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A couple of pages from “Will You Please Just Be My Fucking Valentine” by David Fratkin (all photographs by the author)

Why not instead of settling in for an easy summer read, you nudge your brain out of its comfort zone with some independent press selections? Below are three recent releases with an edge of the disconcerting.

Will You Please Just Be My Fucking Valentine

David Fratkin, Coral Press Arts, 2012

“Will You Please Just Be My Fucking Valentine” by David Fratkin (all photographs by the author)

Did you have a doll as a kid that seemed just possibly haunted, whose gleaming glass eyes would watch from some dark corner of your room while you tried fitfully to fall into sleep? Well, in the realm of grotesque nightmares to claw at the reaches of your mind, here’s Will You Please Just Be My Fucking Valentine by David Fratkin (Coral Press Arts, 2012). The photographs all lit by the flashbulb-like gleam of a scanner have dolls with mutilated faces menacing other cherub cheeked dolls, with each page offering some different horror. It can get a little repetitive, with the play between childhood fear and nostalgia, but the creepiness doesn’t wear off.

“Will You Please Just Be My Fucking Valentine” by David Fratkin

“Will You Please Just Be My Fucking Valentine” by David Fratkin

Mental Convict

Elijah Funk, Shaver Tapes & Wild Isle, 2012

“Mental Convict” by Elijah Funk

Elijah Funk‘s zine Mental Convict (Wild Isle & Shaver Tapes, 2012) uses the fuzzy punk print aesthetic of a Xerox machine to create a growing sense of unease. Things start out simply enough with some graphics of chains and hands grasping at bars, which, along with the title, seems like a pretty straightforward start to an artsy take of being a prisoner of your mind. Yet things quickly start to get weird with sudden color images of a man’s bruised foot forced into a ruby heel that’s too small, and things that look vaguely like distorted crime photographs. Sure, it’s not very visually stunning, and doesn’t go much beyond the expected for a DIY zine, but it has a lot of anxiety in its disjointed pages.

“Mental Convict” by Elijah Funk

“Mental Convict” by Elijah Funk

“Mental Convict” by Elijah Funk

When We Are Together

Alex Thebez, Conveyor Arts, 2013

“When We Are Together” by Alex Thebez

For an entirely different type of unease, like the kind that won’t nauseate or potentially reappear to stalk around nightmares, there’s the rather beautiful When We Are Together (Conveyor Arts, 2013) by Alex Thebez. However, it still has an unsettling edge, one of the disconnection of self and the feeling of two worlds both propelling away from each other and unexpectedly colliding.

Thebez’s introduction to the book states:

“Hello, my name is Alex. These photos I am showing you are of my family and this boy that I dated for a while, until recently. […] Most of my family still don’t know that I like boys.”

The photographs seamlessly jump back and forth between his Singapore family and New York life, with echoes of poses and scenes contrasting the two sides of a self in an incredibly personal way.

“When We Are Together” by Alex Thebez

“When We Are Together” by Alex Thebez

“When We Are Together” by Alex Thebez

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Allison Meier

Allison C. Meier is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Oklahoma, she has been covering visual culture and overlooked history for print...