The PhotoBook Journal

April 6, 2018

Cig Harvey – You An Orchestra You a Bomb

Filed under: Photo Book Discussions — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 3:55 pm

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Photographer: Cig Harvey (born Devon, UK & resides in Rockport, Maine)

Published by Schilt Publishing, (Amsterdam, NL), 2017

Essay: Vicki Goldberg

Text: English

Hardbound with linen covers, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed by Offizin Scheufele, Stuttgart (DR)

Photobook designer: Deb Wood (Brooklyn, NY)

Notes: This is Cig Harvey’s third photobook in her introspective series that investigates her family, friends and the changing environment of mid-costal Maine. Perhaps the reason for the overlap of the photographic images between the various photobooks; that memories are overlapping during life’s experiences. She stages her family, friends and pets as well as weaving in poetic images of the rural landscape her family is enveloped in. There are many whimsical, if not outright strange, images, such as the open picture frame balanced on a women’s head, that hints at a lighthearted surrealism when this photograph is then paired up to a close up of a decorated frosted cake.

Many of Harvey’s photographs are tightly cropped and edited while her subjects are frequently truncated or slightly concealed. This is in part to create plenty of ambiguity to allow the readers imagination to freely roam. This visual effect is replicated in the design and layout of her book, with full bleed images that suggest that we are a witness to only a part of her narrative (her life). The editing and pairing of the photographs is exquisite, with repeating colors and forms or even perhaps the yin/yang contrast of a high-key photograph in the context of an adjoining dark image. A poetic and lyrical volume.

Cig Harvey was previously featured on TPBJ: Gardening at Night

Cheers, Douglas Stockdale

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March 23, 2018

Laia Abril – On Abortion

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 8:09 am

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Artist: Laia Abril (born & resides Barcelona, Spain)

Published by Dewi Lewis Publishing, UK, 2018

Text: English

Hard cover, sewn binding, four-color and duotone lithography, printed by Grafiche dell’Artiere, Bologna (IT)

Photobook designer: Laia Abril, Ramon Pez

Notes: The extended title of Laia Abril’s new book is A History of Misogyny, Chapter One, On Abortion and the Repercussions of Lack of Access, which is a bit more informative as to her extended photojournalist investigation. The key word is repercussions, as she provides ample evidence of how over the years many women have suffered extensively due to their reproductive capabilities.

Abril has not shy’d from this thorny inter-continental and multilayered cultural, political and religious land-mine like subject. Abril and her co-designer Ramon Pez have incorporated this multi-layering theme into the design of the book which incorporates narrow interior pages that create overlapping pages. These narrow pages when turned  then reveal additional text and images to further inform the reader. The book design reinforces their narrative as to state; nothing is very easy or as straight forward as it might first appear.

In her earlier book The Epilogue, she weaved sharply delineated family archive photographs of her subject in with her own documentary style photographs, while in this book the archive photographs of her subject are frequently less defined. In many instances there is only a hint of a potential likeness of her subject, perhaps due to confidentiality.  Nevertheless I find the abstracted portraits to create more visually expansive images and allowing the reader to reflect on their own version of this story. Does it really change the impact of her narrative if we see the actual likeness of someone who has passed away as a result of some botched medical procedure or social/cultural taboo?

This book is a call to action and the subject is still extremely slippery, while she makes a strong case that we as a society need to reexamine many of our cultural and moral beliefs as to these difficult situations for women.

Other photobooks by Laia Abril featured on The PhotoBook Journal: The Epilogue and Thinspiration

Cheers

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February 14, 2018

Lynn Alleva Lilley – Tender Mint

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Photographer: Lynn Alleva Lilley (born Silver Spring, MD & resides Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan)

Published by Eriskay Connection, 2017, the Netherlands

Text: English

Poems: Samih al Qasim, Jane Hirshfield

Stiff cover fine canvas, sewn & glued binding, four-color lithography, printed by Jos Morree (Fine Books)

Photobook designer: Rob van Hoesel

Lithography: Sebastiaan Hanekroot (Colour & Books)

Notes: I have to admit that I feel some aspects of disassociation when I embark on long transcontinental flights for an international assignment and then various degrees during the trip, usually when alone in the evening with only my thoughts. Thus Lilley’s recently released photobook, Tender Mint, which explores similar feelings that resulted from her families long term relocation from Maryland to the country of Jordan emotionally resonates with me. I understand how these personal feelings of displacement can become further acute when the written and spoken word do not resemble your native language, in my case it was the written Mandarin characters of China, while she became suddenly immersed in the Arabic script of Jordan, neither resemble the written English of America.

