This photobook is Christian Patterson’s retelling of the murder spree of a psychopath, Charles Starkweather, and his young girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate, that occurred in late 1958 and early 1959. As elegantly described by Luc Sante “(Patterson) followed Starkweather and Fugate’s trail, visiting all the places where they stopped, rooting through civic archives and newspaper morgues, seeking out material survivals of their lives and actions. Some of the photographs are of actual settings, some of actual artifacts, some of symbolic landscapes, and some of metonymic objects; there are also archival photos and reproductions of pertinent documents.”
In other words, a real complicated mash-up of fact and fiction, Patterson’s photographs co-mingled with found photographs and documents that create an extremely interesting novella.
Patterson created a faux detective’s dossier to solve a mystery, in this case a series of murders. Just as odd and random clues are acquired during an investigation, the documents, some real, some red-herrings, are stuck in a random order inside the dossier. In this case, the murders do not require solving, but the mystery and retelling continues unabated.
Karen Irvine assists with my conclusion as she writes “Patterson demonstrates that photographs are highly subjective interpretations of reality, and makes us aware of the seductive power of aesthetic effect even as we succumb to it.”
The text wrap hardcover book is bound with other printed pages interspersed within the book. The essays are by Karen Irvine and Luc Sante is printed and bound in a separate booklet that is included with the book. Similar to the main book’s dossier theme, the essay booklet is designed to look like a pocket notepad, the text using an old typewriter font, including typewritten “mistakes” that I easily recognize from my early (mis)use of this equipment.
Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook