Book Review: The Moth Wing Diaries by Lori Vrba
Uncomfortable and Beautiful
By Angela Chen
For her debut monograph, Lori Vrba has created a testament to her early introduction into photography as well as a memoir of youth and nature in The Moth Wing Diaries. Growing up in the nature of Southeast Texas, Vrba has translated her childhood memories in nature into 52 images. Upon opening the book, you are greeted with the most delicate of papers, translucent and light to the touch, with veins that will remind you of a moth’s wing.
Vrba describes the collection,
“It is a visual diary of my grown up, conflicted, complicated, rich, womanly, Mother Nature-loving life.”
Each image was taken with film on a medium-format camera and developed in the darkroom, producing a rich sepia-tone that plays with your sense of memory. Vrba takes a medium that is as timeless and delicate as the subject matter she portrays. These are stories of memory, youth, wonder, mystery, and magic.
She describes her inspiration,
“I am inspired by moments that hold contradictions… like a big lightning storm that is really uncomfortable and really beautiful at exactly the same time.”
As I was born and raised in the city, Vrba’s images took me to a place I had never been before but was oddly familiar with - a childhood built-in nature where exploration is the daily routine and dreams are as necessary as air. She has imbued every image with a sense of innocence, wonder, and timeless magic while reminding you of the vulnerability of childhood and growing up.
One image that struck me, in particular, was that of a young girl dressed as a ballerina, poised on a chair, and ready to take off with impossibly large wings at her arms. The image is just one example of how the artist has combined memory and dreams - what child has not experienced the desire to fly through the air and jumped off a chair to feel the sensation?
“whispering stories from a piece of time that mattered to Someone.”
And just as delicately as it began, the book ends with the same delicate paper, and you are reminded that you hold something incredibly precious in your hands. These are images of youth and growing up, entangled with, and at the same time, in harmony with nature. Vrba has created her own time capsule of images into her own life and recollections through The Moth Wing Diaries.
The Moth Wing Diaries is the first monograph by photographer Lori Vrba and named one of the Best Photo Books for 2015 by American Photo. The images are accompanied by an introduction by Del Zogg from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.