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Book Review: Regarding Intersections


Book Review Regarding Intersections By David Goldblatt Reviewed by George Slade I will preface this review by admitting that I consider David Goldblatt to be among the greatest masters of photography, current or passed (as in on, to the great camera in the sky). My predilection would be to see genius in everything he does and follow that bias in any writing I do about his work. Can you live with that?

Regarding IntersectionsBy David Goldblatt
Steidl, 2014.
 
Regarding Intersections
Reviewed by George Slade

Regarding Intersections
By David Goldblatt
Steidl, 2014. 200 pp., 124 illustrations, 13x10½".

I will preface this review by admitting that I consider David Goldblatt to be among the greatest masters of photography, current or passed (as in on, to the great camera in the sky). My predilection would be to see genius in everything he does and follow that bias in any writing I do about his work. Can you live with that? Okay. I’ll do my best to avoid hagiography in what follows, but don’t blame me if you sense an abundance of encomium.

Although David Goldblatt has been photographing his native South Africa for nearly as long as I’ve been alive — he committed himself to photographing “the society into which he was born” (as his back dustcover flap bio asserts) in 1963 — and has used both black-and-white and color materials during that time, the work he has come to be known for, which he defines as “personal photography,” had been black-and-white. It wasn’t until forty years in that he began utilizing color in his role as “an observer and self-appointed, unlicensed critic” of South African society.

Regarding IntersectionsBy David GoldblattSteidl, 2014.

The results of applying the tool of color emulsion to the investigation of post-Apartheid life have progressively made their way into print and public exhibitions over the last decade. I am struck by the way his various books and shows seem to be testing the veracity and reliability of color. We all know that photography’s “truths” are selective and inherently fictionalized by the optical-chemical components of the medium. Color photography ups the ante; its lies are more nuanced, and its potential to trigger emotions and the unconscious are built into the ephemeral, oneiric nature of color. Photographers often tend toward a particular palette, veering ever so slightly away from “reality” toward a tint founded in memory, or desire.

Regarding IntersectionsBy David GoldblattSteidl, 2014.

Goldblatt’s eye, if it may be said to have a color bias, seems to bend toward a light, sandy beige. You can see it in the endpapers of the book, and it pervades the photographs, like a dust whipped up in the great Karoo desert of South Africa that we must constantly brush off the window Goldblatt is offering us. The other color that bears upon the psycho-chromatic drama of this book is the dark, verdant green of the cover cloth. It’s a green one is hard put to find in the photographs; even in the shadows of foliage the notion of green as vigorous, nourishing, whole and holistic, is elusive.

Regarding IntersectionsBy David GoldblattSteidl, 2014.

These photographs reflect a society shaking off the accumulated debris of Apartheid. As the color work has come to the foreground, Goldblatt has measured it against the black-and-white. He has approached it in what may have seemed an objective fashion — the “intersections” trope began with a preconception of making work at the crossings of whole lines of latitude and longitude across South Africa. That survey failed to thrive, though the notion of intersections remained and gravitated toward more philosophical ground, toward other types of socio-cultural crossings.

Regarding IntersectionsBy David GoldblattSteidl, 2014.

Four books of the color work have been published since 2005. Goldblatt offers a note about this evolution in the new book. I would say that each book has its merits. I would add that when an artist demonstrates this much care about how his work is encountered in public, that we owe him the favor of paying attention. The current book focuses on “mainly rural photographs,” as Goldblatt puts it, excluding the many images made in his town, Johannesburg. Those have been published elsewhere; Goldblatt also feels that the color (or “colour”) images “seem better integrated without the stridency of the city.” The land, and the majority population on it, are shown in their striving for abundance in circumstances that both physically and historically have tended to defeat such efforts. The color images reflect a cautious hope for, or even observation of, rejuvenation and integration across a very broad canvas.—GEORGE SLADE

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GEORGE SLADE, a longtime contributor to photo-eye, is a photography writer, curator, historian and consultant. He can be found online at http://rephotographica-slade.blogspot.com/


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