There are other radical cultural changes for her family to adapt to as well: social norms and policies, housing, infrastructure, shopping, food, aromas, scents and for the Arabic world, the religious customs. For Lilley even the new landscape was foreign; moving from the lush Northeast American costal area to an arid and hot desert region. She also reveals the personal loss that occurred with the passing of her father while she was in this distant location.

Lilley’s photographic project appears to rise out of trying to make sense of this mysterious land, to find a way to ground her family and herself in this strange culture while dealing with aspects of the changes to their lives that probably seemed beyond their control. That she was also concerned about how she as an American woman might be perceived in this new environment strikes me as a potential feminine quality of this visual project.

Choosing to document and visually investigate the animals within a confined landscape of a local zoo as a part of this project appears to provide metaphoric potential to reveal her feelings. The most striking photograph in that regard is the first image below, that of the small group of monkeys who appear to be cowering in the back edges of their cage. The sense of confinement is made palpable by the slightly out of focus barrier fencing in the foreground that extends over the entire frame. A younger animal appearing to be tightly clinging to an older animal, which we might deduct as one of the animals parents. The two appear to be holding each other in such a way as to provide physical if not emotional comfort. In the foreground at the edge of the frame is a larger animal whose dark features are difficult to discern. Symbolically I read that this could be Lilley’s father, who is distant and although in the same location, metaphorically these two individuals could be in their own confinement in their respective locations, hers in Jordan and his in America.

Lilley has grappled with the daunting and difficult task of not only documenting a new environment but attempting to place this experience in the context of her own feelings that result from the turbulent changes to her and her families lives.

Cheers

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January 11, 2018

Gerard Boyer – Ser de La Cala

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Photographer:  Gerard Boyer (born in L’Ametlla de Mar, Spain; lives in Tarragona, Spain)

Publisher:  Fuego Books, Murcia, Spain; © 2011-2016 by Gerard Boyer

Texts:  Quotes in Catalan, Spanish, and English

Zine-style, naked-bound and glued, with stiff printed wrap; 22.6 x 32 cm; 64 pages; edition of 500; printed in Spain by CeGe

Photobook Design and Art Direction:  Gerard Boyer, Ignasi López, Román Yñán

Notes: Our memories are very tricky things – they are partial, emotional, full of gaps and uncertainties, and prone to embellishment. Good ones, bad ones, and everything in between. What was, might have been, could have been, should have been? And what is our role in what we have made prominent in all of this, or shoved aside as faded bits and pieces?

Gerard Boyer is from Catalonia, an area politically part of Spain, but with its own language and proud identity. Along the eastern coast there is a certain rugged landscape by the sea and an independent spirit to go with it. This had its impact on this volume of recollections: a view of childhood and its contexts in the “La Cala” (The Cove). The book, professionally designed to make an impression of incidentally “found” detail, illustrates these feelings very well, in that it approximates how detail swerves in and out of our consciousness. The format is that of a large-size glossy magazine; the binding is “naked” (check out our discussion “Naked Bound”), and we get the impression of a past that is full of distinct yet partial memories. Some text portions with quotes are bound to the front and also internally, to evoke further associations in the viewer. There is also a map of the area, with a small window, perhaps suggesting the distant access for an outside viewer. The volume is contained in an intriguing folded, cover-like wrap-around, with an abstract design suggesting land and sea.

The images are an appropriate mix of subjects, showing childhood portraits, family members, area landscapes and other local markers, and some of the folks from the family and the community. Some of the images show a certain ruggedness and imperfection, such as large out-of-focus areas, light-struck film exposures, and faded color to parallel fading memories and thought intrusions.  Themes such as the rugged camaraderie and sensory strength among anglers and the major role of motherhood emerge. As we view this multilayered sequence of images that are presented effectively to approximate the workings of the mind as it comes up with its recollections, we are confronted with doing our own memory work, remembering things from our own childhood as well. And isn’t that precisely what an effective photobook will do, to make us also get in touch with ourselves. An innovative treatment, well done!

