In an attempt to better understand Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison’s new book counterpoint, I found myself referring to The Architect’s Brother, an earlier published book by Robert ParkeHarrison from Twin Palms Publishers. Regretfully I did not purchase the earlier book when it was available.
The Architect’s Brother is the initial story of ParkeHarrison’s “Everyman”, the fictional character developed by Robert and Shana, about the intersection of mankind with the environment. The environmnental storyline from The Architect’s Brother for Everyman seems to continues in counterpoint. The photographs in The Architect’s Brother are surreal and I found them not always easy to place within the intended environmental context that ParkeHarrison’s seems to envision. But the eloborately constructed Black & White images in The Architect’s Brother are very delightful and enjoyable to contemplate nevertheless.
And so with a frame of reference, I move forward to their recent book counterpoint. Where as The Architect’s Brother was a black and white body of work with some very wonderful tonalities and lyrical images, counterpoint has evolved to become a sharply focused with well defined clear color images. The cast for this new book has also grown beyond the singular presence of Everyman to include “Everywoman” and “Everychild” or perhaps now a collective “Everyfamily“. A more relevant Family of Man for our age.
Likewise, Everyman has grown older, but perhaps not wiser, his pressed suit, hat and starched shirt & tie has now given way to a more worn and stained shirt, if any shirt at all. The worsening condition of clothes is a nice metaphor for their collective angst with the progressive conditions of our environment, as well as inclusive of a concern with our state of technology, such as Alchemist, second image below. We are becoming overwhelmed by the very technology that we had thought was going to save us.
If this book is an environmental call to action to stop some of the brainless things we do to our environment, I find that as an entire body of work, it is perhaps too fragmented and thus weak. Never the less, these are some very sophisticated images that need to be scrutinized and evaluated for every nuance, to comprehend all of the slight of hand clues provided. The photographs are wonderfully complex and yet very disturbing, such as Bloodroot, the third image below. In fact, I find them many of them to be both sad and grim.
With out any supportive text, we depend on the visual and narrative clues in conjunction with the photographs captions to try to make sense of this body of work. For double spread images where something of interest is lodged in the middle gutter, it can be sometimes frustrating, such as the first image below, The Scribe. To begin with, the image below is also the full image, as it had to be cropped for the book, and probably was how the tip of the Scribes pen was lost inside the book’s gutter.
Like ParkeHarrison’s earlier work, there are some intriguing mechanical devices and appendages incorporated within their photographs and this same image, The Scribe, has plenty to intrigue me. I see the line of red, probably signifying the trail of blood, in conjunction with what appears as a device to hold the pen, as though the person has only indirect control. All the while, there is a intermittent flow of red fluid passing up the tubing out of the sleeve to a reservoir for the pen. What I have difficulty with is what appears to be a honeycomb tied under the wrist, and within the series of images in the book, honeycombs and bees keep resurfacing. I can only believe that this is related to the current issues with the death of honeybees, the subsequent environmental pollination implications and that this die-off of the bees is somehow connected to our current technology, such as the increase use of cell phones.
I find myself like and disliking this book for the same reason, as crazy as that might seem. The images of this narrative are interesting, intriguing, as well as very disturbing and the flow is somewhat disjointed. Many more questions than plausible answers.
The large hardbound book with illustrated dust cover measures 11″ x 14 1/2″, with 40 pages and 33 color plates. The book was printed and bound in Korea with average halftone print quality.
By Douglas Stockdale