We are all aware of PJ Harvey for her acclaimed award-winning albums, and yet are not entirely surprised to hear of this book project with Seamus Murphy. Her social conscious has always been apparent in her music, and to see it written in words is a privilege with her collaborative title, The Hollow of the Hand.
Between 2011 and 2014, her and photographer Seamus Murphy set out on a series of journeys together to Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Washington, D.C. Harvey collected words, Murphy collected pictures, and together they have culminated a wondrous chronicle of those places during that time. The first publication of Harvey’s poetry, alongside Murphy’s stark images, The Hollow of the Hand is a beautiful collection of media.
As PJ Harvey says, “gathering information from secondary sources felt too far removed for what I was trying to write about. I wanted to smell the air, feel the soil and meet the people of the countries I was fascinated with. Following our work on Let England Shake, my friend Seamus Murphy and I agreed to grow a project together lead by our instincts on where we should go.”
Seamus Murphy adds: “Polly is a writer who loves images and I am a photographer who loves words. Our relationship began a few years ago when she asked me if I would like to take some photographs and make some films for her last album Let England Shake. I was intrigued and the adventure began, now finding another form in this book. It is our look at home and the world.”
Albeit comparable to seeing her lyrics within a sleeve, this written work is a special thing to sit down and read. Socially commentating through the formula of poetry Polly is reflective and thought-provoking with her work. Documentation of place and time is very much present. Having the book sectioned into three parts, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Washington D.C. there feels like an imbalance to this book, but this American inclusion in the book becomes more understandable as you read on. The poetry is evocative, the photography resonating, however overall this feels like an anthropological text, and as such it’s rich.
The Hollow of the Hand is out now, published by Bloomsbury