Gerhard Clausing

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January 5, 2018

Nancy Rexroth – IOWA

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Photographer: Nancy Rexroth (born Arlington, VA & resides Cincinnati, OH, USA)

University of Texas Press, Austin

First University of Texas Press Edition: copyright 2017

Text: English

Essays: Nancy Rexroth (1977, 2016), Mark L. Power (1977, 2016), Anne Wilkes Tucker, Alec Soth

Hard cover with dust jacket, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed in China

Photobook designer: Derek George

Notes:  I was delighted to hear about a second edition of Nancy Rexroth’s IOWA, a photobook that although I had not actually seen, was a photobook that keep coming up during various photobook discussions. The backstory is the first edition was self-published by Rexroth in 1977, which in of itself is remarkable forty years ago by today’s self-publishing standards.

While this photobook might be considered the Second edition of IOWA, it has been re-imagined and perhaps slightly resembles its original name-sake. I have been informed that 20 images removed and 22 new ones added, a stronger emphasis placed on the children and Emmet Blackburn, in conjunction with a new edit and additional essays. So with all of the changes to this photobook and in line with other publisher’s practices it is appropriate that this is a First edition of University of Texas Press, Austin. Likewise, with this much time to reflect, it makes perfect sense that a work of art might undergo some visual synthesis.

Her journey stated with the acquisition of a “toy” camera, the Diana, with its single element plastic lens and square images captured on 120mm film. She has stated that although the plastic lens did soften the quality of the image, the results was still too well defined for her purposes. Thus her need to slightly move (jiggle) the camera during exposure to create a little extra blur that further degrades the sharpness of the image and obtain an visual artifact that is more poetic, less exact and only hinted at what the subject might actually be. Her story telling approach was very different from her early 1970 contemporaries, such as Sally Mann, Arthur Tress, Clarence John Laughlin, Minor White, Duane Michals or Ralph Gibson and more in alignment with the narrative photographs of Linda Connor.

Her mysterious photographs that comprise IOWA still appear as fresh today as they were when the first edition of this book was published in 1977. The images are ambiguous as to location, which hint of the Midwest, the actual subject and have a timelessness quality. By now it is no secret that although the book is titled IOWA, there are only four photographs made in this state and the remainder predominantly created in Ohio. This is an investigation of faint and distant memories of a child, experiences and transcendent feelings, with photographs that are not to be taken literally. An artist book that needs to be read by the heart.

IOWA was selected as one of the Interesting Photobooks of 2017 by the editors.

Cheers!

Douglas Stockdale

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December 15, 2017

Robert Lyons – Pictures From The Next Day

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 3:05 pm

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Photographer: Robert Lyons (born Malden, MA & resides in Portland, OR and Berlin, Germany)

Published by Zatara Press (250): Richmond, VA USA copyright 2017

Text: English

Hardcover, Leporello design with glued binding, four-color lithography, printed by Wanderer Drucker, Germany

Photobook designer: Zatara Press

Notes:

The ephemeral nature of life is inclusive of the final days, something that is never thought about in our youth, maybe there are hints as one thinks about opportunities yet to achieve in light of recent accomplishments in middle age, until when the concept really sets in as parents become deathly ill or friends and acquaintances unexpectantly pass away. The former was the situation for Robert Lyons’s return from Europe in the summer of 2008 when his mother’s health was failing and his brother needed assistance in caring for her. Lyons was inspired to capture his mother’s likeness as a personal memorial, but she forbade him to photograph her in her remaining days.

What appears as serendipity is an introduction to Walter Niemiec, the uncle of his studio assistant, Erica Ann Flood. Niemiec, who like his mother, was in his advanced years but he was open to Lyons photographic investigation. The resulting photobook Pictures From The Next Day is part environmental portrait, part visual metaphor and part investigation of the ephemeral end of life.

I will have to admit that this book struck an emotional cord regarding the failing health of my mother. Regretfully due to the later stages of Alzheimer’s, she no longer resembled the woman or mother that I knew, thus leading to my other artist projects that investigate her and our relationship. Likewise, Lyons gracefully acquiesce to her wishes not to be photographed (remembered) at this stage of her life and thru Niemiec, he was given an opportunity to “glimpse into my own mortality and aging, something I had not really given much thought to prior

Lyons has attempted to create a visual biography that would speak for who Niemiec is (and was) in the many still life documents. We are introduced to his subject’s various interests, someone who liked to fish, root for his favorite baseball team, the Red Sox, and an interest in building model airplanes. The home appears as a time capsule; dated chairs and lamps, usually in disarray, a typewriter harkening to a pre-computer era, a dust covered VHS unit, portable radios, a not so modern kitchen that includes a telling line-up of now essential medication bottles.

