken by refreshed vitality, while walking into a clear day with an azure sky and crisp air. As you take a deep breath and start moving, the body realigns, eyes awaken and perspectives shift.

You just found the entrance to an invisible city of the soul. Matthew Smith’s first photobook, Ascension, presents a constellation of moments, captured during daily wanderings in London during lockdown, mixed with those from earlier travels in Los Angeles, Tokyo and Venice. In the maze of reminiscence, all metropolitan cities merge into one quiet space in your hand.

The lens constantly frames the gentle interplay between beings, highlighting the fluid life that flows in and out of everything surrounding us, be it the puddle reflecting the crescent moon, or wavy swipes of cleaning foam coating the shopfront. In the daily practice of confronting one’s own vulnerabilities, the beauty of transience, interconnections and regeneration gradually announce themselves.

Although usually kept quite separate from each other, Matthew’s various practices – photographer, poet, novelist and independent travel bookmaker – organically fused into a fine balance between abstraction and everydayness here: a photobook dotted by his own poetry.

When travelling and wandering become an essential way of seeing and living, how does one grapple with the double isolation caused by the sudden loss of physical freedom due to covid restrictions – as well as that of a life partner?

Only towards the end of book do direct representations of family members appear. It feels as if we have already seen them — we have felt their energy and presence from the previous pages. The tender caress of the sunlight on everything echoes the gentle hug of the breastfeeding. The shine on the daughter’s hair, ethereal.

The best is saved for last: a pine tree robustly hugs a window with a half-peeled-off screen, one branch bursting through and out of the page. Matthew gifted us all a sincere reminder that in times of collapse and heartbreak, we can aspire to work through the darkness in the long run; but the tiny examples of the sublime, the small instances of magic, the everyday practice of ascensions are what matter most, whether or not you believe in a higher power.