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Book Review: Philip-Lorca diCorcia


Book Review Philip-Lorca diCorcia By Philip-Lorca diCorcia Reviewed by Tom Leininger Philip-Lorca diCorcia is the printed catalog for a retrospective exhibition of his work shown in Germany. The exhibition offers a view of the older work diCorcia has created, including Heads, Hustlers, A Storybook Life, Streetwork, Lucky 13, and how that has evolved into his newest works East of Eden.

Philip-Lorca diCorciaPhotographs by Philip-Lorca diCorcia. 
Edited by Katharina Dohm, Max Hollein. 
Text by Katharina Dohm, Geoff Dyer, Christoph Ribbat.
 Kerber, 2013.
 
Philip-Lorca diCorcia
Reviewed by Tom Leininger

Philip-Lorca diCorcia
Photographs by Philip-Lorca diCorcia. Edited by Katharina Dohm, Max Hollein. Text by Katharina Dohm, Geoff Dyer, Christoph Ribbat

$45.00
Kerber, 2013. 208 pp., 79 color illustrations, 9¾x11¾". 


Philip-Lorca diCorcia is the printed catalog for a retrospective exhibition of his work shown in Germany. The exhibition offers a view of the older work diCorcia has created, including Heads, Hustlers, A Storybook Life, Streetwork, Lucky 13, and how that has evolved into his newest works East of Eden. Additionally, the book offers a glimpse behind the curtain showing how diCorcia continues to evolve and push the idea of the photographic narrative.

Philip-Lorca diCorcia's work has a distinct visual signature. It has taken some time for me to cotton to his notions of photography. I first encountered his work in the late 1990s when the New York Times Sunday Magazine published his street work photographs in an issue dedicated to New York City. At the time, I had difficulty understanding why someone would feel it necessary to light the street. I thought the pictures were sterile and lacking in spontaneity. It was as if he was somehow cheating at the photography game. 


Philip-Lorca diCorciaPhotographs by Philip-Lorca diCorcia. Kerber, 2013.

When I discovered the Hustlers series, my mind was changed. In the photograph of Todd M. Brooks sitting in the backseat of a car as the warm California sun is setting, I saw that diCorcia is capable of more than being stylistic with lights. The viewer is in the driver seat of a rental car and turns to see Brooks sitting in the back, waiting for the physical transaction to take place. The hollowness of his posture sets a tone of desperation and sadness that permeates the series. The men photographed are looking off to somewhere else.


Philip-Lorca diCorciaPhotographs by Philip-Lorca diCorcia. Kerber, 2013.
Philip-Lorca diCorciaPhotographs by Philip-Lorca diCorcia. Kerber, 2013.

While reading this book I saw the same look on the faces of the dancers of Lucky 13. Pole dancers are shown in situ of a particular club, but the photographs read as anonymous spaces. This was a series I had trouble connecting with until I saw that Tenille has the same look on her face that Todd M. Brooks does. While these dancers are presented as acrobatic physical specimen, the look diCorcia was able to capture on this particular dancer’s face brought me into diCorcia's world. He is able to show a longing in people in a variety of ways, something that few other contemporary photographers are able to do. It could be a longing to be seen in a particular light; being wanted, or being sexy, or wanting to be somewhere else. It is an idea he has been working with for some time and is the thread that connects all of this work together. Reading the essays by Katharina Dohm and Geoff Dyer along with an interview by Christoph Ribbat made this thread clearer to me, bringing understanding to work that I once found cold and distant. The pictures have not changed but my perspective has.


Philip-Lorca diCorciaPhotographs by Philip-Lorca diCorcia. Kerber, 2013.

The drawback of the book is that when the photographs spread over two pages the gutter affects the reading of the pictures. It is good that the photographs are presented in a variety of sizes, but some, especially the newer work, loses impact. This issue aside, the photographs are printed well and help to show the variety of tonal changes the work has gone through. East of Eden is bathed in the warm light of the west coast. Seeing the photograph Sylmar, California, 2008 in print and printed well makes the book experience worthwhile.—TOM LEININGER

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TOM LEININGER is a photographer and educator based in North Texas. More of his work can be found on his website.

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