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Book of the Week Book of the Week: A Pick by Forrest Soper Forrest Soper selects Welcome to Camp America by Debi Cornwall as Book of the Week.
Welcome to Camp America: Inside Guantánamo Bay
By Debi CornwallRadius Books, 2017.
Forrest Soper selects Welcome to Camp America: Inside Guantánamo Bay by Debi Cornwall from Radius Books as Book of the Week.

"I first encountered Debi Cornwall’s Welcome to Camp America one year ago when I saw it as a book dummy at Review Santa Fe. I’ve been captivated by the work ever since. Revolving around the US detention center at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, commonly referred to as Gitmo, this book uses photographs, redacted documents, and personal accounts to paint a picture of the detention center and the effects on its detainees. A combination of three photographic sequences, Cornwall uses photography to give us an enigmatic glimpse into the secretive world of this controversial military base. The images are interspersed with text, translated in both English and Arabic, which provides historical evidence of acts of dubious legality that have occurred at the facility since 2002.

The first body of work, Gitmo at Home, Gitmo at Play, shows the living spaces of both guards and detainees at Gitmo. This section paints a picture of the naval base that few have encountered before. While the detainee facilities are sterile and restricting, the guard’s quarters are quite shocking in comparison. Bowling alleys, playgrounds, lounge chairs and driving ranges hint at why Gitmo has been called the “best posting a soldier can have.” It’s odd to associate tranquil scenes that almost seem domestic with Gitmo and the events that have been brought to international attention.

The second section, Gitmo on Sale, displays items from Gitmo Souvenir shops. From Fidel Castro bobbleheads to Gitmo purse clasps and beer cozies, this surreal sequence documents the bizarre commodification of the military base. There is a kitsch and cheery sense to these objects, again creating a striking juxtaposition with the text.

The final section of images, Beyond Gitmo, is presented in the form of 14 photographic inserts. These inserts depict 14 men who had been detained at Gitmo and released without charges. Like the photographs of the US guards, the photographs of former detainees are shot with their backs facing the camera, as to not show their faces. This series is the most impactful as it comes with the realization that the overwhelming majority of detainees held there have never been convicted or charged with a crime in the US.

Ultimately this book needs to be experienced personally to grasp its full impact. The amount of research that went into this book is too expansive to even begin to mention in this brief review. This book is haunting, revealing, personal, and shocking. The relatively innocent photographs are paired with text and evidence so alarming that it hardly seems real. Recently shortlisted for the Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation Photobook Awards, this book has already begun to gain the recognition it deserves, and I hope it continues on that path of success. I know that my brief words will not do this book justice so I will end on this note: Welcome to Camp America may be the most important photobook I have read in 2017." — Forrest Soper

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Welcome to Camp America: Inside Guantánamo BayBy Debi CornwallRadius Books, 2017.

Welcome to Camp America: Inside Guantánamo BayBy Debi CornwallRadius Books, 2017.



Forrest Soper is a photographer and artist based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico. A graduate of the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, he also has previously worked at Bostick & Sullivan. Forrest is the Editor of photo-eye Blog.
http://forrestsoper.com/


Book Review Slant Rhymes Photographs by Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb Reviewed by Collier Brown There’s a slow burn in the book that delights me: amber yellows that, on a first look, hint at trees trapped inside, then a cloud, then a hemisphere; or greens so soft you don’t recognize, at first, how much catastrophe they actually bear.
Slant Rhymes 
Photographs by Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb. 
 La Fabrica, 2017.
Slant Rhymes
Reviewed by Collier Brown.

Slant Rhymes.
Photographs by Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb.
La Fabrica, Madrid, Spain, 2017. 112 pp., 80 color illustrations, 8x9½".


“Tell all the truth but tell it slant.” Of course, we don’t have to wait for special occasions to quote Emily Dickinson. But with the publication of Alex and Rebecca Norris Webb’s new collaborative work, Slant Rhymes, we’d be remiss not to doff our caps to the master.

Pico Iyer made the unsurprisingly astute observation about the slant rhyme we sense between Alex’s street photography and Rebecca’s impressions of the moment. It’s in the way they both capture the tenacity and stillness of a place like Cuba, says Iyer. And it’s in their sensitivity to color, the way Rebecca’s image of a bird’s lemon feathers, for instance, draws out Havana’s sun-inflected streets in another of Alex’s photographs.

