When I was a kid I was fascinated by photographer Peter Menzel’s book Material World. Menzel arranged for a team of photographers to visit 30 different countries, live with a “statistically average” family for one week, and then, at the end of the week, take a photograph of the family standing outside their home, with all their possessions surrounding them. As you’d expect, the images vary quite a bit. Somewhere along the way my parents acquired an interactive CD-ROM atlas that exhibited all of the project’s images. (I have a hunch it was part of our Encarta* suite but I’m not sure.) I loved that CD-ROM. I spent dozens upon dozens of hours, flipping through it, fascinated, trying to imagine what my life would be like if I’d been born in Iceland or Mali or Texas.
I mention this because collage artist and author Jeannie Baker’s Mirror puts me very much in mind of Menzel’s work. The book actually is two picture books in one. On the left side, we witness a day in the life of a young family in Sydney, Australia. To the right, the same day in the life of a Moroccan family is shown. The book is bound so that both sides can be viewed either together or independently. As the two families go about their lives, their experiences are paralleled. Both families eat breakfast, go shopping, and gather together in the evening when the day is done. Except for a brief introduction, the book is wordless and the story is told through Baker’s stunning paper collages, full of texture and life.
It’s a stunning effort. Flipping through, I felt like I was simultaneously present in a Sydney family room, under the hot North African sun on market day, and in my parents’ family room, using that old CD-ROM and discovering the world for the first time.
Highly recommended. This book is not only a work of art, it’s a great discussion starter.
Reviewed from library copy.
* Gasp. Do they not make Encarta anymore? I feel so old!