A love for print and an intrigue for bad habits led emerging photographer Teo Esguerra to create his first photobook, Sorry for Smoking. The sixty-page book is the third of his self-published titles, coming on the heels of his photozines, Opportunities and Other Priorities, which are interlaced with handwritten messages and illustrations (not to mention a free cigarette!). Teo’s neurotic but certainly playful and unassuming approach to constructing visual narratives in his printed works continues in Sorry for Smoking.
While his photozines captured his personal anxieties and lamentations, Teo’s newest work reframes these themes by fixating on the act of smoking, which slowly materialized as his chosen subject matter, as he rummaged through and mulled over his years-old photography archives. Fittingly, almost each selected shot was taken in analog film with all of its glorious graininess, giving the book a heightened sense of vintage kitsch.
Clearly, Teo has a preoccupation with the past. Smoking itself is an in-between, transient moment that he asks us to revisit again and again with each turn of the page. It is in this reiteration of seemingly similar images where a plethora of possible meanings arises.
Photographs of urban characters caught alone, with cigarette in hand, in public spaces are amalgamated with the images of discarded cigarettes, illustrating the dichotomies between vice and consumer, and hazy beginnings and dust-filled endings. Sparse images of buildings and forests on fire lead the mind to believe that these inanimate objects are blowing out cigarette smoke; perhaps also on break, contemplating on life’s problems or attempting to clear the mind. Teo Esguerra’s sly editing reveals that such an act can carry infinite expressions – pointing to how smoking underscores the workings of the inner, concealed life.
Sorry for Smoking is the smoker’s apology for keeping you a moment too long in their reverie.