As much as I adore Dickinson’s poem, I feel a little weary when I see the word “truth,” and especially, “Truth”—not because I take sides in the tiresome debate between photographers who want the truth told straight and those who prefer it slant, but because Truth so rarely shows up for its own party. In any case, Slant Rhymes is less abrupt, less impetuous, in its revelations. There’s a slow burn in the book that delights me: amber yellows that, on a first look, hint at trees trapped inside, then a cloud, then a hemisphere; or greens so soft you don’t recognize, at first, how much catastrophe they actually bear. “Truth must dazzle gradually,” says Dickinson’s poem. This book has exactly that feel.

Slant Rhymes Photographs by Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb. La Fabrica, 2017.

Slant Rhymes is not the first collaboration between these two photographers. Before this volume, there was Memory City (2014), a book inspired by Italo Calvino’s classic novella, Invisible Cities, and t as an exploration of Rochester, New York, after Eastman Kodak’s bankruptcy in 2012. Before that, there was Violet Isle (2009), the poetic precursor to Slant Rhymes in its vivid pictures of Cuba and its eye for the surreal within the real.

Slant Rhymes Photographs by Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb. La Fabrica, 2017.

There’s a kind of strange affirmation of the fantastic in Alex’s and Rebecca’s work that has nothing to do with their collaboration. Both are documentary photographers in their own right. And both, according to Geoff Dyer, play with contradiction in ways that convey the mystery of places like Haiti, Mexico, Turkey, the Amazon—even places a little closer to home, like Florida and South Dakota. Take, for instance, the photographs Alex made for his book, Under a Grudging Sun: Photographs from Haiti Libéré 1986-1988 (1989). Each one brims with death and vitality, ruin and youth, color and shadow, revel and lamentation. One knows the history; nevertheless, the images defy explanation.

Rebecca adds to these contradictions the imbalances of the man-made: wilderness seen from car windows, hand-me-down dresses without bodies. In books like The Glass Between Us: Reflections on Urban Creatures (2006), the distinctions between the human and nonhuman world break down or are called into question. The borders (a subject familiar to Alex’s work on Mexico-U.S. relations) are all transparent or permeable. Nothing is ever entirely divided. Rebecca’s photographs appeal to the eye for new biological metaphors, new ways of conceptualizing the interconnectedness of living things.

Slant Rhymes Photographs by Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb. La Fabrica, 2017.

For me, the question comes down to this: What does Slant Rhymes offer that Violet Isle does not? Both collaborations explore the resonance between Alex’s and Rebecca’s color photography. Both do a great job pairing thoughtful texts with meaningful images. But some of the photographs appear in both books. Sometimes they are even paired the same, such as Rebecca’s Havana pigeon alongside Alex’s two boys and plastic bag.

It seems to me that in Slant Rhymes, Alex and Rebecca reflect on one another’s work with more intention. In Violet Isle, the photographs sometimes appear as spreads, but mostly they follow one another, front to back. In Slant Rhymes, they are printed side by side in a dialog of tone, color, and sometimes content. If scale is important to you, Violet Isle may go easier on the eye, it being a larger paperback. But Slant Rhymes feels more intimate. It’s a smaller book, 8.5" x 11"— a cool mint green cloth hardcover that fits easily on the shelf among your editions of Dickinson’s poetry.

Slant Rhymes Photographs by Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb. La Fabrica, 2017.

The most endearing thing about Slant Rhymes, however, is that it really is more for Alex and Rebecca than it is for anyone else. In this collection, we eavesdrop on two friends slanting their truths toward one another; two partners sharing memories, curiosities, and affections. And this, to my mind, is what truly distinguishes Slant Rhymes from Violet Isle. It’s not a collaboration. It’s a conversation—intimate, illuminating, and circuitous. (“Success in circuit lies,” says Dickinson). For Alex, it’s an “unfinished love poem.” For Rebecca, “A gift, this distance we’ve traveled so far.” . — Collier Brown

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Collier Brown is a photography critic and poet. Founder and editor of Od Review, Brown also works as an editor for 21st Editions (Massachusetts) and Edition Galerie Vevais (Germany).