I was also intrigued by the books layout using a leporello design as another metaphoric layer for this environmental portrait. The continuous fold-out of the page-spreads are symbolic of the continuity of a person’s essence, that the various aspects of someone’s life is complex and interrelated, not defined by one particular defining moment. An interesting and well thought out design element, one that I think we will be seeing more of in the future.

This book was selected as one of Interesting PhotoBooks of 2017.

Cheers!

Douglas Stockdale

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November 16, 2017

Brandon Thibodeaux – In That Land of Perfect Day

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Photographer: Brandon Thibodeaux (born Beaumont & resides Dallas, TX)

Published by Red Hook Editions: Brooklyn, NY copyright 2017

Text: English

Hardcover, clothbound, gold leaf embossed, sewn binding, quad-tone (two for black and two for grey shades) printing, printed & bound by Wilco Art Books (Amersfoort, Netherlands)

Photobook designer: Heijdens Karwei, Teun van der Heijden

Color Management & Lithography; Sebastiaan Hanekroot, Colour & Books

Notes:

There is something about a long term project that enables a person to patiently dig under the surface façade to create a strong body of work. Like the old metaphor of peeling an onion, it takes time to slowly remove the layers, moving from the distrust of an obvious outsider to eventually allowing access to private moments. Over a period of eight years Brandon Thibodeaux was a frequent visitor and for some, became part of this rural community located in the South. This was not a brief stop, take the photo and then go; to never to be seen again kind of weekend project.

Nevertheless there is still a weariness in the eyes and guarded pose by some of his subjects, while in other photographs his subjects appear to be genuinely open to his presence. I am not sure the latter would have occurred without the long term commitment that Thibodeaux continued to prove by constantly returning to stay for short duration’s in this place.

I believe that Thibodeaux has summarized his project very well with “For eight years I witnessed signs of strength against struggle, humility against pride and a promise for deliverance in the lives I have come to know…for evidence of the tender and yet unwavering human spirit that resides within its fabric…reminded that these themes of faith, identity, and perseverance are common to us all.”

The visual qualities of tenderness, resilience and faith that I find in this body of work resonates with me. The elegant and classical book design with ample margins creates a feeling of dignity for Thibodeaux’s photographs, thus I feel his subjects are afforded that similar dignity.

Cheers

Douglas Stockdale

 

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September 14, 2017

Brenda Moreno – B to B

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Photographer: Brenda Moreno (born, Mexico City & resides Mexico & Spain)

Publisher: Witty Kiwi, Italy, copyright 2017

Text: Spanish & English

Essay: Carmen Dalmau

Stiff cover, die-cut with French folds, sewn and glued binding, four-color off-set, printed by Artes Graficias Palermo (Spain)

Photobook designer: Brenda Moreno & Paolo Berra

Notes: Brenda Moreno’s photobook B to B is an interesting curiosity as it is a beguiling narrative. We can surmise that it’s an investigation of a family, maybe even hers, located at a place that includes horses and other small animals, both alive as well as inanimate. These are the basic elements that appear to interact and become intertwined with a few individuals and animals having an occasional cameo role.

The photographs are repeated, cut apart, collage and montaged, sewn back together and appear to be clumsily taped in place, perhaps similar to an unsophisticated family album that indirectly attempts to tell us a story. In the process the story line fades and becomes incomplete, if not incoherent, which I find to be a wonderful metaphor for the inaccuracies and false stories created by memory.

Moreno provides factual visual evidence and although a photograph may be worth a thousand words, her photographs provide only a few vague clues that requires us, the viewer, to fill in the blanks. In Moreno’s book there are a lot of blanks in conjunction with many intriguing hints, which like most curiosities will continue to draw you back.

