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A Closer Look - A Natural Order

from A Natural Order
A lot has already been written about Lucas Foglia's A Natural Order in various online publications, and the press is well deserved. Foglia's photographs are first and foremost stunning. The large-format design by Nazraeli is fitting for the mixture of portraiture and landscapes contained in the book's pages. And the work itself has to give a nod to Justine Kurland's This Train is Bound for Glory and Joel Sternfeld's Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America. But personally, I like this work more than its inspiring predecessors. And what really interests me is that this book is a perfect example of an evolving dialogue that photographer's toss back and forth between each other and their comparable subject matter.

from A Natural Order
Photography has always found an interest in alternative lifestyles. From addicts to gypsies or American men seeking escape, the medium has fostered an audience of voyeurs enamored with a split from the normal. Foglia's book travels alongside this lineage of photographs exposing what is often hidden; in this case, people who choose to live off the land and away from an existence in overcrowded cities. But this book is also about personal responsibility, responsibility for the land and ourselves as a race of people. It touches on the importance of the food we eat, the way we grow or kill it and the impact this has on community and the larger culture. So interests aside, Foglia has also made a body of work that is important in its relevance.

from A Natural Order
The photographer himself grew up in a household that was reliant on itself. Within his New York City suburb, Foglia's family grew and canned their own food and heated their house with only wood. As he states, "by the time I was eighteen we owned three tractors, four cars and five computers." His experience is a good example of a lifestyle quickly catching on across the United States, one that aligns itself with a back to nature attitude, but also takes advantage of the modern world's many advances. The artist's upbringing inspired this project, although Foglia's interest was to seek out those who were fully self-sufficient. He states that he found most of those he befriended during his four-year venture weren't dissimilar in lifestyle to his parents' down home perspective. And while the subjects in this book are far removed from larger urban populations, they are certainly connected to the larger world through their own blog and laptop powered by solar panels or car battery.

from A Natural Order
It's easy to reject the world for its flaws, but doing it in a healthy way benefits us all. This book hints at that inspiring attitude. It's an attitude that acknowledges some human advances as important, but also gives thought to past achievements as maybe being more beneficial to cultural advancement. It's a book about progress, evolution and an exploration into the idea of a healthier human condition.

One last note. Along with the book is a separate zine that is reminiscent of a turn of the century self-help pamphlet. I could take or leave the text in the accompanying zine -- it's a little boring, but I really enjoy the illustrations that go along with the text. By including this additional imprint, the zine takes the project slightly further away from a traditional documentary and gives it the quirky edge included in a lot of contemporary photography projects. My only critique is I would like to see this zine slipped into the back of the book, not loosely placed to the side. The two publications are aesthetically and conceptually far enough apart that each could easily be sold separately. -- Antone Dolezal

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