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photo-eye Gallery Tempest Opening Night Highlights, Google Talk with Mitch Dobrowner, & Hurricane Relief photo-eye Gallery shares images from the opening of Mitch Dobrowner's exhibitionTempest, the artist's recent lecture and exhibition at Google, and our support for Direct Relief in their effort to aid those affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Images from the Opening of Mitch Dobrowner's Tempest

A sincere thank you to all who attended the gallery opening of our new exhibition, Tempest last Friday, September 15th as well as the Artist Talk given by Mitch Dobrowwner on Saturday the 16th. Tempest features the debut of new work in Dobrowner’s ongoing series STORMS celebrating nature's beauty, power, and energy.

Mitch Dobrowner speaking at photo-eye Gallery

Tempest will be on view at photo-eye Gallery through November 11th, 2017.

For more information, and to purchase prints, please contact Gallery Staff at 505-988-5152 x 202 or gallery@photoeye.com.


» Inquire

» View Tempest

» Read More about
   Mitch Dobrowner




Mitch Dobrowner Lectures at Google



This past summer represented artist Mitch Dobrowner was honored to lecture and exhibit at Google's Venice California Studio Facility as a part of the company's Talks at Google series. The exhibition was installed from May 30th – September 4th, 2017 and contained 21 selected works from Dobrowners Still Earth and Storms series in sizes ranging from 7x9" to 34x50". 

In his lecture (video above), Dobrowner speaks in detail about his early beginnings in photography, being unexpectedly courted by National Geographic, as well as sharing stories surrounding a few of his iconic images such as Shiprock Storm and Rope Out. It is a joy to hear Mitch speak about his approach to photography and reverence for the landscape in his humble, gracious, and good-humored manner. The full lecture is just under an hour long.

Mitch Dobrowner's work installed at Google's Venice, CA Studio Facility. Image courtesy of the artist.

Detail of Mitch Dobrowner's work installed and didactic panel at Google's Venice, CA Studio Facility.
 Image courtesy of the artist.


Supporting Relief Efforts for Hurricane's Harvey and Irma
Mitch Dobrowner and photo-eye Gallery are donating 10% of all proceeds from Tempest to Direct Relief in their effort to aid those affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma. 

Direct Relief has an efficiency rating of 100% from Forbes and provides targeted assistance to help safety net providers prepare for and respond to emergencies. Response efforts—which include distribution of pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, personal care items, equipment, and cash—are swift, involve local partners, and are coordinated with other nonprofit organizations and public health authorities to ensure the most effective use of resources. 


Rinko Kawauchi: HaloAperture, 2017.


Book of the Week Book of the Week: A Pick by Laura M. André Laura M. André selects Halo by Rinko Kawauchi as Book of the Week.
Laura M. André selects Rinko Kawauchi's Halo  (Aperture, 2017) as Book of the Week.

Rinko Kawauchi's latest book, Halo, presents a poetic series of images taken mostly in darkness: from the smoky blues, pinks, and grays of dusk to the inkiest nights. But as the title suggests, light — and her attraction to it — remains Kawauchi's favorite subject.

But this is no mere formalist investigation of light. Throughout the book, which presents imagery from three different series, Kawauchi challenges readers to connect her work, which is undeniably compelling visually, to contemporary social and economic issues.

The book's most dazzling images, which inspire a cover design of holographic indentations amid a field of black, depict dazzling showers of molten iron, flung in the air as part of a centuries-old Chinese New Year's ritual in Hebei province. As Kawauchi reveals in her brief text, these "poor man's" fireworks represent both celebration and struggle: "For those who live in poverty, every day is a battle in its own way--perhaps it's only natural that this ritual reminds one of a struggle."

The flocks of migratory birds that soar through the book's matte black pages thus not only perform a glorious dance in which smaller flocks join together to form an enormous swarm that appears as a single, shadowy organism; they also serve as metaphors for individuals and society. The whole is greater than the parts.

Finally, Kawauchi includes a number of photographs taken in Japan's southern Izumo region, site of the country's oldest Shinto shrine, where traditional beliefs hold that the gods congregate during the tenth month of the Lunar calendar. A concurrent festival gathers worshippers on the beach to welcome the gods. During Kawauchi's visit to this festival, she photographed beach bonfires in a light rain, which echoes the rain of molten iron in other images. She clicks the shutter and "the lights strobe and refract against the raindrops, and they glitter. The thoughts of the people in prayer, invisible to the human eye, too, take form and reflect in the drops."

