September 16, 2021

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Toem review – a photography puzzler and a journey filled with lovely moments

Toem sent me back to my phone, not for the internet and its hints and tips and workarounds, but for the folder that holds my photographs – back to the last few months of my life and a story I didn’t realise I had been writing.

It’s an odd kind of story, and fairly dull to an outsider, but squint and a narrative of sorts emerges. Snaps of LFT serial numbers and screenshots of train times for a trip to Margate. The tiled floor of a shelter down on the seafront where T.S. Eliot once sat and wrote “On Margate Sands./I can connect/Nothing with nothing.” Later, a visit to the Shell Grotto – recommended, possibly essential – and then a series of pictures from the weeks after we got back: a sunflower our neighbour gave us in a new pot, outlines of the murky continent that appeared on the ceiling one weekend when the bathroom above was leaking. Blue sky throughout, people paused and posing for a few seconds to create something throwaway you can then look at for hours. A reminder that we were all in these moments, a reminder that time is moments when you slice it like this with a camera shutter. One picture next to another, the invitation, perhaps, to connect Something with…?

I love Toem. And I should warn you up front Toem has absolutely zero to do with T.S. Eliot. It’s profound, in fact, due to its brave and lovable absence of anything that is remotely profound in and of itself. Toem! In a grayscale newsprint world you go on a short journey with a camera, travelling from one bus stop to the next. The pictures you take might solve conundrums for the characters you meet at each stop, and each conundrum solved gives you a stamp that allows you to steadily earn a ticket to the next stop. You travel, meet people, help them out, get a sense of each place and, crucially, move on at the end. And the lasting evidence you’ve done any of this lies with the roll of photos you’ve taken along the way.

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