Review: these kings. these subterraneans. by Patrick La Roque

Banner Image copyright: Patrick La Roque

Full disclosure: This is not a paid endorsement. Patrick provided me with an advance copy of these kings. these subterraneans. and I felt inspired to review it here on my blog after going through it. In the end, I’d have gladly spent the asking price. Read on to find out why.


If you shoot on the Fuji X Series you've probably heard of Patrick La Roque - a well known Fuji X Photographer from Montreal. Patrick is a freelance documentary photographer and founder of the KAGE Collective who is no stranger to digital publishing. His first e-book, 1Eye Roaming, was about his experiences traveling in Europe with his new X100 and its transformative effects on his photography. Now, with these kings. these subterraneans., Patrick is intertwining three of his talents: music, photography and writing, into a new e-book that doesn't chronicle places he's been, but rather where he actually is now - professionally, spiritually, emotionally and physically. The result is a surprisingly deep connection between author and reader and an enhanced experience that is unexpected and thoroughly enjoyable.


WHAT IS these kings. these subterraneans.?

So what is this enhanced experience I speak of? Let me backtrack for a second here and talk a bit about what this project is that Patrick has created. these kings. these subterraneans. is a combination e-book and audio album that is entirely created by Patrick from scratch. It’s been referred to as mixed media and that’s essentially what it is - a mixture of audio and video but one that has been painstakingly and deliberately matched page by page, lyric by lyric and moment by moment. The main format of the book is a 120 page PDF that features 25 color photographs and 24 B&W photographs. Interspersed throughout the book and between those photo pages is some fantastic artwork, lyrical designs and writings that Patrick describes as “short essays and anecdotes”. There are 8 original songs by Patrick included and all are 256kbps AAC m4a’s.

There was some instruction as to how the book should be viewed (double spread PDF viewed on a single monitor to see the deliberate associations between chosen photos) but the way I chose to experience this project was to listen to each song and only view the associated chapter in the book as it played. When that song was over, I'd move to the next song and view the next gallery. At any point that I went too far and went into a new chapter before the song was done, I'd flip back over and stay in that musical "zone" and continue to focus on the included photos until the next song began. It may not be the "right" or "intended" way to view the material, but I found that it worked for me. Each track has a distinct feeling and Patrick describes his process of choosing the appropriate photos to include in each chapter as a “deliberate” process, one that he “labored” on throughout the months and months (or perhaps years?) it took to create this project. In the end, he prevails here because the visual stimulation matches the aural stimulation - lyrics suddenly jump out at you when you find they're alluding to some aspect of the photo you're viewing at that very moment.

It's this sense of the carefully planned combination of audio and visuals that Patrick has chosen that seems to turbocharge the experience and make it much more than just flipping through an e-book. I keep using that word, experience, but it's just that - an experience. You have to take your time, let each track play out and soak it all in. It’s engaging and powerful, and it only feels right to linger on each chapter until the next song is cued up. Only then was I ready, if not allowed, to move on.


Image copyright: Patrick La Roque

Image copyright: Patrick La Roque



The e-book would have been a success in my eyes solely because of the selection of curated photos and the recording quality of the supplied tracks, but what really makes it for me is the writing. If you've visited Patrick's blog, you're no stranger to his writing style. It's no surprise that he has a musical past - some of his posts themselves can seem almost lyrical. What really stands out in the case of these kings. these subterraneans. isn't so much the lyrics for me, but the absolute honesty that Patrick has chosen to share with the world via his stories. These stories are carefully and strategically placed throughout the book to provide an interlude between audio tracks. These “conversations” were some of my favorite parts of the book.

Reading through some of these stories is like sitting next to Patrick as he recounts some of his past memories. It's almost as if you're flipping through a collection of some of his best photos while he jams out for you, and then suddenly he puts down the guitar and says, "You know what? Let me tell you about this one time in 1982 that changed the way I looked at the world forever." When the story is over, you suddenly understand the genesis of the visual style of his photography, or his views on post processing or what art means to him. Basically take any question you've ever wanted to ask Patrick La Roque and then find that he's answered it here while you both “hang out” together, jam a bit and flip through some photo books.

Things take a very personal turn towards the end of the book. Without spoiling anything, it cuts to the heart of where the author is with his life right now, at this very moment, and you realize that you're viewing some pretty personal information right there on your own monitor. It's a brave thing to do, and if taking chances like that and bearing your soul to the world through your work as Patrick has done here is not art, I don't know what is. Not surprisingly, Patrick talks about 'the A word" in one of his chapters and what the term 'artist' really means to him. But the takeaway here is that this is a daunting amount of work and fearless writing rolled into a well-rounded e-book. It's an exhibition in itself whether Patrick realizes it or not. these kings. these subterraneans. is an audio-visual gallery that looks through his eyes at where his life is now, and it's worth every penny. Buy it for the photographs, enjoy the extra bonus of music to go hand in hand with them and then get swept away by the powerful words. 

If I could critique anything about these kings. these subterraneans. it would only be that I’m not able to hold these gorgeous photos and artwork as a physical book in my hand, but if that becomes available you can bet I’ll be the first in line to pick up a copy.



Audio notes:

  • The Quickening - an energetic start. 
  • Subcontinent - introspective yet expansive. The most repeatable track on the album for me.
  • A Blue Twilight - nostalgic and daydream-inspiring.
  • Riptide - gritty and stark. Perfectly matched with imagery that reflects its tone.
  • In Time (A Catherine Wheel) - the seed from which this creative tree sprang up. It all builds up to this. A completely open door into the heart of the project and a bold step. The song seems to linger at the end, and why wouldn’t it? I didn’t want to let go, either.

All of a sudden, the lights came on and it was time to go home. But the experience is yours, and it stays with you.


Writing notes:

  • pretty things - classic La Roque writing at it’s finest.
  • triggers - Read. Sit back in your chair. Nod your head and sigh. Then wonder if you will go through that as well.

All said, the writing ranges from deeply contemplative to refreshingly light and honest. There are repeated moments when you stop to realize that Patrick is completely opening his life, his heart and his art to you. I respect that. Instead of just being a voyeuristic reader it forces you to acknowledge that you are a willing observer, along for the ride. To be this emotionally involved is an almost impossible goal to reach, but Patrick somehow pulls it off.



So there you have it. High praise and completely deserved, every word of it. I'm happy to have been given the opportunity to take this journey, and I have no doubts that you'll understand why once you pick up a copy for yourself.


these kings. these subterraneans. is on sale for $9.99 CAD until October 8th, 2015 (normally $12.99 CAD) and is available now as an instant download.