Like halos, Kawauchi's images are magical signs of transformation and divinity in the form of glimmering light.  — Laura M. André

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Rinko Kawauchi: HaloAperture, 2017.

Rinko Kawauchi: HaloAperture, 2017.

Laura M. André
earned a PhD in art history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and taught photo history at the University of New Mexico before leaving academia to work with photography books. She is the manager of photo-eye's bookstore.


Book Review Passage By Linda Foard Roberts Reviewed by David Ondrik Passage is an elegiac portrait of the artist’s family, infused with an open, tender love seen through flesh, cherished objects, and landscape. The care and attention required to use a large format film camera is evident — this is the product of labor and craft combined with a deep connection to what’s being photographed.

Passage. By Linda Foard Roberts.Radius Books, 2016.
 
Passage
Reviewed by David Ondrik

Passage.
Photographs by Linda Foard Roberts. Text by Billy Collins, Russell Lord, and Deborah Willis.
Radius Books, Santa Fe, USA, 2016. 176 pp., 80 black-and-white illustrations, 10x12".  

If you enjoy Pictorialism, the 19th century movement of soft focused photographs concerned more with emotion and mood than representation, Linda Foard Roberts’s debut monograph Passage will be deeply satisfying. The book is a hefty 10” x 12” with 80 nuanced, warm-tone reproductions of Roberts’s black and white gelatin silver prints. It opens with a brief statement by Roberts, followed by eminently readable essays by Russell Lord and Dr. Deborah Willis.

Passage is an elegiac portrait of the artist’s family, infused with an open, tender love seen through flesh, cherished objects, and landscape. The care and attention required to use a large format film camera is evident — this is the product of labor and craft combined with a deep connection to what’s being photographed. Each of the five sections (Passage, Grounded, Simple Truths, Alchemy, and Becoming) is introduced by thick, textured paper embossed with Roman numerals. Immediately following each embossed page is a photograph on translucent vellum that overlays the image on the next page. This veiled, double exposure effect is a thoughtful accent that enhances the tactile interaction of turning through the pages. It shows an attention to the possibilities of the book as an interactive object, rather than a “pocket gallery” of photographs. There are short introductory statements from the artist that set the tone for each section.

Passage. By Linda Foard Roberts.Radius Books, 2016.

The quality of the images, and their reproductions, is immediately seductive and enhanced by expert sequencing and book design. On pages 30 and 31 are facing images, Soulmate Moths and My Mother’s Grace, one is of two dead moths and the other is of the artist’s mother’s hands. Tonally the images echo each other — the dead moths are light patches against a dark ground, while the hands are stark against a similarly dark ground. There’s also a wistful conceptual entwining — the moths have worn out and perished, while the mother’s elderly, worn hands imply inevitable mortality.

Passage. By Linda Foard Roberts.Radius Books, 2016.

While there’s a melancholy tone to most of the images in this book, there are some notable departures, like A Measure of Time, Both Thirteen Years Old. This portrait of the artist’s 13-year-old son leaning against a 13-year-old tree, presumably planted on the occasion of his birth, illustrates the connection the mother has to the child as well as the landscape she’s created at home. The motion blur of the swaying leaves obscures the young man’s face and works as a metaphor for his impending transition from childhood to adolescence. The tree is a sturdy support, a reminder that, despite the impending changes and chaos of growing up, there will quite literally be a foundation to lean against.

Passage. By Linda Foard Roberts.Radius Books, 2016.

One somewhat jarring element is the fold-out page of four photographs of a tree on the artist’s property, each taken during different seasons and constructed with multiple negatives. While I sympathize with the problems unusual image dimensions mean for books, the fold-out is an awkward solution that diminishes the photos by creasing them. Also, the dust jacket feels thin, like ordinary copy paper, which is a surprise considering the high quality of materials and printing in the rest of the book. Under the jacket is a wonderful, white cover with a tipped in image of a gnarled and ancient oak.

Passage. By Linda Foard Roberts.Radius Books, 2016.

