Nah, I didn’t really expect Offie Mag to do a book review either, but this one is sick and it doesn’t have that many words.
A Guide to Eastern Europe is the latest instalment of delightful, atmospheric film photography from The Lurkers; a collective of London-based creatives across graffiti, photography, film and designing the odd solid garment, too. Their work is typically gritty, even a bit melancholic at times, with a clear affection for brutal architecture amongst what gets them going. As such, Eastern European lands have long been a fascination for them; something which this reviewer must also confess to.
I’m not confessing as if guilty about something, but confessing to also find a weird charm in the out of action hotels and shops. In the rubble and in the scars of post-communist lands. From the warmth of some Dalmatian sun in Croatia’s south or in Bosnia’s greenery, out to the more ignorantly stereotypical ‘Eastern European’ realms like Albania, there’s something special, eery even, about the way these places look today. The way capitalism has long-since arrived but not fully spawned into the McMonster it is across other parts of Europe. Rather, shops look more independent, with tacky fonts spelling out words you don’t understand over the top of cloudy windows.
The Lurkers’ photos depict this, capturing moments that look beautiful in their ordinariness. Cameras DO lie, but when they take the sort of photographs that portray a place just how you want them to look, cameras are spot on.
The Lurkers point them at people, countryside, cars, and buildings that are from the past, from the present or from the time that people simply forgot. Across parts of Croatia, Serbia, Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro and more, they have traipsed around the neglected or the abandoned for over 5 years – all of which is put into this softcover book, with its cover like something from the graphic design coursework of Karl Marx.
There are abandoned ski slopes, peculiarly tall blocks of flats and, captured in black and white, a Bulgarian mountain-based monument you won’t believe exists. That is unless you already knew that it exists.
It’s from such lurking as they have done to create this book, that they take their name from. It’s like ‘urban exploration,’ except that sounds like what people with GoPros stuck on their head do. There’s no showy stunts, no glitzy tech. The Lurkers’ simply keep it really fucking cool, shoving nothing in your face as you flick through page after page.
Moods change throughout and so do the seasons. There are swelteringly hot looking photos like one double-page flick from Vlore in Albania, humid landscapes like Budva in Montenegro, overcast skies in Belgrade and icy, snowy ones from inner-city Warsaw and the sticks of Romania. But, as anyone who has followed The Lurkers in any respect down the years will know, each and every photo and every page is in their own distinctive style. They were shooting on film before you hashtagged ’35mm’ and creeping around Croatia before you got off your tits at Outlook Festival.
Whether you’re looking for travel inspiration, photography inspiration, or just looking for something to look at, this latest Lurkers’ book is a solid shout. My only worry is that they might’ve already sold out, in which case you’ve just wasted your time reading this, really…