My first impression is that Clancy’s narrative is a darker version of John Gossage’s early photobook The Pond. Similar to Gossage, Clancy is taking us on an imaginary journey, although somewhat grounded in the (non) reality of the photographs, using found landscapes rendered in black and white as metaphors for Clancy’s “emotional state”.
Clancy states in his Introduction, “that Border Country, both as a phrase and as a title for this series of photographs, is my name for an uneasy condition of heart and mind that periodically comes to possess me.” Perhaps an understatement, as this photobook is all about a melancholy moodiness that is pervasive throughout.
As an American, the term “Border Country” does not evoke the same uneasiness that might be associated by someone with knowledge of the border region between Scotland and England and all the historical turmoil that existed between the two countries in this region. Nevertheless, a border implies that there is something that meets and what is on one side might be different from the other. In the case of a border country, that meeting place can be relatively broad and it is in this wide place that Clancy takes us on a wandering journey.
Much like Gossage, Clancy introduces us to the concept of a journey with a number of photographs of a pathway that proceeds away from the viewer. On Clancy’s narrative journey, the pathway is indistinct and blocked with debris and fallen tree limbs, implying a difficult meandering. Instead of a pond as the mid-point destination, we are carried forth to an abandoned and decaying structure, with all past inhabitants long gone and only the barest traces and hints of their memories still lurking in the shadows.
Amidst the forlorn structure, Clancy has isolated decaying artifacts, an empty bottle, an electrical connection, a single shoe, bits and parts of a chair leg, part of a pitch fork and a tea-pot. We are in the midst of forgotteness, where even memory has abandoned all hope. Then the viewer is led to a half-opened door, a way out of this misery and the daylight of hope is visible once more. Eventually we pass by less and less of the debris of mankind and enter back into a pleasant wooded area, unlike the nasty thicket that was initially encountered.
The photobook as an object; a image-wrap Hardcover book, printed and bound in Germany, and the binding allows an almost lay-flat presentation, thus making the interior photographic plates very accessible. The book is a thin and what I would term a nice European size, just right for holding and reading. The Introduction text by Clancy is provided in both English and German and the book is without pagination or captions.
Award Note: James Clancy’s Border Country is a selected title of the Deutscher Fotobuchpreis award 2012.