Passage is a real find for fans of “old fashioned” photographic imagery. I’d not been familiar with Roberts's photography before the book came my way, and I’m really pleased that it did. It’s an excellent retrospective of her career, and an exquisite object that book lovers are sure to enjoy. — David Ondrik

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DAVID ONDRIK is an artist working with light sensitive media. He has an MFA from Indiana University and is currently a visiting assistant professor of photography at IU. His website is  https://davidondrik.com/.


photo-eye Gallery Series Release -2017 Storms by Mitch Dobrowner photo-eye Gallery is excited to debut 11 new works by represented artist Mitch Dobrowner in his acclaimed STORMS series.

Lightning Storm and Homestead, 2017 – © Mitch Dobrowner
photo-eye Gallery is proud to debut 11 new works by represented artist Mitch Dobrowner in his acclaimed series STORMS. In 2009, inspired in part by his 2008 image Shiprock Storm, Mitch Dobrowner set out in the company of professional storm chasers to capture some of mother nature’s most sublime performances. For Mitch, each storm is unique and inspiring and through it all, he retains a sense of reverence and respect for the natural world.

The first 11 images in the portfolio are from the 2017 release.

Prints from the 2017 STORMS release are currently available at their introductory prices:

14 x 20 inches 
Collective Edition of 40
$1,500 

20 x 30 inches
Collective Edition of 40
$2,500

34 x 56 inches
Separate Edition of 5
$5,000

For up-to-date pricing, additional information, and to purchase prints, please contact Gallery Staff at 505-988-5152 x 202 or gallery@photoeye.com

Many of the new works will be on view in Tempest, an exhibition of recent and classic black-and-white prints from the STORMS series, Opening Friday, September 15th with an Artist Reception for Dobrowner from 5–7pm. Mitch Dobrowner will also join us for a Gallery Talk to discuss his ongoing STORMS project on Saturday, Sept. 16th at 4 pm. 

Helix and Trees, 2017 – © Mitch Dobrowner
Monsoon and Storm Over Town, 2017 – © Mitch Dobrowner
Dome Rock, 2017 – © Mitch Dobrowner
Rainshafts, 2017 – © Mitch Dobrowner
Raven Rock, 2017 – © Mitch Dobrowner
Saguaro and Storm, 2017 – © Mitch Dobrowner
Storm, Field, and Trees, 2017 – © Mitch Dobrowner
Tornado Over Farmland, 2017 – © Mitch Dobrowner
Zodiac, 2017 – © Mitch Dobrowner
Nimbus, 2017 – © Mitch Dobrowner
Mitch Dobrowner’s photographs have been exhibited internationally at venues including the Somerset House in London, England, the GADCOLLECTION in Paris, France, and EXPO Chicago. Dobrowner’s images also appear in several notable collections, including The Museum of Fine Arts: Houston, The Portland Museum of Art, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. Furthermore, Mitch Dobrowner has been awarded First Place at PX3, First Place at IPA/Lucie, earned the Joseph Riis Award and has been named to the Photolucida Critical Mass Top 50 three times. His work has been published in National Geographic, B&W magazine, TIME, and his sold-out monograph Storms was published by Aperture in 2013.

» Read the Tempest Press Release

» View the Tempest Portfolio

» Read more about Mitch Dobrowner

» Contact the Gallery

Book of the Week Book of the Week: A Pick by Forrest Soper Forrest Soper selects The Voyeur's Gambit by Christian Michael Filardo and Angelo Harmsworth as Book of the Week.
The Voyeur's Gambit
By Christian Michael Filardo and Angelo Harmsworth
Lime Lodge, 2017.
Forrest Soper selects The Voyeur's Gambit by Christian Michael Filardo and Angelo Harmsworth from Lime Lodge as Book of the Week.

"The Voyeur’s Gambit is a collaborative project between Christian Michael Filardo and Angelo Harmsworth. Housed in an opaque black plastic envelope, thirty of Filardo’s photographs are paired alongside 5 of Harmsworth’s musical numbers. The photographs are individual prints — hole punched in the corner and bound with a ring clip. The music is housed on a custom laser engraved USB. While the production is minimalistic, the impact that The Voyeur’s Gambit leaves is great.

Less a traditional book than it is an art object; The Voyeur’s Gambit rejects the notion of a set photographic sequence. Photographs and songs alike are experienced in a loop, a loop that can easily have its components re-arranged and altered. Images become disconnected memories — all inter-related — yet still individual fragments of a larger dream. Time becomes cyclical as Harmsworth’s ambient compositions become a timeless melancholy soundtrack. This book invites viewers to become lost in time and engrossed in a stranger’s memories.

