In his 2009 photobook Fireflies, Keith Carter takes the reader on a delightful photographic journey investigating childhood fantasies. These are ambiguous and mysterious images, which are perhaps stories that are about every-child.
Carter taps into the childhood emotions of joy and elation. Later as an adult, observing the same events can become one of fear and dread of harm, foreseeing potential injury, and the scariest fear for a parent, the death of their child. Nevertheless the photograph of a young girl amidst the fireworks of a sparkler magically transported me to an almost lost place. I can recall my delightful memories when I first held my glowing and sputtering sparkler. I can recall my ooohs and aaaahs of watching these specular fireworks, which were an experience that I think went well beyond wonder and joy.
Carter’s photographs uncannily create emotional triggers for forgotten events of my youth. If there is an overriding narrative beyond these singular images, it is a narrative about naiveté and the state of youth. As to be young is to be direct and carefree and amazed with wonder of new discoveries and those things that abound.
I think back to my first experience, while visiting my grandparents in Pennsylvania, encountering in the early dark spring evening, the flittering and glowing fireflies. That was an amazing experience, perhaps a surreal moment. All too similar to Carter’s photograph of the two boys, my brother and I also chased the fireflies that balmy evening, also capturing them in a glass jar.
Carter is well known for his evocative black and white photographs, with his subject moving in and out of focus within the pictorial frame. As a result, the photographs appeared to be embedded with a sense of mystery, the entire story of each singular image is left undone, waiting for me to fill in the blanks.
Carter states below, from the book “Over the Years I tried to establish a sense of implied narrative in my photographs, hoping viewers might find their own connections”. For me, mission accomplished!
The large hardcover book with dust jacket is classically designed, with most of the photographs having a nice margin of white around each of the black and white photographs. Each photographic plate is numbered and captioned. Carter provides an introduction with his additional thoughts interspersed though this body of work.
Other Keith Carter book reviewed on The PhotoBook: Mauro Fiorese & Keith Carter – “Dream of a Place of Dreams”