Cheers

Douglas Stockdale

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July 31, 2017

Alla Mirovskaya – Old family Photos and Deep Sky Objects

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Artist: Alla Mirovskaya (born & resides Moscow, RU)

Self-Published & Limited Edition (100): Moscow (RU) copyright 2016

Text: English & Russian

Stiff cover with glued printed panels, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed in Moscow (RU)

Photobook designer: Alla Mirovskaya

Notes: I will have to admit that lately I have become fascinated with artist books that utilize vernacular photographs to create a narrative. Perhaps even more so when it becomes apparent that the archive source for the photographic material is from one’s own family. This is probably due in no small part to my personal artistic book practice that utilize photographic material from my own family archive. Thus I find Alla Mirovskaya’s artist book Old family Photos and Deep Sky Objects extremely intriguing in how she layers and creates juxtapositions of her archive photographs with found photographs of distant galaxies and star systems.

One aspect of her vernacular photographs is that these appear to be of family, friends and acquaintances. The same subjects keep reappearing throughout her narrative. Another layer of this charming narrative is the inclusion the images of unknown individuals, which are photographs that have been found but without any notes or other information to inform Mirovskaya as to their identity. We would suspect that these photographs are included in a family archive for a reason. With the inclusion of these additional unknown subjects she further acknowledges how complex memory can be when there are potentially related persons and now their identity appears to be lost to the current generation. In some ways I think that this is another form of death as the memory as to who this person represents has died for the family. I think it might be easy to read that these photographs of individuals relate to the transitional nature of memory and its fragility.

Understanding the physics of the speed of light in space Mirovskaya’s found photographs of deep sky objects is the documentation of events that have occurred thousands and thousands of years ago, an even longer transitional memory that makes our current memories pale in comparison. Nevertheless, these two bodies of work within her book share the same context for memory; something was recorded and we have the opportunity to ponder who/what these individuals/events are? Mirovskaya has confounded the reader with another aspect; she mixes the captions of the individuals with those of the star systems and we are left adrift as to who might be whom. This tactic also unmoors the reader from a word/name association and allows deeper introspection of the book.

Equally fascinating for me is the close similarities of how a family archive from Russia compares to that of my own, which speaks of a universality of family. Perhaps all that more poignant given the current economic and political friction that is occurring now between the two respective countries of Russian and the United States. I think that we need to remember that at the family unit level we all share similar interests related to making a living, ensuring we have substance and a decent roof over our heads, love of our family and memories of our past that we attempt to hold on to.

Mirovskaya’s artist book is a very delightful and complex narrative about family memories in the context of the big picture of our complex and changing universe.

Cheers! Douglas Stockdale

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May 16, 2017

Barbara Peacock – Hometown

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Photographer: Barbara Peacock (b. Waltham, MA – resides Portland, ME)

Publisher: Bazan Photo Publishing (Brooklyn, NY) copyright 2016

Essays: Barbara Peacock, Ernesto Bazan

Text: English

Embossed linen hardcover with tipped in photograph, sewn binding, four-color lithography, list of photographs, printed by Puritan Capital (New Hampshire)

Photobook designer: Kevin Sweeney

Notes: Barbara Peacock documented her own hometown of 30 plus years, while perhaps the citizens of the town grew older, her visual concept of what a hometown meant, continued to evolve. Her subject is a small New England town, Westford, located Massachusetts. There is enough contextual ambiguity as to the actual location that Peacock’s hometown could be representative of any small town in the East or Midwest region of America, which is a factor that draws me and probably other readers into this monograph.

She opens with an urban landscape photograph of a small market, an archetype of the local hang-out for bored kids in a small town. It appears that topic of conversation for her subjects that day was probably her and the view camera balanced on the tripod as the woman who kept darting under the curious black sheet. Her young subjects gaze directly at the lens not realizing that this was a poignant moment in time in 1982 and they were in the process of becoming subjects of nostalgia and memory when this photograph is contemplated some thirty-five years later. We can speculate that some of these same kids probably now have children of their own that are this same age or maybe even older, although Peacock states that this small market is no longer there and that one of these boys has since passed.

We witness an evolution of photographic style, from a formalism of a large format camera with color film to an informal capture in expressive black & white that encompasses digital capture methods. There is also a subtle pairing of the photographs within the book, such as the image below of the contrasting lives of the dejected appearing older woman who Elvis is still adoring and the opposing photograph of the antics of young men hanging out with skate boards and engrossed in what’s on their cell phones.

She records the quite moments of normal life being lived without big drama. We can find ourselves, friends and family in the midst of her hometown investigation and these photographs may trigger memories of our own past “normal” events.

This photobook was juried into the Photo Independent Photo Book Competition and subsequent exhibition.

Cheers!

Douglas

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