While the abolishment of a set photographic sequence is something to be admired while viewing this publication, the images themselves bring the work to life. The images seem to have an air of haunting stillness to them. A surreal tone lies underneath every print. Drones fly over cactuses and shredded blue plastic clings to barbed wire. This book is incredibly personal, yet very nondescript. A melancholy poem presents scattered fragments of life, without ever fully connecting the dots between them — instead, letting the viewer find their own meaning as they cycle through the images.

Untimely, The Voyeur’s Gambit is a transformative object. Each viewing of the piece will resonate differently and have a unique impact. Whether you choose to quickly cycle through the images, get lost in the ambient soundtrack, or spend hours recreating your own photographic sequence, this small book is sure to engage and captivate." — Forrest Soper

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The Voyeur's GambitBy Christian Michael Filardo and Angelo HarmsworthLime Lodge, 2017.

The Voyeur's GambitBy Christian Michael Filardo and Angelo HarmsworthLime Lodge, 2017.



Forrest Soper is a photographer and artist based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico. A graduate of the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, he also has previously worked at Bostick & Sullivan. Forrest is the Editor of photo-eye Blog.
http://forrestsoper.com/


Book Review Pictures from Home By Larry Sultan Reviewed by Blake Andrews Sultan once described his work as "taking the construction of the domestic and looking at it as a theatrical subject." Not only is he aware that his photographs involve a degree of artifice; he uses it to his advantage.
Pictures from Home Photographs by Larry Sultan. Mack, 2017. 
 
Pictures from Home
Reviewed by Blake Andrews.

Pictures from Home.
Photographs by Larry Sultan.
Mack, London, England, 2017. 264 pp., 140 color illustrations, 9x10¾".  


A quarter century has passed since Larry Sultan's Pictures from Home was published in 1992, plenty of time for its photographs to seep into the canon. Most fine art photographers, including myself, have absorbed them by now. Close your eyes and concentrate, and I bet you can probably bring any of several to mind. The photograph of Sultan's mother leaning against a green wall, his father watching a Dodgers game nearby, for example. Or the shot of his father practicing his statuesque golf swing indoors. Or the eerie photo of his mother holding a buttered turkey behind a dimly lit screen door. For twenty-five years these images have represented the gold standard not just of family photography, but color documentary work in general.

The original edition of Pictures from Home has fallen out of print and a used copy will now set you back a few hundred dollars. I've never seen it in person. Still, I'd foolishly persisted in forming a mental image of the book. I imagined it might be like other fine photo books of the era featuring nice color photographs, perhaps one or two per page, spiced up with some text. Maybe there was a foreword by a respected critic. It was a photobook, and the photos would take center stage.

Pictures from Home Photographs by Larry Sultan. Mack, 2017.

This is the book I'd been expecting when Mack's newly revised and expanded edition arrived. But after just a few minutes with the book, it became apparent that it wasn't this at all. Pictures From Home isn't a collection of photographs. Or rather, it isn't only that. Instead, it's a general account of middle-class domestic life in post-war America. Sultan's photos play a supporting role, but a good chunk of the book is comprised of text, not images. These written accounts — verbatim transcriptions mostly — muse on a range of topics including portrait photography, self-analysis, office politics, retirement, and more. Throw in a healthy dose of old home movie snippets, memorabilia, snapshots, and you've got Pictures from Home. The part that I'd imagined might be most prominent — Sultan's photos, you remember, which had seeped into my brain as well as the canon— come in small scattered bursts, two photos here, another four there, spicing up the book but never dominating. So my initial encounter was a surprise, but after it had quickly worn off I found myself sucked into the Sultans' story, as captivating as any good novel.

Pictures from Home Photographs by Larry Sultan. Mack, 2017.

Pictures from Home tells the story of Sultan's parents, Irving and Jean, as they follow the American Dream. Although the text is written from a first-person perspective, it speaks in three separate voices —unlabeled yet easily distinguished. Perhaps this is a nod to Faulkner, as authorship alternates between Irving, Jean, and Larry. In interview excerpts, we read about Jean and Irving's courtship, marriage, religion, family, career, and migration to the promised land of California's San Fernando Valley. Considering Larry Sultan's eloquence — Alec Soth once stated "Has there ever been a photographer who writes better than Sultan?" — I suppose it's no surprise he comes from articulate stock. His parents are exceptionally candid and self-aware. When taken in combination with historical ephemera, their written narrative describes their family history better than any scrapbook or journal. The reader feels a level of intimacy, which is slightly discomfiting.

