Clare Richardson

SteidlMACK, 2007

ISBN 978-3-86521-404-1 Hb


This strange and beautiful book guards its secrets closely. Like a riddle, or a poem, it leaves you guessing. There are no captions, no book blurb and no context-giving introduction in clear prose.

            Its seventeen images depict an East European-looking pastoral landscape, some near-deserted village scenes and a handful of portraits. The book title suggests Transylvania. A subtitle says: ‘About a people believed to be the descendents of the children that were led out of Hamelin’.  A little research indicates that, according to one legend, some German-speaking villages in Romania are thought to have been thus founded. Did Clare Richardson travel there? Perhaps she did.

            An enigmatic introduction speaks of a certain Mr Pipe who fell in love with a girl whose father ‘sold the mountain’. Becoming rich, the father decided she should marry a businessman from the town. In dejection, Mr Pipe strung up a scarecrow, as a reminder of her betrayal. A picture in the book of such an effigy indicates that it is located, to some extent, in real events. But it is surely not to be read as documentary. We cannot know which, if any, of the portraits is of Mr Pipe, the girl, or her father. Instead, with its lush but unpeopled landscapes, depicted in muted tones and achingly gorgeous large-format detail, the book seems to touch on universal yearnings and feelings of sorrow and loss, such as the Pied Piper’s children must have felt all those centuries ago.