Book of the Week Book of the Week: A Pick by Forrest Soper Forrest Soper selects Islands of the Blest edited by Bryan Schutmaat and Ashlyn Davis as Book of the Week.
"Now in its second edition, Islands of the Blest is a collaborative project between Bryan Schutmaat and Ashlyn Davis. Composed of 44 images sourced from publicly accessible digital archives, this publication paints a picture of the American West as it evolved over a 100-year period. Accompanied by a poem from by Michael McGriff, the images in this book tell a story about hardship, memory, loss, perseverance, and the passage of time.
I grew up right below a small mining town nestled in the mountains of Colorado. Because of this, many of the images in this book are familiar to me. Monolithic peaks tower over glacial lakes. Miners pan for gold in streams, when they aren’t working underground. Hundreds of pine trees thrive in abundance despite the rugged terrain — only to be felled by avalanches, forest fires, or the blow of an axe. A land where nature meets industry, as railroads plow through the dramatic landscape to connect disparate towns. To me, this book speaks of my home and to the land where my heart will always lie.
Others, not jaded by past memories, will see something quite remarkable. While many photographers have tackled the daunting task of painting a picture of the American West, few have been able to create such a concise and yet comprehensive look at its evolution. As the book progresses, the untouched wilderness slowly transforms into towns, and eventually cities, as a great frontier slowly becomes less daunting.
With a near-perfect edit, this book can only be described as poetic. Islands of the Blest is a quiet reflection rather than a straightforward document. Like a melancholic novella about a past lover, this book is as intimate as it is mysterious. Schutmaat and Davis craft a stunning lyrical lament through beautiful imagery and near perfect sequencing. Despite its subtlety, Islands of the Blest remains incredibly impactful and is sure to be recognized as one of the classic photobooks on the mythos of the American West." — Forrest Soper
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.