Pictures from Home Photographs by Larry Sultan. Mack, 2017.

Larry grows up a well-adjusted boomer, goes to art school, and eventually returns to photograph his parents in the 1980s. By this time the Sultans are empty nesters, aging into their golden years in a suburban home still boasting chintzy ‘60s decor and beautifully landscaped patio. His old digs create an ideal, verdant backdrop for the theatrical version of his parents he hopes to photograph. The Hollywood director in Larry comes out as he stages his parents amid various suburban tableaux.

Pictures from Home Photographs by Larry Sultan. Mack, 2017.

Some of Sultan's photographic ideas: Dad looking like Johnny Carson, Walking the dog at night, Mom opening up curtain, Shaking hands, etc. These are from a list included in the book, most of which he seems to have been checked off. No matter the photo, Sultan imbues his scenes with a quiet sense of ironic detachment. Irving and Jean are the only subjects; their private settings the only backgrounds. Like any good baby boomer, Sultan has found the soft underbelly of his elders — and poked it hard.

It helps that Sultan’s parents are straight out of Greatest Generation central casting. His father wears a polo shirt or dinner jacket like a second skin; his mother more comfortable in disco/leisure outfits. Both boast magazine-ad hairstyles and blank expressions. To learn that Irving Sultan was a razor company executive who studied Dale Carnegie, and Jean was a successful realtor who almost defies credulity.

Pictures from Home Photographs by Larry Sultan. Mack, 2017.

Sultan once described his work as "taking the construction of the domestic and looking at it as a theatrical subject." Not only is he aware that his photographs involve a degree of artifice; he uses it to his advantage. In interviews with his parents, he presses the topic of photography. How do they like being photographed? What do they think of his portraits? What are their ideas about his project, or his art career, or their relationship? Irving and Jean speak openly on all these topics alongside Larry himself, all transcribed candidly. Their comments are remarkable, revelatory, and honest. Gregory Halpern nails it: "One of the most incredible things about Pictures from Home is how vulnerable Sultan allows himself to be in the text, in which he confronts insecurities about himself and his work, brilliantly deconstructing the project and the challenges of making it."

Pictures from Home Photographs by Larry Sultan. Mack, 2017.

A good example is Jean's reaction to Larry's real estate portrait. Rarely has the dichotomy between art and commercial requirements been so simply galvanized. Jean wants a smiling bestseller, but instead, Larry gives her a bland mugshot. It embarrasses her so much she won't tell her friends who took it, a reaction that would give most photographers pause. But Larry Sultan not only embraces it, he incorporates it seamlessly into her story. She writes about the picture, he comments on her thoughts, and so on. Similar disagreements arise throughout the text, and he calmly records them all, making Pictures from Home a master class in photo ethics.

Pictures from Home Photographs by Larry Sultan. Mack, 2017.


From what I can tell, the Mack version is very similar to the original with a few exceptions. Mack mentions that "the Super-8 film stills have been newly digitized and magnified, with select scenes running full-bleed across double-page spreads." There are some other noticeable differences. The cover photo is now uncropped. The book's exterior has been kept green as an homage to Sultan's emerald palette, and the dimensions are roughly the same size as before. But the whole enterprise has been twisted ninety degrees from landscape to vertical format, giving the interior photos a wider berth. The gatefolds of the earlier edition have been removed, and the page count boosted by more than half, from 128 to 196 pages. The strange, ‘80s computer-style typeface is unchanged. Perhaps there are other changes, but let's just say the 2017 edition leaves nothing wanting.

Pictures from Home Photographs by Larry Sultan. Mack, 2017.

Pictures from Home made a splash when it came out. It was universally praised, solidified Sultan as a superstar, and was later canonized in Martin Parr and Gerry Badger’s The Photobook: A History, Volume 2. I'm happy to say that all the hype is justified. It's a dynamite book, and the new edition has only burnished its legacy. Hopefully, this one will remain in print for a while. — Blake Andrews

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BLAKE ANDREWS is a photographer based in Eugene, OR. He writes about photography at blakeandrews.blogspot.com.

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